United States Institute of Peace

The Iran Primer

Little Progress at Fifth Round of Nuke Talks

            Iran and the world’s six major powers failed to compromise on Tehran’s controversial nuclear program in the fifth round of talks since 2011. The United States, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom ― the so-called P5+1― met with Iran in Almaty, Kazakhstan on April 5 and 6. The following are remarks by officials on the talks.

Iran
Supreme National Security Council Secretary and chief nuclear negotiator Saeed Jalili
            “Of course there is some distance between the positions of the two sides. The Islamic Republic of Iran has announced on numerous occasions - stressing the rights of the Iranian people including the right to enrich and an end to behaviors which are a sign of enmity towards the people of Iran - based on these two points, the proposal was tabled to help us to proceed in a constructive fashion…
            We think that in this round of talks, some good negotiations were conducted, and now in consideration to our new proposals, it is now up to the 5+1 to demonstrate its willingness and sincerity to take proportionate confidence building steps.” April 6 in an official statement
 
            “[R]recognition of Iran’s right to [uranium] enrichment and putting an end to hostile behaviors” towards Iran are ways to build its confidence. April 6 to media
 
Member of Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi
            The talks were “considered effective and a step forward,” but Iran will never stop its nuclear program. April 7 to ISNA
 
Supreme National Security Council Deputy Secretary Ali Baqeri
            “[C]onfidence-building measures should be considered as part of a comprehensive plan, not separate from it.”  April 5 to the press after the first day of negotiations
 
The United States
Secretary of State John Kerry
            “With respect to Almaty, Lady Cathy Ashton and Under Secretary Wendy Sherman have made it clear that there was somewhat of a gap that remains, obviously, as a consequence of the discussions that they had in Almaty. And I think that we would hope that we might have been able to move that somewhat closer. But the door is still open to doing that, and yes indeed it is important to continue to talk and to try to find the common ground.
            I think the President has made it clear, and I would reiterate today, that this is not an endless process. This is not something where you can play to the clock. You can’t just delay and talk for the sake of talking. So we would repeat to Iran it is our desire to have a diplomatic solution, but this choice really lies in the hands of Iranians. If you have a peaceful program for nuclear power, as a number of nations do, it is not hard to prove to the world that it is peaceful. Those other nations do that today. 
            The reason that Iran is increasingly finding itself isolated and in a position of being sanctioned is because they have chosen – they have chosen – not to live up to the international requirements and standards with respect to verification about their program. And the international community – not the United States, not a religion, not one particular philosophy, but countries under the United Nations and through the international community have come together and asked Iran, if your program is peaceful, please take the steps that are rational in order to prove it to the world. Now, that’s what we’re waiting for.
            But as I said earlier and repeat again, this is not an interminable process. So we hope that out of Almaty will come a narrowing of some of the differences. Diplomacy is a painful task, and a task for the patient. And you need to take the time to work through some of these things. Obviously, there is an election. That complicates the choices with respect to the politics of Iran. And we’re aware of that. But we will continue, the President is determined to continue to pursue the diplomatic channel. We will continue to have discussions through the P-5+1 process. And we remain open and hopeful that a diplomatic solution can be found…” April 7 at a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey
            “No option will be taken off the table. And I confirm to you, Mr. President, that we will continue to seek a diplomatic solution. But our eyes are open, and we understand that the clock is moving. And no one will allow the diplomatic process to stand in the way of whatever choices need to be made to protect the world from yet another nuclear weapon in the wrong hands...” April 8 at a press conference in Jerusalem, Israel with President Shimon Peres
 
            “Iran cannot have and will not have a nuclear weapon. And the United States of America has made clear that we stand not just with Israel but with the entire international community in making it clear that we are serious, we are open to negotiation, but it is not an open-ended, endless negotiation; it cannot be used as an excuse for other efforts to try to break out with respect to a nuclear weapon. And we are well aware and coordinating very, very closely with respect to all of our assessments regarding that. But President Obama doesn’t bluff; he’s made that very clear to me. And we hope the Iranians will come back to the table with a very serious proposal...” April 9 at a press conference in Jerusalem, Israel with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
 
The European Union
High Representative for Foreign Affairs Catherine Ashton
            We “had long and intensive discussions on the issues,” during which “it became clear that the positions of the E3+3 and Iran remain far apart on the substance… We have therefore agreed that all sides will go back to capitals to evaluate where we stand in the process… I will be in touch with Dr. Jalili soon in order to see how to go forward.” April 6 in an official statement
 
