Iran: Nuclear Fuel Program ‘Will Continue’

Really moderate, or just for show? Iranian President Rouhani. Illustrative. FEMA/Marty Bahamonde.

Really moderate, or just for show? Iranian President Rouhani. Illustrative. FEMA/Marty Bahamonde.

Ever had that disturbing feeling in the back of your mind that something just isn’t quite right, that maybe a good deal might just be too good to be true? That feeling isn’t always correct, and in the case of the nuclear deal with Iran, you better hope it’s not.

Iran didn’t help dispel concerns by proclaiming they have no intention of stopping the production of nuclear fuel. While that can be put towards civilian use, it can also be used for nuclear weapons. The deal signed between Iran and the major world powers, which The New York Times reported is supposed to be an interim deal until a final one is reached, still allows Iran to make some nuclear fuel at a lower quality. And Iran plans to take advantage.

The Iranian Fars News Agency quoted Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif as saying, “Today’s agreement deals with several sectors, the most important of which is that Iran’s enrichment program has been recognized, and this program will continue.”

The deal with the world powers, according to The New York Times, does allow Iran to continue their low-level uranium enrichment for now—until they reach a predefined quota—while halting the higher quality levels.

Iran had been producing research-grade nuclear fuel at an alarming rate. Weapon’s grade is even higher in quality than that, but Iran was effectively inching closer to the fuel needed for the bomb without crossing that threshold with their research-level enrichment. In theory, this deal stops that. It just doesn’t stop all the nuclear fuel work—which with enough time can all be put toward a bomb.

In exchange for not expanding their nuclear fuel program and for converting their research-grade fuel into other uses, Iran will get some limited sanctions relief—to the tune of $6 – $7 billion worth of sanctions relief. That’s a small number compared to the overall Iranian economy, which has been hammered by global sanctions on their banking and oil industries, but it still helps somewhat.

Iran is supposed to keep their amount of low-level nuclear fuel to a set amount and inspections will be monitoring Iran’s program to try and prevent them from cheating. But Iran isn’t going to allow all the inspections needed so as to be certain they aren’t working on nuclear weapons.

Most importantly, the deal gives Iran something of a global “greenlight” to buy time to continue any clandestine research or preparation for nuclear weapons they may be working on.  For now, the West and Israel don’t have much of an argument for increasing sanctions or a military strike on Iran. There’s a deal in place that’s supposed to keep Iran from doing anything dangerous.

So Iran just bought itself some peace and quiet to either prepare for a final deal… or break the deal and build a bomb when they’re ready. It’s either a good enough deal, or a disaster.

There’s a reason Israel wanted Iran to dismantle their program—that way Iran would be years away from building a bomb, unlike the potential months-long timeline currently on the table.

Iran already warned that they will be watching to ensure the world powers keep their end of the bargain. Fars reported that Head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran Ali Akbar Salehi said Iran “will move in the framework of the agreement as long as the opposite side complies with its pledges and avoids violating its commitments.”

That could set the stage for breaking their side, if Iran can claim they’re being cheated. Libya tried a similar approach over the destruction of their chemical weapons, which led to a delay in that process. And the worst example of cheating, North Korea, actually tested a nuclear weapon after signing a deal that was supposed to curtail its program.

In other words, don’t rest yet, even though a temporary deal has been reached—no matter how much the world powers are claiming it’s a “good” deal. Sometimes, “good” deals really are just too good.

(By Joshua Spurlock,, November 24, 2013)

What do you think?