Analysis: US Assurances on Iran Nuke Deal Not Reassuring

Does the US still stand with Israel on Iran?

Does the US still stand with Israel on Iran?

Ever had some difficult news that you just had to tell someone in person? Well, that’s what the current Middle East tour from US Under Secretary for Political Affairs Wendy Sherman looks to be. Sherman, also the main US negotiator in the nuclear talks with Iran, made a specific stop in Jerusalem to assure Israel that the American concessions to Iran won’t allow Iran to build a nuclear weapon.

Nice try, Ms. Sherman, but I doubt the Israelis are feeling very comfortable after your statement there.

The main point taken from the public comments is that the US is negotiating the issue of Iran’s uranium enrichment, the creation of nuclear fuel. What’s important about that point is that in the past it has been at least implied the US didn’t want Iran to do any enrichment on their own soil, lest they divert their peaceful program to a military one.

The Israelis, particularly Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, have repeatedly highlighted nations that have peaceful nuclear power but do not develop their own fuel at home. Quite simply, there is a genuine risk that Iran could develop weapon’s grade nuclear fuel, using their peaceful program as the cover up.

It could come in a private fuel development center unknown to the world. It could come because the machines are ramped up and arranged to upgrade the fuel from civilian use to military use, and the world doesn’t react in time.

Regardless, as long as Iran is able to cut down the time they need to “breakout” for nuclear weapons by developing the “peaceful” nuclear fuel and improving the machines used for that process, the risk of a nuclear bomb in Iran remains.

Now, it is possible that Iran could be kept to a strictly peaceful nuclear fuel program. However, that would require some vital safeguards. The Institute for Science and International Security has pointed out that Iran simply must be made to dismantle parts of their facilities used in enrichment—the number of centrifuges that are used in that process can too easily be put towards quick development of the fuel for a nuclear weapon. Hence, the number of centrifuge machines must be reduced dramatically.

Second, Iran must be limited on their research into advanced centrifuges. Anything that can really cut down the timeline needed to build a bomb should be curtailed. The faster and more efficiently the machines work, the easier it will be for Iran to surprise us or outrun us to building a bomb before they can be stopped.

Lastly, any development of nuclear fuel beyond normal civilian power use, or any construction on a secret facility, should be met with severe and guaranteed consequences.

That means laws on books that green light immediate, crushing sanctions in response. That means plans, if not authorization, for a military campaign if Iran breaks their bargain.

But will the Americans go that far? Will they make demands and stick to them? The track record isn’t good thus far. And that means that all their room for compromise is already used up. Previously, any nuclear fuel development was out of the question. Now the question is how many other nonnegotiables are open to negotiation?

(By Joshua Spurlock,, February 23, 2014)

What do you think?