British Foreign Secretary William Hague
            “Lengthy discussions took place on some issues, but a wide gap remains between the parties. Iran's current position falls far short of what is needed to achieve a diplomatic breakthrough…
            We look to Iran to consider carefully whether it wants to continue on its current course, and face increasing pressure and isolation from the international community, or to enter into meaningful negotiations…” April 6, 2013 in a press statement
 
Russia
Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov
            “[Russia] considers that it's necessary to recognize all rights of Iran, including enrichment... Certainly these talks were a step forward… Unfortunately we were unable to achieve a breakthrough and are still on the threshold… The parties are ready to maintain contacts and hold a new round of talks…
            We worked hard to improve the Baghdad package. We realize that the further the talks go and the closer the key issues are, the more difficult decisions are taken. That is why we don’t seek to dramatize the lack of a compromise.  April 6 to the press
 
China
Deputy Foreign Minister Ma Zhaoxu
            “We are entering hard talks in this regard. More obstacles are lying ahead of us. I think all parties should make this dialogue continue and resolve the disputes with a practical manner and with mutual respect.” April 6 to the press
 
Israel
Minister of Strategic and Intelligence Affairs Yuval Steinitz
            The international community should give Iran an ultimatum of “ a few weeks, a month” to stop enriching uranium or face a possible military strike. “The Iranians are playing games and laughing all the way to the bomb… It is time to present the Iranians with a military threat or some kind of red line, an unequivocal ultimatum from the entire world, (which must be delivered) by the United States and the West...
            North Korea was somehow allowed by the international community to gain nuclear weapons and it is threatening to use (them) against South Korea, Japan and even the United States. Imagine what could happen within two or three years not only to Israel but to Europe, the United States and the whole world if the fanatical and extreme regime in Tehran attains nuclear weapons…” April 7 to Israeli army radio
 
 

 

The Arab Uprisings in Iranian Politics

            Iran hailed the 2011 Arab uprisings as an “Islamic Awakening” and considered the overthrow of U.S.-backed dictators a continuation of its own 1979 revolution. A new report claims that Tehran’s goals are to foster political Islam in the Arab world and Arab independence from U.S. influence—both elements of a broader strategic narrative ultimately radiating from Iran.
 
            Tehran saw the uprisings as an opportunity to “brandish its ideology, point up the success of its ruling system, and counter U.S. strategic communication,” according to Payam Mohseni of Brandeis University. The regime cited the electoral success of Islamist parties as evidence of the regime’s success at home and abroad.
 
            But many supporters of the 2009 Green Movement―the opposition born after the disputed 2009 presidential election― saw the Arab uprisings as a continuation of their demonstrations against the government. The following are excerpts from the brief published by Brandeis University’s Crown Center for Middle East Studies, with a link to the full text at the end.
 
Iran’s Domestic Ideological Context
            While Iran’s narrative of the Islamic Awakening  emphasizes the political developments that have occurred outside of Iran’s borders, it is nevertheless fundamentally rooted in the Islamic Republic’s own domestic ideological context and the regime’s interest in projecting its “soft power.” As such, the importance of this narrative must be analyzed from two different yet related perspectives. The first is in the context of the “soft war,” which is the ongoing ideological conflict within which the regime perceives itself to be engaged. The second is within the broader history of the regime’s focus on the Islamization of the social sciences. Since the Islamic revolution, Iran has stressed the development of models of governance and society alternative to those of the West and the modern social sciences, based on Islamic thought. Accordingly, this section looks at how the narrative of the Islamic Awakening is a logical development of both of these outlooks…
 
The “Soft War”
            At the time of the regional uprisings in 2011, the Iranian regime was already engaged in a highly ideological campaign which it referred to as the “soft war” (jang-e narm). The campaign represented Iran’s growing fears of “soft” threats to its rule, as demonstrated by the popular mobilization that occurred following the contested June 2009 presidential election. The green movement, led by opposition candidate Mir-Hussein Mousavi, not only produced the largest protests the country had witnessed since the revolution but also fueled an unprecedented degree of infighting within the ruling elite over the very nature of the Islamic regime…
 
