Friday, February 27, 2015

  • Friday, February 27, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon


Earlier this week I fisked David Ignatius of the Washington Post who consulted white House sources to defend their negotiating posture with Iran, as opposed to the arguments that Israeli intelligence minister Yuval Steinitz made - arguments that were not refuted.

One of the points that Ignatius seems to have parroted from his White House sources was this sarcastic comment:

One official argues that the United States would be better off with 9,000 IR-1s and a small stockpile than with 1,000 IR-2s and a large stockpile. Netanyahu probably won’t address this issue in his speech to Congress, since he insists the only acceptable number of centrifuges is zero.
The implication is that Netanyahu is being hopelessly naive for insisting that Iran has no centrifuges whatsoever, and the Obama compromises are the best deal possible.

There's only one problem.

If Iran wants to build a peaceful nuclear power program, which is what it has insisted all along, this number of centrifuges are useless. But if Iran wants to build a bomb, it is ideal.

From Politifact:

One element that’s fully expected in a long-term arrangement is a limit on the number and kinds of centrifuges Iran can use to enrich uranium. Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said there’s an irony in that.

"If you are going to have a nuclear weapons program, 5,000 is pretty much the number you need," Morell, now a CBS analyst, said on Charlie Rose. "If you have a power program, you need a lot more. By limiting them to a small number of centrifuges, we are limiting them to the number you need for a weapon."...

The consensus among the experts we reached is that Morell is on the money. Matthew Kroenig at Georgetown University told PunditFact the Morell is "is absolutely correct." Ditto for Daryl Kimball of the Arms Control Association and David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security.

Matthew Bunn at Harvard agreed with his colleagues.

"People think surely you must need a bigger enrichment system to make 90 percent enriched material for bombs than to make 4-5 percent enriched material for power reactors," Bunn said. "But exactly the opposite is true."

Bunn said there are two reasons. First, you need tens of tons of material to fuel a power reactor for a year, but just tens of kilograms to make a bomb. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, the threshold amount for a bomb is about 25 kilograms of the most highly enriched U-235.

And while yes, it’s harder to make 90 percent enriched uranium (bomb) than 4-5 percent enriched uranium (power), it’s not that much harder, Bunn said.

The toughest part in the process comes when you start with the raw uranium. By the time you’ve brought that to 4-5 percent, "you’ve already done more than 2/3 of the work of going all the way to 90 percent U-235 for weapons," Bunn said. "So the amount of work needed to make bomb material is only a modest amount more per kilogram, and the number of kilograms you need for bombs is 1,000 times less.

Bottom line: Making bombs takes fewer centrifuges. And without a lot of centrifuges, it’s hard to make nuclear power.
Netanyahu is exactly right for insisting on zero centrifuges. Limiting the number of centrifuges to several thousand does literally nothing to stop Iran from building a bomb - in fact, it tacitly encourages it.

If the US negotiators didn't know this basic fact, then what else have they been fooled by?

Even David Brooks in the NYT sees the folly of US nuclear concessions as well as the wider  Obama strategy for Iran.
To pursue this détente, Obama has to have a nuclear agreement. He has made a series of stunning sacrifices in order to get it. In 2012, the president vowed that he would not permit Iran to maintain a nuclear program. Six United Nations Security Council resolutions buttressed that principle. But, if reports of the proposed deal are correct, Obama has abandoned this policy.

Under the reported framework, Iran would have thousands of centrifuges. All restrictions on its nuclear program would be temporary and would be phased out over a decade or so. According to some reports, there will be no limits on Iran’s ballistic missiles, no resolution of Iran’s weaponizing activities. Monitoring and enforcement would rely on an inspection regime that has been good, but leaky.

All of this might be defensible if Iran is really willing to switch teams, if religion and ideology played no role in the regime’s thinking. But it could be that Iran has been willing to be an international pariah for the past generation for a reason. It could be that Iran finances terrorist groups and destabilizes regimes like Yemen’s and Morocco’s for a reason. It could be that Iran’s leaders really believe what they say. It could be that Iranian leaders are as apocalyptically motivated, paranoid and dogmatically anti-American as their pronouncements suggest they are. It could be that Iran will be as destabilizing and hegemonically inclined as all its recent actions suggest. Iran may be especially radical if the whole region gets further inflamed by Sunni-Shia rivalry or descends into greater and greater Islamic State-style fanaticism.

Do we really want a nuclear-capable Iran in the midst of all that?

Mordechai Kedar's analysis of how Iran is running circles around the West in negotiations is as true as ever.

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