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November 17, 2014 8:47 am

Deal or No Deal? Iran Says Shut Up and Make One

avatar by Ben Cohen /

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The Iran nuclear program's Arak heavy-water reactor. Photo: Nanking2012/Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgAs everyone seems to be saying, there is less than a fortnight to go before we hit the Nov. 24 deadline for a final agreement with Iran over its nuclear program. And as more and more people are forecasting, things aren’t looking too good.

The issue isn’t whether we get an agreement, but what kind of agreement we get. Moreover, if we don’t get an agreement, what happens next?

Fundamentally, Western negotiators are being hampered by the same knowledge and intelligence gaps that have dogged the entire Iranian nuclear saga for more than a decade. Put simply, the Iranian regime’s deliberately obstructive strategy has been to prevent inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from building up a true, verifiable picture of Iran’s nuclear installations and capabilities. While IAEA experts are frequently very good at guessing what they haven’t been told, the fact remains that the Obama administration is pushing for a deal without the critical data on which success depends.

Indeed, so unreliable have the Iranians been that the Joint of Plan of Action agreed to in Geneva on Nov. 24 last year wasn’t actually implemented until January of this year, leaving Iran’s uranium and plutonium production programs “significantly closer to breakout capacity than if the Joint Plan of Action had been implemented on November 24, 2013,” according to former IAEA deputy director general Dr. Olli Heinonen,

When I conducted a long interview with Heinonen earlier this year, he sounded a warning that may come to haunt those seeking an Iranian deal at almost any cost. “Everything that happens [with Iran’s nuclear program] is at a known, declared place,” he said. “There is no assurance that there isn’t another enrichment plant under construction somewhere else.”

This week, Heinonen was again highlighting Iran’s duplicity with regard to what’s known diplomatically as the PMD (Possible Military Dimensions) of the Iranian nuclear program. Speaking to the Sunday Times in London, Heinonen offered an independent assessment of Iran’s nuclear capacity—specifically that Iran could have up to 5,000 IR-2m centrifuges, rather than the 1,008 it has claimed. The IR-2m devices are up to five times more effective in enriching uranium than their predecessor model.

Then, on a conference call organized by The Israel Project, Heinonen explained that with just 1,000 IR-2m centrifuges, Iran could enrich enough natural uranium to make a weapon in just one year. Were the Iranians to use their stockpile of 3.5 percent enriched uranium, the same number of centrifuges could produce the same result in six months. The addition of more centrifuges would simply speed up this process.

None of that exactly suggests that a forthcoming deal would arrest the mullahs’ desire—which they insist they don’t have!—to weaponize their nuclear program. Even the looming Nov. 24 deadline hasn’t curbed the Iranian determination to circumvent restrictions on any nuclear activities that they are able to. And we are compelled to ask not just how insistent the Obama administration is being with the Iranians, but whether they are now engaged in outright wishful thinking.

Take recent Reuters report that stated, “Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham gave no indication that Iran had stopped feeding natural uranium gas into the so-called IR-5 centrifuge”—a more advanced device that also speeds up the enrichment process. Yet the same report says “Washington said on Monday Tehran had ceased” that activity.

Frankly, that is just flabbergasting. Our own administration is confirming Iranian compliance before the Iranians themselves do so.

If you read what the Iranians have to say, you will learn that they regard the whole centrifuge problem as an irritating irrelevance. As regime mouthpiece Press TV reported, “sources close to the Iranian negotiating team say the main stumbling block in the way of resolving the Western dispute over Iran’s nuclear energy program remains to be the removal of all the bans imposed on the country, and not the number of centrifuges or the level of uranium enrichment.”

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani—long-feted as a moderate despite his own shadowy role in the development of the Iranian nuclear program, not to mention the appalling human rights abuses that have marked his time in office—is also getting fed up with anything that sounds like a demand from Western negotiators. On Wednesday, he told his cabinet, “Iran has made its utmost efforts and made the necessary adjustments to its demands and we hope that all the P5+1 countries, particularly the U.S., which occasionally seeks excessive demands in the nuclear talks, will understand the circumstances.”

In other words, shut up and make a deal.

President Barack Obama, sadly, may not need much convincing. By writing secret letters to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Obama has proved that he wants a final accord, and getting one on Nov. 24 will, he calculates, limit the damage that might be done once the Republicans take control of the Senate in January.

Republicans, however, have launched an immediate push to secure the approval of Congress for any deal. We can also expect a fight if the president decides to use any of his executive powers to override congressional pressure.

In that sense, failure to reach a deal on November 24 should be welcomed, because the only deal that can be made in the limited time remaining is a bad one. True, it would mean that Obama’s ambition of a historic peace with Iran falls by the wayside. But what the president understands as peace will—for other countries in the region like Egypt, Jordan, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates—be interpreted as the green light for further Iranian expansion in the Middle East. It would also be a game-changing shift in the regional balance of power that an eventual Iranian nuclear weapon would usher in.

Thankfully, our federal legislators seem to understand the stakes involved here. For the time being, then, the main brake on Iran’s further accumulation of power and influence lies in the U.S. Congress.