            The soft war, however, extends beyond the challenge posed by the green demonstrations. More recently, with respect to the current nuclear standoff, Khamenei declared at a meeting with university students that the target of the soft war “is what is in your heart, in your mind, in your brain—meaning your will. The enemy wants to change your will.” The soft war, in other words, represents the latest ideological framework employed by the regime to analyze the threats and opportunities it faces with respect to a variety of issues. These ideas, moreover, have not remained solely at the level of discourse and political jargon. Just recently, the Armed Forces General Staff declared that it was establishing a Defense Propaganda Staff (setad-e tablighat-e defai), a Soft War Base (gharargah-e jang-e narm), and think tanks devoted to television and cinema…
 
Implications of Iran’s Grand Narrative
            Iran’s strategic narrative of the Islamic Awakening is relevant to understanding not only Iranian foreign policy (and Middle Eastern foreign affairs generally) but, just as importantly, Iranian domestic politics. The reason is simple and, perhaps, counterintuitive: The development of Iranian thought on the Islamic Awakening—and of soft power more broadly—has been influenced first and foremost by the domestic political scene. Such thinking was spurred on not by geopolitical rivalries or by Iran’s attempts to “export the revolution,” as commonly assumed, but rather by the backlash of theocratic thinkers against their reformist counterparts regarding the very nature of the Islamic regime. Iran’s narrative of the Islamic Awakening is thus one component of the regime’s own ideological campaign to bolster the Islamic Republic and confront oppositional discourse on regime change...
 
            Iran’s main desires are to contribute to the growing Islamization of Arab polities—in whatever shape or form that may take, detached from any specific regime or institutional model—and to encourage the increased independence of Arab states so that they do not toe the line on United States policies, particularly those that intend to isolate Iran regionally. Iran consequently seeks to employ its narrative of the Islamic Awakening that extends beyond the Iranian model to its advantage to expand its reach and pursue its interests in the region more effectively.
 
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Part II: What Would it Take to Build a Bomb?

Interview with Colin Kahl by Garrett Nada

What steps would be necessary for Iran to build a nuclear weapon?

            President Obama has estimated that it would take Iran “over a year or so” for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. But that device would likely be crude and too large to fit on a ballistic missile. Producing a nuclear weapon that could be launched at Israel, Europe, or the United States would take substantially longer. Iran would need to complete three key steps.
 
      Step 1: Produce Fissile Material
      Fissile material is the most important component of a nuclear weapon. There are two types of fissile material: weapons-grade uranium and plutonium. Tehran has worked primarily on uranium. There are three levels or enrichment to understand the controversy surrounding Iran’s program:
 
·90 percent enrichment: The most likely route for Iran to produce fissile material would be to enrich its growing stockpile of low-enriched uranium to 90 percent purity —or weapons-grade level. Western intelligence agencies suggest Iran has not decided to enrich uranium to 90 percent.
 
·3.5 percent enrichment: As of early 2013, Iran had approximately 18,000 pounds of “low-enriched uranium” enriched to the 3.5 percent level (the level used to fuel civilian nuclear power plants). This stockpile would be sufficient to produce around half-a-dozen nuclear bombs, but only if it were further enriched to weapons-grade level (above the 90 percent purity level). Experts estimate Iran would need at least four months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one bomb using 3.5 percent enriched uranium as the starting point.
 
      ·20 percent enrichment: In early 2013, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the
       U.N. watchdog group that inspects Iranian nuclear facilities, said Iran also had a stockpile of
       375 pounds of 20 percent low-enriched uranium, ostensibly to provide fuel for a medical
       research reactor. This stockpile is about two-thirds of the 551 pounds needed to produce one
       bomb’s worth of weapons-grade material if further enriched. If Iran accumulated sufficient
       quantities of 20 percent low-enriched uranium, it might be able to enrich enough
       weapons-grade uranium for a single bomb in a month or two.
 
            The main issue is the status of the uranium enriched to 20 percent and the two production sites—at the Fordo plant outside the northern city of Qom and the Natanz facility in central Iran. U.N. inspectors visit these sites every week or two, however, so any move to produce weapons-grade uranium in an accelerated timeframe as short as a month would be detected. Knowing this, Iran is unlikely to act.
 
            The speed of enrichment also depends on the centrifuges used, both their number and their quality. For a long time, Iran had used thousands of fairly slow IR-1 centrifuges to spin and then separate uranium isotopes. But since January 2013, it has started to install IR-2M centrifuges, which spin three to five times faster. In early 2013, Tehran claimed to be using about 200 IR-2Ms at the Natanz site.
 
