Iran’s limited enrichment plan can work: the West should take it seriously
Alastair Crooke, a former MI6 agent in the Middle East, explains why the West needs to adjust its approach to Iran's nuclear ambitions.
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But when Mr. Gates uses that other loaded word, “leverage,” we are talking something different. “Leverage” over a state already possessing a reactor and a fuel cycle can only mean threatening Iran with war or robust military containment should its fuel stocks not be duly “relinquished.”Skip to next paragraph
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So far, President Obama has refused to endorse a “break out” conditionality as hawks such as Gates are urging on him.
Enrichment can be peaceful
For its part, Iran insists that the long-standing US doctrine of indistinguishability in enrichment is a false one. In the Iranian view, the peaceful use of enrichment can indeed be distinguished from a weapons-dedicated process: One can be safeguarded, whereas the other cannot be.
As long ago as 2005, the then-Iranian negotiator on nuclear issues, Ali Larijani, proposed a three-track solution to the Europeans: 1) centrifuges that are incapable of enrichment beyond a low limit, 2) joint ownership with Europe of the enrichment facilities themselves, and 3) additional intrusive surveillance. The European “Three” did not deign to give a response. Under former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s influence they were dead-set on only a permanent end to enrichment.
The West needs a new approach
In this new post-Bushehr reality, it is no longer realistic for the West to be stuck in a “no enrichment,” “no break-out” posture. Now, Iran is signaling a readiness to negotiate its nuclear posture with a proposal for Russia or China, or even others, to jointly participate in an enrichment facility based in Iran. This constitutes a clear pointer in the direction of a safeguarded solution. But can the US and Europe take the hint this time?
With the opening of the Bushehr facility, Iran’s nuclear program cannot be rolled back. The US and the rest of the West should engage this proposal seriously. The only other alternative is a course already gaining momentum – a huge arms buildup in the Sunni Arab states, supplied by Western arms manufacturers, that could well lead one day to a new war in the Middle East that no one wants.