(Central Israel) — Less than 48 hours remain for a nuclear deal to be worked out with Iran before the March 31st deadline is reached.
Details of a potential deal are leaking out of the marathon talks being held in Lausanne, Switzerland, but they are far from encouraging.
In fact, a growing number of highly respected leaders, nuclear experts and Middle East analysts — both Democrats and Republicans — say they are deeply troubled by the apparent concessions being made to Iran, as well as Iran’s increasingly aggressive actions in the region, most recently in Yemen.
- Sen. Bob Menendez, top Senate Democrat, and a leading voice on preventing the Iranian Bomb, warned the deal is terrible. “If today’s news report from Lausanne is true, we are not inching closer to Iran’s negotiating position, but leaping toward it with both feet. We have pivoted away from demanding the closure of Fordow when the negotiations began, to considering its conversion into a research facility, to now allowing hundreds of centrifuges to spin at this underground bunker site where centrifuges could be quickly repurposed for illicit nuclear enrichment purposes. My fear is that we are no longer guided by the principle that “no deal is better than a bad deal,” but instead we are negotiating “any deal for a deal’s sake.”
- Former CIA Director James Woolsey, a Democrat who served with President Clinton, is warning, “‘Given the fanaticism of Iran’s leaders, I don’t think we can do a deal with them. They’ll cheat.”
- Dr. Henry Kissinger, the elder statesman of American foreign policy, warned the talks are going in the absolutely wrong direction. As noted by the Washington Post: “The talks, [Kissinger] pointed out, began as a multilateral effort headed by the European Union and backed by six U.N. Security Council resolutions intended ‘to deny Iran the capability to develop a military nuclear option.’ Though formally the multilateral talks continue, ‘these negotiations have now become an essentially bilateral negotiation” between the United States and Iran “over the scope of that [nuclear] capability, not its existence,’ Mr. Kissinger said.”
- Former Secretary of State George Shultz has warned, “They [the Iranian leaders] have already outmaneuvered us, in my opinion.”
- Israeli leaders say the emerging deal is even worse than they had feared.
- What’s more, Sen.Tim Kaine, the Virginia Democrat, is warning that the Iranians “are currently involved in activities to destabilize the governments of [U.S.-allied] nations as near as Bahrain and as far away as Morocco.”
- The Washington Post editorial board is also deeply uncomfortable with the Administration’s approach. In a new editorial, they noted, “As the Obama administration pushes to complete a nuclear accord with Iran, numerous members of Congress, former secretaries of state and officials of allied governments are expressing concern about the contours of the emerging deal. Though we have long supported negotiations with Iran as well as the interim agreement the United States and its allies struck with Tehran, we share several of those concerns and believe they deserve more debate now — before negotiators present the world with a fait accompli.”
Here are the latest details:
- The deal would apparently allow Iran to continue enriching uranium with 6,000 or more centrifuges.
- The deal would allow Iran to keep Fordow operating — its hardened, underground, and previously secret nuclear facility (only discovered in 2009) — with upwards of 3,000 centrifuges operating.
- This deal appears to give Iran a “breakout time” to build nuclear weapons of well less than one year. “Olli Heinonen, who ran inspections for the I.A.E.A. before moving to Harvard several years ago, published a paper on Saturday concluding that, based on leaked estimates that Iran would operate roughly 6,500 centrifuges, ‘a breakout time of between seven and eight months would still be possible,'” reported the New York Times.
- The deal does not deal at all with disclosing or preventing the military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, including how closely Iran is working with North Korea. We don’t know all that has transpired in the talks on Iran’s nuclear program being conducted in Switzerland, but we do know that the White House has shied away from a potentially paralyzing issue: the “possible military dimensions” — the PMDs — of the regime’s program,” noted an analysis in the Washington Post.
- For months, the deal reportedly included a provision by which the Iranians would ship their enriched uranium out of the country, most likely to Russia, but now Iran is saying they never agreed to such a concept. “The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program, and we do not intend sending them abroad,” Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi said. “There is no question of sending the stocks abroad.”
For more, here are excerpts from the latest Reuters news story from Lausanne:
- Iran and six world powers tried to break an impasse in nuclear negotiations on Sunday, but officials cautioned that attempts to reach a preliminary deal by a deadline in two days could yet fall apart.
- The two sides explored compromises in areas including numbers of centrifuges used to enrich uranium that Iran could operate, and its nuclear enrichment work for medical research.
- But Israel, which feels especially threatened by the possibility of a nuclear-armed Iran, said details of a possible framework agreement emerging from the talks in Lausanne, Switzerland, were even worse than it feared.
- Foreign ministers from the six countries [held] their first full meeting with Iran’s foreign minister on Monday morning.
- German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said there had been “some progress and some setbacks in the last hours…I can’t rule out that there will be further crises in these negotiations.”
- The United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia and China want more than a 10-year suspension of Iran’s most sensitive nuclear work.
- Tehran, which denies it is trying to develop a nuclear weapons capability, is demanding an immediate end to international sanctions that are crippling its economy.
- A Western diplomat said duration could be traded off if there were real efforts on some key parameters. “We all want it to be 15 years, but there will be different durations for various aspects of the deal,” the diplomat told reporters.
- Iranian negotiator Hamid Baidinejad said “15 years is out of question for Iran but 10 years is being discussed”….
- Several officials told Reuters that Tehran had indicated a willingness to cut the number of centrifuges it uses to fewer than 6,000, thereby slowing its program, and to send most of its enriched uranium stockpiles for storage in Russia.
- Senior Iranian negotiator Abbas Araqchi told reporters dispatching stockpiles abroad “was not on Iran’s agenda”.
- Western powers were meanwhile considering allowing Iran to conduct limited and closely monitored enrichment-related work for medical purposes at an underground facility, the officials added on condition of anonymity.
- Iran had originally insisted on keeping in operation all the nearly 10,000 centrifuges it currently uses, but said in November that Washington had indicated it could accept around 6,000.
- Iranian officials say they have been pushing for 6,500-7,000.
- Baidinejad said cutting the number of Iran’s centrifuges to 6,000 “was one of the proposed ideas by the other party”….
- “Everything could still fall apart” before Tuesday’s self-imposed deadline for a framework agreement, a Western official told Reuters….
- One concerns Iran’s demand to continue with research into a new generation of advanced centrifuges that can purify uranium faster and in greater quantities for use in nuclear power plants or, if very highly enriched, in weapons.
- Another question is over the speed of removing United Nations sanctions on Iran. A senior U.S. official said there were other unresolved questions but expected those would fall into place if the big sticking points could be worked out.
- The U.S. official said negotiators were working towards something that would be called an “understanding” rather than a formal agreement, which would form the basis of a comprehensive deal, including all technical details, to be tied up by June 30…..
- The powers’ aim is to ensure that for the next decade Iran is kept at least one year away from being able to produce enough fissile nuclear material for a single weapon.
- “It has to be a deal which puts the bomb beyond Iran’s reach. There can’t be any compromise about that,” British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said. “If we’re going to get this done here … Iran has got to take a deep breath and take some tough decisions.”
- His remarks contrasted with hostility from Israel, which is believed to have the Middle East’s only nuclear arsenal but is not a party to the talks.
- “This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet in Jerusalem.
- Referring to advances made by Houthi rebels allied to Tehran in Yemen, he accused the Islamic republic of trying to “conquer the entire Middle East”.
- “The Iran-Lausanne-Yemen axis is very dangerous to humanity, and must be stopped,” Netanyahu said.
- Israel has previously threatened to attack Iran if it is unhappy with an eventual deal.
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