           Tehran might be able to enrich enough uranium for one bomb ― from 20 percent purity to 90 percent ― in as little as two weeks if it installs large numbers of advanced IR-2M centrifuges. Iran has announced its intention to eventually install as many as 3,000.
 
Step 2: Develop a Warhead
           Iran would next have to build a nuclear device. It would need to build a warhead based on an “implosion” design if Iran wanted to deliver a nuclear device on a missile. It would include a core composed of weapons-grade uranium (or plutonium) and a neutron initiator surrounded by conventional high explosives designed to compress the core and set off a self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction.
 
           IAEA documents claim, “Iran has sufficient information to be able to design and produce a workable implosion nuclear device based upon HEU [highly enriched uranium] as the fission fuel.” The IAEA has also expressed concerns that Iran may have conducted conventional high-explosive tests at its military facility at Parchin that could be used to develop a nuclear warhead.
 
           There is no evidence, however, that Iran is currently working to design or construct such a warhead. Even if Iran made the decision, production of a warhead small enough, light enough, and reliable enough to mount on a ballistic missile is complicated. Iran would probably need at least a few years to accomplish this technological achievement.
 
Step 3: Marry the Warhead to an Effective Delivery System
           If Iran built a nuclear warhead, it would need a way to deliver it. Tehran’s medium-range Shahab-3 has a range of up to 1,200 miles, long enough to strike anywhere in the Middle East, including Israel, and possibly southeastern Europe. These missiles are highly inaccurate, but they are theoretically capable of carrying a nuclear warhead if Iran is able to design one.
 
           Iran’s Sajjil-2, another domestically produced medium-range ballistic missile, reportedly has a range of 1,375 miles when carrying a 1,650-pound warhead. Tehran is the only country to develop a missile with that range before a nuclear weapon. But the missile has only been tested once since 2009, which may mean it needs further fine-tuning before deployment. Iran also relies on foreign sources for a number of components for the Sajjil-2.
 
           Iran is probably years away from developing a missile that could hit the United States. A 2012 Department of Defense report said Iran “may be technically capable” of flight testing an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) by 2015 if it receives foreign assistance. But in December 2012, a congressional report said Iran is unlikely to develop an ICBM in this timeframe, and many analysts estimate that Tehran would need until 2020.
 
Is the North Korean experience relevant?
           The Clinton administration confronted a similar dilemma in 1993 on North Korea’s nuclear program. The intelligence community assessed that Pyongyang had one or two bombs’ worth of weapons-grade plutonium. But the intelligence community could not tell the president with a high degree of certainty if North Korea had actually built operational nuclear weapons.
 
           The mere existence of a few bombs’ worth of weapons-grade plutonium seemed to have a powerful deterrent effect on the United States. Washington could not be sure where the material was stored, or if the North Koreans were close to producing a weapon.
 
           The same concerns could apply to Iran if it developed the capability to produce weapons-grade uranium so quickly that it avoids detection even at declared facilities― or if it was able to enrich bomb-grade material at a secret facility. Then Iran might be able to hide the fissile material, making it more difficult for a military strike to destroy. All the other parts of the program, such as weapons design, preparing the uranium core, and fabrication and assembly of other key weapon components, could potentially be done in places dispersed across the country that are easier to conceal and more difficult to target.
 
           Iran may be years away from being able to place a nuclear warhead on a reliable long-range missile. But many analysts are concerned that the game is up once Iran produces enough fissile material for a bomb.
 
Colin H. Kahl served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East from 2009 to 2011. He is currently an associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

 

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Part I: Is Iran Slowing its Nuclear Program?

Interview with Colin Kahl by Garrett Nada
Colin H. Kahl served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East from 2009 to 2011. He is currently an associate professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security.

Iran has reportedly slowed down work on its nuclear program. What is actually known?
            The good news is that Tehran has kept its stockpile of 20 percent low-enriched uranium below the amount needed for a bomb. It may have curtailed uranium enrichment in order not to cross Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s red line. He had predicted in September 2012 that Iran would accumulate enough 20 percent low-enriched uranium for one bomb’s worth of material by the spring or summer of 2013. Netanyahu had implied that Israel would consider military action if Iran approached this point.
 
      Experts estimate that Iran would need about 551 pounds of 20 percent low-enriched uranium to produce a bomb. It reportedly has accumulated about 375 pounds so far, or two-thirds of the quantity needed. Iran could have had more, but it has oxidized part of the stockpile to make fuel plates for the Tehran Research Reactor. (Once oxidized, the uranium is not easily enriched to weapons-grade levels. It is technically reversible but time-consuming.)
 
