Thursday, June 04, 2015

  • Thursday, June 04, 2015
  • Elder of Ziyon
On Tuesday, the New York Times wrote a mildly critical article about how Iran's nuclear stockpile is growing, contrary to its agreement with the West:
WASHINGTON — With only one month left before a deadline to complete a nuclear deal with Iran, international inspectors have reported that Tehran’s stockpile of nuclear fuel increased about 20 percent over the last 18 months of negotiations, partially undercutting the Obama administration’s contention that the Iranian program had been “frozen” during that period.

But Western officials and experts cannot quite figure out why. One possibility is that Iran has run into technical problems that have kept it from converting some of its enriched uranium into fuel rods for reactors, which would make the material essentially unusable for weapons. Another is that it is increasing its stockpile to give it an edge if the negotiations fail.

The extent to which Iran’s stockpile has increased was documented in a report issued Friday by the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations organization that monitors compliance with nuclear treaties. The agency’s inspectors, who have had almost daily access to most of Iran’s nuclear production facilities, reported finding no evidence that Iran was racing toward a nuclear weapon, and said Tehran had halted work on facilities that could have given it bomb-making capabilities.
This is seriously understating what Iran is doing. As summarized by Omri Ceren at The Israel Project:

The NYT article cites two policy papers from last week: one, the most recent IAEA report and two, a paper by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS Nuclear) commenting on the IAEA report. Those respectively live at and
Other findings from the report. The bottom 3 haven't been reported out as far as I know.

  • -- There's been no progress on getting the Iranians to meet IAEA concerns - Iran is currently under sanctions and they're still jamming up the IAEA. It's not quite clear why the administration thinks the Iranians would be more forthcoming once sanctions are lifted.
  • -- Somehow 12kg of Iran's enriched uranium is unaccounted for - Open up the ISIS Nuclear report and do a Ctrl-F for "could not explain". I don't think the administration has even been asked about this. Maybe they know where it is, and it's actually a nonissue.
  • -- Iran is deepening R&D on how to recover 20% enriched uranium scrap and convert it for further enrichment - This one is wonky and it's part of a much broader debate happening on the sidelines. The short version is that the administration is - inexplicably - leaving out various parts of Iran's 20% stockpile in order to get to a 1 year breakout. They're not counting either 20% enriched fuel rods or 20% enriched scrap. The ISIS Nuclear folks are kind of in disbelief at how brazen the move is, because all of that stuff can be recovered and enriched if the Iranians wanted a quick breakout. They’ve written about the fuel rods issue elsewhere (it was in their Lausanne postmortem) but now the scrap part of the stockpile is also becoming an issue. The IAEA discovered, and this is in the recent report, that Iran is deepening its research into how to recover usable, enrichable uranium from scrap. I genuinely can’t imagine what the administration’s answer to this might be from a breakout perspective. Especially because the report also reveals that…
  • -- The Iranians are creating an ever-growing stockpile of 20% scrap available to reconvert – They’re supposed to be turning parts of their 20% stockpile into fuel rods. Instead most of what they're supposed to be making into fuel is ending up as scrap, which - again - they're researching new ways to ever-more-quickly convert into material that can be enriched to weapons grade levels.

The State Department reacted furiously over even the limited NYT issue.  The Tuesday press briefing showed Marie Harf attacking the article:

Harf then doubled and tripled down, with a series of tweets yesterday attacking the article and then with a 15 minute tirade at yesterday's press briefing, an excerpt of which is here:

Besides the facts, which make it fairly clear that Iran is highly unlikely to end up in compliance with the JPOA by the end of this month, opposite of what the White House and State Department have been claiming.

Harf says "I'm not trying to downplay" what Iran is doing, but that is exactly what she is doing, over and over and over again.

It is far more serious than she says.

Marie, I'm sorry, I just can't -- I don't understand why this isn't more of a concern. If we're only 28 days or so away from a deal, wouldn't you be expecting the Iranians to be reducing their -- their stockpiles to get in line with what they might eventually -- what -- what eventually is the...
I mean, Matt, our nuclear experts tell me, and again don't take it from me; you can take it from them, that this is just been the normal course during the JPOA; that what we have built into these negotiations, the fact that on June 30th they have to be back to 7650. And what really matters is how to get that down to 300.
I mean, what people are losing sight of here, and I think this is actually an important point, is that Iran has already agreed to go from that huge number, to reduce that -- what? -- 96 percent, to 300 kilograms. So we can talk about what they're going to do for the next 28 days or what their stockpile looks like now versus two weeks ago. But if we can get a comprehensive joint plan of action, they're going to take that stockpile and reduce it hugely down to 300 kilograms.
So, in terms of the overall stockpile, I just think that's an overall sort of meta-point that people aren't -- aren't paying maybe enough attention to.
Yeah, but we would -- I mean, if I was engaged in a negotiation with someone and they were supposed to reduce their amount within 28 days, and instead in the previous month or so, they were increasing it, I think that would be a cause for concern.
Well, that IAEA number, though, is a snapshot of one day in time. It fluctuates before or after. So that's, I would say...
So it may not be the same?
... it might not be the same today. It probably isn't. And the point is on June 30th, they have said they are going to be where they need to be. They always have been in the past.
Again, I'm not -- if they're not on June 30th, I'm happy to have that conversation.
But if Iran is shown to be cheating under the JPOA, why on Earth would the administration be so convinced that they will not cheat under the JCPOA - when the sanctions will have been at least partially lifted?

Besides the technicalities, the idea that the administration is so strenuously defending Iran instead of using this as a means to pressure Iran for lying - during the negotiations - is the biggest issue. It shows that Iran can cheat with no concern over supposed "snapbacks" or indeed any significant US response.

In fact, President Obama has now explicitly taken the military option off the table - something he had stated in the past was always going to remain on the table. as John Podhoretz notes:
As the June 30 deadline for the Iran nuclear deal approaches, President Obama is putting all his cards on the table — by announcing he is keeping no cards in his hand.
In an astonishing interview with Israel’s Channel 2, the president declared that “the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is a verifiable, tough agreement.

“A military solution will not fix it, even if the United States participates. It would temporarily slow down an Iranian nuclear program, but it would not eliminate it.”

Why is this astonishing? Because Obama is publicly eliminating any American possibility that we will bomb Iran’s nuclear sites even if the deal in which he has invested so much collapses.

Despite his declaration at a Washington synagogue last week that “Iran must not, under any circumstances, be allowed to get a nuclear weapon,” the president is in fact making it very clear Iran will go nuclear, and with his implicit assent.

There are no sticks in the US posture towards Iran. The US is defending Iran's cheating as noted by a pro-Obama, liberal newspaper. it is ignoring other instances of Iran's actions being problematic. The "snapbacks" are a joke that everyone knows. Iran has been spitting in the face of the West in direct proportion to the White House's public weakness. Iran has also been treating the IAEA wtith utter contempt.

And in the end, Iran will get nuclear weapons because it will do everything it can to cheat on this deal, secure in the knowledge that no one will no anything to stop it except Israel - and the US will do everything it can to stop Israel from acting unilaterally.

The entire situation is unreal, yet it is unfolding before our eyes.


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