Don’t forget Iran’s record of deception

May 22, 2012

Optimism that this week’s talks in Baghdad about Iran’s nuclear weapons program could produce a deal should be tempered with extreme skepticism and caution in light of the Islamic Republic’s long record of lies and deception.

The international media is awash with speculation that some kind of agreement is in the offing between the six nations that make up the so-called P5+1 (the United States, Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany) and the Iranians.

Such a deal, we read, would require Iran to stop enriching uranium above 5 percent and ship its stockpile of 20-percent-enriched uranium (currently estimated at more than 100 kilograms) out of the country. Enrichment at the reinforced underground facility in Fordo, near Qom, would have to stop.

This is a key demand. It is clear from the size of the site that it has a military purpose: It can hold only 3,000 centrifuges – far fewer than the number needed for industrial-scale fuel production, but ideal for quick production of 90-percent-weapons-grade-enriched uranium.

In return, the international community would agree not to impose further economic sanctions, though current measures would remain in place. Additionally, the six powers would agree to help the Iranians fuel a small reactor for medical purposes and send them fuel rods for a civilian research reactor.

No one knows if the Iranian leadership will agree to such a package. But their past record leaves little room for confidence, and many analysts believe the Iranians are engaged in this process in an effort to buy yet more time so that they can continue enriching uranium and move even closer to a nuclear weapon.

Although not part of the P5+1, no country has more at stake in these talks than Israel, which remains the most likely target of a nuclear-armed Iran. Just this past weekend, the chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, told a defense gathering in Tehran that the Iranian nation remained committed to the “full annihilation of the Zionist regime of Israel to the end.”

It is worth remembering that the requirement that Iran suspend all uranium enrichment is not an Israeli demand. In fact, it has been enshrined in a series of resolutions adopted by the United Nations Security Council starting with Resolution 1696 passed in July 2006. This and subsequent resolutions were adopted under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter, making them legally binding on Iran.

Tehran continues to maintain that its program is purely civilian and peaceful – but such protestations can have no credibility in light of the Iranian record. Much of what we know about their nuclear program was disclosed by dissident groups or by Western intelligence after the Iranians tried their best to conceal the information from the world.

For example, the underground nuclear enrichment plant at Natanz was revealed in 2002 by the National Council of Resistance of Iran, a dissident group. In September 2009, Western governments disclosed the existence of a second underground enrichment facility near Qom.

Now we have the controversy surrounding the high-explosives weapons-testing site at Parchin. The International Atomic Energy Agency has asked repeatedly to visit the site, which it suspects is used for high-explosives tests related to nuclear weapons development – but its requests have been refused. At the same time, satellite imagery suggests that the Iranians may be trying to clean up the site, removing signs of suspicious nuclear-related activity.

It is unclear what Iran’s motivations are in agreeing to this latest set of talks. Possibly, the sanctions are biting so hard that the Iranian leadership is finally looking for a way out of the crisis. But if the past teaches us anything, it is that Iran’s leaders are deeply committed to the goal of developing nuclear arms and have been steadfastly working toward that goal for decades.

It is incumbent on the P5+1 to approach these talks with deep suspicion. Any deal they accept has to have real teeth and real verification procedures. Such a deal should in no way walk back from resolutions adopted by the Security Council. And international sanctions should remain tightly in place until it is clear beyond all shadow of a doubt that Iran is complying.

PHOTO: After his trip to Tehran, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano briefs the media upon his arrival at the international airport in Vienna, May 22, 2012. REUTERS/Leonhard Foeger

7 comments

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Ex Mossad chief Meir Dagan’s warnings at Tel Aviv University:

“Speaking during a conference in Tel Aviv on Wednesday, Dagan continued his public rejection of a military move against Iran, saying that Israel didn’t “have the capability to stop the Iranian nuclear program, only to delay it.”

“If anyone seriously considers [a strike] he needs to understand that he’s dragging Israel into a regional war that it would not know how to get out of. The security challenge would become unbearable,” Dagan said.”

It seems like if anyone would understand this situation, it would be Meir Dagan.

Posted by BajaArizona | Report as abusive

Yet another opinion, this from the US active duty military leadership:

US General Dempsey told CNN “True, Israel could bomb Iran and delay the country’s ability to create nuclear weapons “probably for a couple of years.” Precisely how Iran would chose to respond to a strike is “the question with which we all wrestle,” Dempsey said, “and the reason we think that it’s not prudent at this point to decide to attack Iran.”

The problem is that many of the Iranian targets – buried deeply underground – would be “beyond the reach” of the Israeli military, in what Dempsey called a “zone of immunity.”

What’s more, Iran would likely retaliate by closing the Strait of Hormuz using mines and swarming boats. It might also activate proxy cells to attack not just Israel, but possibly US interests in Iraq or US troops in Afghanistan.

“I’m confident that they [Israel] understand our concerns that a strike at this time would be destabilizing and wouldn’t achieve their long-term objectives,” Dempsey said.

“The agency assesses Iran as unlikely to initiate or intentionally provoke a conflict,” he said, concluding that though the possibility of Iran building a nuclear weapon is “technically feasible,” it is “practically not likely.”

Posted by DomoArigato | Report as abusive

Islamic Republic signing a nuclear accord will be like Hitler signing Neville Chamberlain’s peace in our time treaty.

Posted by Sassan31 | Report as abusive

Don’t forget the George W Bush Republicans’ record of deception and the Faux information sources they used to justify a war against Iraq. How’s that working out for ya?

Posted by TomG2 | Report as abusive

This author seems to be getting paid by the word from the zionist government. Mr. Elsner: you are a coward. Shame on you for being such a obvious government mouthpiece. None of your articles are based on reality and you know nothing of history or politics the people who hired you and the people who gave you a college degree should be fired.

Posted by Bowsky | Report as abusive

For someone with 32 years of experience in journalism and awarded Knight International Press Fellowship, I find that Mr Elsner actually see nothing or know nothing about what he is talking about. When your Geroge W Bush, on record, had clearly decepted the whole world including you yourself, to justify a war against Irag, where were you and your other Knights brotherhood? The whole world knew about this and yet the so-called civilized and democratic world dare not to challnege him and his government on this. The way I see it, you and those who had kept their silence on this, are just the lapdogs (and will always be) who will only bark when the master tell so! It seems to me that Most of hose 32 years of your has been spent as a well-paid obedient lapdog and will continue in many more years to come!

Posted by Yushua | Report as abusive

“It can hold only 3,000 centrifuges – far fewer than the number needed for industrial-scale fuel production, but ideal for quick production of 90-percent-weapons-grade-enriched uranium.”

But of course it is about the number of centrifuges needed to make the 20% enriched uranium for research reactors. So what is it going to be if they had 20,000 centrifuges you would be claiming they had far more than they needed for the research reactors and obviously they are trying to build a bomb. The number is irrelevant. They are obviously interested in making a bomb. Call me when they violate the NPT and we’ll take them out. I actually don’t think they will but we are their enemy and all of this BS keeps the west at arms length from Iran, which is just what the clerics want. My fantasy about this is Iran’s nuclear program is taken out and that Iran is able to blow up a few of Israel’s nuclear facilities – then we can listen to Israel deny they have a nuclear program as they try to clean up a major nuclear accident

Posted by drchemy | Report as abusive

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