      The bad news is that Iran has been significantly upgrading its ability to enrich uranium. It has installed about 2,000 additional IR-1 centrifuges at its enrichment facility in Natanz, bringing the total number of machines there to around 12,000, according to the U.N. nuclear watchdog in February. The installation of 200 even more advanced IR-2M centrifuges―which would be three to five times more efficient than IR-1 centrifuges―is particularly worrisome. And Iran intends to install about 3,000 of the more advanced models, which could dramatically shorten Iran’s breakout timeline.
 
            The Iranians may have run into some technical issue with storage or something else that requires them to oxidize part of their uranium stockpile. Another possibility is that Iran’s leaders want to avoid a major international crisis before the June 2013 presidential election. Or they could be intentionally skirting Netanyahu’s red line on the uranium stockpile to ensure Israel does not strike.
 
Has diplomacy with the international community played a role in Iran’s calculations?
            Tehran is likely to continue its dialogue with the world’s six major powers until its presidential election in June. But it is unlikely to make a major concession before the election for fear of signaling that the regime is weak.
 
            Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ultimately decides on all nuclear issues. So the winner of the presidential election is not all that important per se. Most Iran analysts expect the next president to be handpicked by the supreme leader from the group loyal to him.
 
            After the election, the question will be whether Iran is willing to slow down its production of 20 percent low-enriched uranium and shift some of its stockpile abroad in exchange for some sanctions relief. That kind of deal is unlikely to solve the nuclear standoff. But it would put some time back on the clock.
 
            The United States, Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, the so-called P5+1, are scheduled to meet with Iran in Kazakhstan again on April 5. During these talks, Tehran may try to weaken consensus among the world’s six major powers, who do not agree on every element of negotiating strategy. But this element of Iran’s diplomatic strategy has only had moderate success so far.
 
At what point would the United States need to decide whether or not to use force to stop the nuclear program?
            The Obama administration has indicated that it does not share Netanyahu’s definition of the red line for using force. Washington does not appear to consider one bomb’s worth of 20 percent low-enriched uranium alone as casus belli for a military strike. Even aggressive estimates claim Iran would need at least a month to convert further enrich this material to weapons-grade level (uranium enriched above the 90 percent level of purity). Iran would also have to do the enrichment at either Natanz or its second enrichment facility at Fordo, both of which are inspected every week or two by the U.N. nuclear watchdog. Inspectors would almost certainly catch Tehran diverting or enriching the material. Iran knows it would get caught, so the supreme leader is not likely to make such a move even with a sufficient stockpile of 20 percent low-enriched uranium.
 
            But President Obama and Prime Minister Netanyahu agreed in March that Iran would need at least one year to produce a nuclear device, which would begin with production of weapons-grade uranium. Tehran would then need several months to actually assemble a crude nuclear device. U.S. officials have suggested that Iran might need another two to four more years to build a nuclear device sophisticated enough to put on the tip of a ballistic missile.
 

            Obama administration officials, from the president on down, have consistently stated they will not allow Iran to acquire a nuclear weapon. And the president has made clear that all options, including the use of force, remain on the table to ensure that Iran does not get the bomb. At the same time, Obama clearly prefers a diplomatic solution, believing there is still time to strike a deal. All eyes will be on Almaty to see if the Iranians feel the same way.

Photo Credit: President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad via President.ir

Online news media are welcome to republish original blog postings from this website in full, with a citation and link back to The Iran Primer website (www.iranprimer.com) as the original source. Any edits must be authorized by the author. Permission to reprint excerpts from The Iran Primer book should be directed to permissions@usip.org

 

Report: Nuke Program Expensive and Risky

            Iran’s nuclear program has cost more than $100 billion in lost foreign investment and oil revenue, according to a new report by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Federation of American Scientists. It argues that the nuclear program may be too entangled with national pride and significant sunk costs for Iran to abandon it. For example, the Bushehr nuclear reactor alone took nearly four decades to build and cost $11 billion.

            Iran's nuclear power program is also inefficient and potentially unsafe, according to the report. The Bushehr reactor only supplies 2 percent of Iran’s electricity needs. Up to 15 percent of electricity is lost through “old and ill-maintained transmission lines.” The Bushehr plant may be vulnerable to earthquakes because it sits at the intersection of three tectonic plates.

