What has the accord with the Iranians bought us? It's supposed to be a six-month pause in Iran's bomb program. But in fact it's only a partial pause. Iran is free to continue enriching uranium to 5% — and that's by far the most difficult step. It's free to repair its (many) broken centrifuges, it's free to continue research and development, it's free to continue it's bomb design program and its ballistic missile program. Also, intelligence agencies all assume Iran has hidden facilities, where it will continue with nuclear activities that the agreement does forbid.
|A poster of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini is seen next to bank of centrifuges in a facility in Natanz. (Reuters)|
Bottom line: this six-moth accord buys us a one-month delay in how long it will take Iran to build a bomb — maybe two or three months if we're lucky. In return the western powers gave Iran $6 or $7 billion in sanctions relief, a delay in further sanctions, and an effective "right" to enrich uranium, a concession which virtually guarantees that Iran can eventually get a bomb.
To get even this much took a decade of increasingly harsh sanctions, the threat of an imminent military attack from Israel and a full year of negotiation.
Five years ago, Iran had enough uranium enriched to 5% to build one bomb. Today, it has enough to build four. In six months when this agreement expires, it will have enough to build five or six. That's the bottom line.
|Iranian revolutionary guards are helping the Syrian regime to crush the revolution|
From the New York Times
WASHINGTON — The interim accord struck with Iran on Sunday
interrupts the country’s nuclear progress for the first time in nearly a
decade, but requires Iran to make only a modest down payment on the central
The deal does not roll back the vast majority of the advances Iran has
made in the past five years, which have drastically shortened what nuclear
experts call its “dash time” to a bomb — the minimum time it would take to
build a weapon if Iran’s supreme leader decided to pursue that path.
Lengthening that period, so that the United States and its allies would
have time to react, is the ultimate goal of President Obama’s negotiating team. It is also a
major source of friction between the White House and two allies, Israel and Saudi
Arabia, which have made no secret of their belief that
they are being sold down the river.
Prime Minister Benjamin
Netanyahu of Israel has described the terms of the accord
announced early Sunday as a “bad deal” that does not require Iran “to take
apart even one centrifuge.” That bitter assessment reflects the
deep suspicion inside Mr. Netanyahu’s government that Mr. Obama will settle for
a final agreement that leaves Iran a few screwdriver turns short of a weapon.
The Saudis have been equally blistering, hinting in vague asides that if
the United States cannot roll back the Iranian program, it may be time for
Saudi Arabia to move to Plan B — nuclear
weapons of its own, presumably obtained from Pakistan, which entered the nuclear
club on Saudi subsidies.
Iran’s agreement to convert or dilute the fuel stocks that are closest
to weapons grade, Mr. Obama said, means that the deal would “cut off Iran’s
most likely paths to a bomb.” But it would cut them off only temporarily, long
enough to pursue negotiations without fear that Iran would use the time to inch
closer to a weapons capability.
But the rollback he won for this first stage, according to American
intelligence estimates, would slow Iran’s dash time by only a month to a few
Mr. Obama met with senators from both
parties last week, hoping to dissuade them from imposing new sanctions just as
he is lifting some in an effort
to coax Iran toward disarmament. But even some of his closest allies are
unconvinced: Senator Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, signed a
letter to Secretary of State John Kerry last week noting that the temporary
accord “would not require Iran to even meet the terms of prior United Nations
Security Council resolutions,” which require complete suspension of nuclear
On the Iranian side, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which
American intelligence agencies have accused of running a secret weapons-design
program, may try to chip away at the accord as well, arguing that the sanctions
relief is puny and that even the caps on enrichment will slow Iran’s efforts to
build its nuclear capabilities.
Mr. Kerry and his chief negotiator, Wendy Sherman, say they have no
illusions that the interim agreement solves the Iranian nuclear problem. It
simply creates time and space for the real negotiations, they say, where the
goal will be to convince Iranian leaders that the only way to get the most
crippling sanctions — those that have cut the country’s oil revenue in half —
lifted is to dismantle large parts of a program on which they have spent
billions of dollars and staked national pride.
Lurking over the American negotiating team is the specter of what can go
wrong even with a seemingly good deal to buy time. As Ms. Sherman was coaxing
Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, toward the interim agreement,
the North Koreans were restarting a nuclear reactor that they had partly
dismantled in a similar agreement
struck late in the administration of President George W. Bush — a deal meant to
halt North Korea’s ability to produce plutonium fuel for weapons.
The North Korean example has become Exhibit No. 1 in Israel’s argument that the
deal struck on Sunday gives a false sense of security. “There are two models
for a deal: Libya and North Korea,” Israel’s minister of strategic affairs and
intelligence, Yuval Steinitz, said in an interview during a recent trip to
Washington. “We need Libya.”
Mr. Steinitz was referring to a 2003 agreement in which
Libya gave up all of its nuclear equipment and was left with no ability to make
At the beginning of Mr. Obama’s presidency, Iran had roughly 2,000
kilograms of low-enriched uranium, barely enough for a bomb. It now has about
9,000 kilograms, by the estimates of the International Atomic Energy Agency. A
few thousand centrifuges were spinning in 2009; today there are 18,000,
including new models that are far more efficient and can produce bomb-grade
uranium faster. A new heavy water reactor outside the city of Arak promises a
new pathway to a bomb, using plutonium, if it goes online next year as Iran
says it will.
True rollback would mean dismantling many of those centrifuges, shipping
much of the fuel out of the country or converting it into a state that could
not be easily adapted to bomb use, and allowing inspections of many underground
sites where the C.I.A., Europe and Israel believe hidden enrichment facilities
may exist. There is no evidence of those facilities now, but, as a former
senior Obama administration official said recently, speaking anonymously to
discuss intelligence, “there has never been a time in the past 15 years or so
when Iran didn’t have a hidden facility in construction.”
There is also the problem of forcing Iran to reveal what kind of
progress it has made toward designing a weapon. For years, its leaders have
refused to answer questions about documents, slipped out of the country by a
renegade scientist nearly eight years ago, that strongly suggest work on a nuclear warhead. Inspectors have never been able to interview
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, the academic believed to be in charge of a series of
weapons development projects.