Done Deal: Iran to Suspend Nuclear Program, Roll Back Weaponization

Kevin Baron, Defense One
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Kevin Baron, Defense One
Nov. 25, 2013, 4:02 a.m.

HAL­I­FAX, Nova Sco­tia — Ir­an has bowed to in­ter­na­tion­al de­mands and agreed to halt its nuc­le­ar pro­gram in a sweep­ing six-month deal with West­ern powers that ob­serv­ers are call­ing a ma­jor dip­lo­mat­ic vic­tory for the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Pres­id­ent Barack Obama, in a tele­vised state­ment from the White House late Sat­urday night, called the deal out of Geneva an “im­port­ant first step to­ward a com­pre­hens­ive solu­tion.”

“These are sub­stan­tial lim­it­a­tions which will help pre­vent Ir­an from build­ing a nuc­le­ar weapon,” said the pres­id­ent.

Ac­cord­ing to the White House, Ir­an has agreed to halt any en­rich­ment of its urani­um stock­piles above 5 per­cent and to “neut­ral­ize” its cur­rent stock­piles of urani­um already near 20 per­cent en­rich­ment to back be­low 5 per­cent. Ir­an also will dis­mantle its abil­ity to en­rich above that level.

The agree­ment re­quires daily ac­cess by United Na­tions in­spect­ors at Ir­an’s Natanz and For­dow en­rich­ment sites, while sig­ni­fic­antly rolling back Ir­an’s cur­rent en­rich­ment cap­ab­il­it­ies. Ir­an also agreed not to start new cent­ri­fuges and not to pro­ceed with fur­ther activ­ity at its Arak plutoni­um en­rich­ment site.

“In re­turn for these steps, the P-5+1 is to provide lim­ited, tem­por­ary, tar­geted, and re­vers­ible re­lief while main­tain­ing the vast bulk of our sanc­tions, in­clud­ing the oil, fin­ance, and bank­ing sanc­tions ar­chi­tec­ture.  If Ir­an fails to meet its com­mit­ments, we will re­voke the re­lief,” a White House state­ment said.

De­fense Sec­ret­ary Chuck Hagel was in­formed of the nuc­le­ar deal earli­er in the even­ing, De­fense One learned.

“This is an ex­tremely im­port­ant first step that sets the con­di­tions for a res­ol­u­tion that will be in both our in­terests,” said a U.S. of­fi­cial, who spoke to De­fense One on con­di­tion of an­onym­ity mo­ments after the pres­id­ent’s speech.  “We’re very clear-eyed in ap­proach­ing it.”

“The six months will al­low us time to make sure Ir­an doesn’t ad­vance its nuc­le­ar cap­ab­il­ity. It also gives us the time and space to work something that is more per­man­ent,” said the of­fi­cial.“We are in a bet­ter place now than we were without a deal. Ir­an has agreed not to ad­vance fur­ther in its pro­gram, and this is a first step to take us to something more last­ing. It’s just a first step.”

The news brought the Sat­urday night re­cep­tion of the high-level Hal­i­fax In­ter­na­tion­al Se­cur­ity For­um to a halt. The con­fer­ence hotel filled with Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials, mem­bers of Con­gress and for­eign mil­it­ary dig­nit­ar­ies froze to watch Obama’s White House state­ment on live tele­vi­sion. Some del­eg­ates as­so­ci­ated with the ad­min­is­tra­tion already had popped cham­pagne and ap­plauded Obama’s speech, while oth­ers said the tem­por­ary deal did noth­ing to stop Ir­an’s nuc­le­ar weapons goals.

“Des­pite what con­ser­vat­ives say, this deal is un­ques­tion­ably bet­ter than no deal,” said Mieke Eoy­ang, dir­ect­or of na­tion­al se­cur­ity at the Third Way and a former House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee staffer.

“This is a vin­dic­a­tion of both a cam­paign prom­ise and people ar­guing with­in the ad­min­is­tra­tion that a deal was pos­sible,” said Heath­er Hurl­burt, seni­or ad­visor at the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Net­work and a former speech­writer for Pres­id­ent Clin­ton and former Sec­ret­ary of State Madeleine Al­bright.

Randy Sch­eun­e­mann, pres­id­ent of Or­i­on Strategies and former for­eign policy ad­viser to Sen­at­or John Mc­Cain (R-Ar­iz.), who at­ten­ded the Hal­i­fax con­fer­ence, harshly cri­ti­cized the deal. “The point is to end the fuel cycle. The point is to end the nuc­le­ar pro­gram. The point is just when sanc­tions are start­ing to be­gin you don’t give them re­lief when they have a his­tory of us­ing ne­go­ti­ations to buy time.”

Ir­a­ni­an Pres­id­ent Has­san Rouh­ani “has said if they can reach three and a half per­cent [en­rich­ment] they can get nuc­le­ar weapons,” Sch­eun­e­mann said. “This lets them get to three and a half per­cent. At the end of six months, if they want to walk they give up noth­ing but six months and gain $6-7 bil­lion.”

“They can’t take yes for an an­swer,” Eoy­ang re­tor­ted.

Obama, in his state­ment, said the deal places the onus on Ir­an to live up to its end of the bar­gain. “The bur­den is on Ir­an to prove to the world its nuc­le­ar pro­gram will be ex­clus­ively for peace­ful pur­poses,” he said.

Re­prin­ted with per­mis­sion from De­fense One. The ori­gin­al story can be found here.

This art­icle was pub­lished in Glob­al Se­cur­ity News­wire, which is pro­duced in­de­pend­ently by Na­tion­al Journ­al Group un­der con­tract with the Nuc­le­ar Threat Ini­ti­at­ive. NTI is a non­profit, non­par­tis­an group work­ing to re­duce glob­al threats from nuc­le­ar, bio­lo­gic­al, and chem­ic­al weapons.

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