            The report concludes with policy implications for the United States and its allies. It argues that a broader political settlement could assure that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful. The report suggests offering Iran alternative energy technologies, such as solar energy. It urges Washington to engage in public diplomacy and tell Iranians how they would benefit from a deal. The following are excerpts from the report, with a link to the full text at the end.
 
Nuclear Power: Energy Security or Insecurity
            Successive Iranian governments present their quest for nuclear energy as indispensable
to the country’s preparations for life after oil. This aspiration, however, turned into the
nemesis of Iran’s energy sector when it invited draconian international sanctions. These
measures have left Iran’s oil and gas industry in shambles and Iran’s other natural energy
resources overlooked. It is evident that Tehran’s rationale for investing in nuclear
energy, especially in uranium enrichment, is consistent neither with the realities of its
resource endowments nor with the near-term needs of its energy sector…
 
A Comparative Disadvantage
            The Bushehr reactor—the first nuclear reactor of its kind in the Middle East—and Iran’s
extensive nuclear fuel-cycle infrastructure are often portrayed by the Iranian government
as symbols of the country’s scientific adroitness, especially in comparison with other
regional states. But Iran does not have that much of a technological edge. Neighboring
countries, in contrast to Iran, have unimpeded access to global markets and are likely to
bridge the technology gap rapidly. The same world powers that have imposed sanctions
on Iran are supporting these nuclear-hopefuls that have opted to make their programs
optimally transparent…

Unheeded Warnings
            ... Iran’s Bushehr plant is a hybrid German-Russian reactor that resembles a virtual petridish of amalgamated equipment and antiquated technology. The sui generis nature of the reactor means that Iran cannot benefit from other countries’ safety experiences. Problems rooted in this situation emerged even before the reactor became operational. During tests conducted in February 2011, all four of the reactor’s emergency cooling pumps were damaged, sending tiny metal shavings into the cooling water.171 These pumps were German and from the 1970s. Russian engineers pressured Iran to unload the 163 fuel assemblies of low-enriched uranium from the core of the reactor in order to prevent any damage to them and conduct a thorough cleaning, which further delayed the longoverdue launch. Again in October 2012, the reactor was shut down and fuel rods were unloaded after stray bolts were found beneath the fuel cells.
 
            More ominously, Bushehr is located at the intersection of three tectonic plates. According to the Russian builder of the reactor, the model that was used as basis for the Bushehr reactor is designed to endure an earthquake of intensity 7 on MSK-64 scale when it is in operation (corresponding to 6 on the Richter scale) and an earthquake of intensity 8 on MSK-64 scale under safe shutdown (corresponding to 6.7 on the Richter scale)…
 
The Road Ahead
            Iran’s nuclear program has deep roots. It cannot be “ended” or “bombed away.” It is entangled with too much pride—however misguided—and sunk costs. Given the country’s indigenous knowledge and expertise, the only long-term solution for assuring that Iran’s nuclear program remains purely peaceful is to find a mutually agreeable diplomatic solution.
 
            The contours of such a deal are becoming increasingly clear. Any agreement would have
to include commitments by Iran not to undertake specific experiments, imports, and
other activities that would be vital to making nuclear weapons and therefore illegitimate
for a peaceful nuclear program. The IAEA has already identified some of the benchmarks
of nuclear weaponization and others could be specified. Tehran will be asked to operationalize
its supreme leader’s repeated religious declarations that Iran would not seek
nuclear weapons.
 
            The establishment of detailed and mutually agreed boundaries between Iran’s nuclear
program and a nuclear weapons program could then give tolerable confidence that Iran
could continue to enrich uranium to power-reactor levels (below 5 percent). In addition
to saving face domestically, continued enrichment would give Iranian leaders leverage to
keep the United States from reneging on its commitments. Iran would have the option
of ratcheting up the level of enrichment in a tit-for-tat response to failures by the United
States or others to keep their side of any deal. Such a deal would also require the United
States and European Union to ease the most punishing sanctions, namely those against
Iran’s central bank and oil sales…
 
            Regardless of economic hardships, the Iranian people are unlikely to comprehend the
U.S. strategy unless Washington provides answers to key questions: What could Iranians
collectively gain by a nuclear compromise, other than a reduction of sanctions and
the threat of war? How could a more conciliatory Iranian approach improve the country’s
economy and advance its technological—including nuclear—prowess? U.S. public diplomacy efforts should make clear to Iranians that a prosperous, integrated Iran—as opposed to a weakened and isolated Iran—is in America’s interests…
 
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