Ben Cohen is the Shillman Analyst for and a contributor to the Wall Street Journal, Commentary, Haaretz, and other publications. His book, “Some Of My Best Friends: A Journey Through Twenty-First Century Antisemitism” (Edition Critic, 2014), is now available through Amazon.

The opinions presented by Algemeiner bloggers are solely theirs and do not represent those of The Algemeiner, its publishers or editors. If you would like to share your views with a blog post on The Algemeiner, please be in touch through our Contact page.

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  • Mickey Oberman

    With Obama and Kerry constantly gifting Iran with postponements and delays I doubt that November 24 has any meaning whatsoever.

    It’s just another red line erased by the US.

    Mickey Oberman

  • judithg

    with the Jew-hating psycho in the WH the fix is in. Israel knows what to do and will do it when it is in the Jewish state’s best interests.

  • I said it before and I’ll say it again. Do what was done to Hiroshima and Nagasaki in WWII. Iran’s all sand and rock. Turn it into a mound of glass! It will send a clear message and give them jobs making artificial diamond jewelry. Enough is enough! To even negotiate with Iran is lunacy and demonstrates the incredible naivete of the p-5+1. Obama’s under-the-table dealings with Iran is despicable!

    • George

      Let’s drop a nuke on top of your head so that we don’t have to read your garbage anymore.

    • Allan

      Obama’s under the table dealings with Iran should be qualified for what they are: Treachery.
      How do you name someone who is dealing secretely with your worst enemy whose goal is to destroy you?

  • john



    This is why my husband and I were praying the Republicans would take Congress. Right now, the US is like a ship without a rudder or a captain.

  • Julian Clovelley

    Frankly I can’t for the life of me see what you think is actually achievable. Military action merely forces operations to be dispersed and placed in deeper protected underground facilities. Sanctions on uranium imports result in development of internal resources – of which there are apparently ample.

    Sanctions on equipment import are likely only to speed up the development of higher independent internal technological and scientific standards and industrial capacity, and engineering ability

    All of these policies, whilst they might delay production of weapons grade uranium, are unlikely to prevent it. Indeed they are most likely to ensure that the whole process becomes a truly independent technology at every level, created within nation borders, and produced within those same borders without any external dependence or actual input

    Like it or not the only solution is co-operation – but that means removing the impediments to the development of better relationships between the people of Iran and of Israel, and between their respective Governments

    This is hardly likely when both are locked into fundamentalist religious concepts, having their societies shaped by such antiquated mores, that have been further refined, in the last hundred and fifty years, to be theological militancys.

    To unlock the deadlock, it is necessary for at least one side to take the initiative in abandoning the domination of their modern societies, at every level, by theologies and social structures that belong to a very ancient past. The impediment in Israel is Zionism. It dictates a pattern that includes racist concepts of land rights, and of exclusivity.

    Ideally your negotiators and intermediaries should be modern, 21st century Israeli Muslims, and secular Arabs and Jews – they can either speak the same cultural language, or in the case of the secular in a more neutral, inoffensive, tone.

    But Zionism will not allow Israel to proceed in this manner. Instead it presses for a Greater Israel, the maintenance of the Occupation, Blockade, and Settlements, a monocultural Jewish State that would be a de facto Apartheid state. as a result Israel loses the loyalty of its potentially most powerful “interface”

    And you wonder why negotiations and co-operation are impossible!

    The Zionist Israeli identity can surely only result in two independent nuclear powers confronting each other menacingly. That is no future for the children of either country, or for those of other nations in the region.

    But what is Zionism’s only apparent position in this matter? – It is that their critics must be pro islamist – or that they are “antisemitic” – that they hate Jews

    Well it isn’t true – not in Obama’s case nor in almost every other case. Rather they are people who look rationally at the mess, and wonder where the hell you think you are going, and where you think you might end up – other than at the apparent disastrous destination that Zionist thinking seems to be making inevitable

    There are other possibilities. It is not antisemitic to seek them. The first step might well be de-escalation – and what I had to do with my own belligerent neighbour. That is, restore the original boundaries, with the backing of those who originally set them – live within them – and build a far better fence.

    Israel’s best hope is for peace and stability within it’s own borders. It can develop as a highly educated, prosperous, and multicultural democracy. It can develop enormous social programs for sharing wealth, services, and democratic power. But to do this it has to shed the millstone that some Jewish Israelis, supported by extremists outside, have placed around their own necks – and with a new identity turn to its neighbours and say – “I think it about time we really fixed the mess we have all inherited from the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the two world wars of the twentieth century”

    • Paul

      You are probably the only person in the world who thinks Iran would abandon its nuclear program if everyone was nice and cooperative with them. Why should they ?
      You are no doubt aware that Israel and Iran had wonderful, close, fruitful relations – until the assumption of power by fanatic Jihadists, who have become a world power in spreading terror worldwide. But all you seem to see is Zionism.
      Do you really think that Iran is going to all that expense and effort to fight Israel – rather than take over the entire middle east and its oil ? By what possible theory ?
      Your rational-sounding arguments are totally naive and mistaken.

  • Zvi Gross

    Obama, a Muslim implant at the head of Western Democracies!!!