Iran talks in Baghdad: Western naiveté
As world powers head into nuclear talks with Iran in Baghdad on Wednesday, is Obama so naive as to hang on to a fake fatwa promising no nukes? With enough enriched uranium to eventually make six nuclear bombs, Tehran is simply stalling for time. Recent chronology bears this out.
Gallery Monitor Political Cartoons
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
Clearly, Iran is stalling for time to develop a nuclear weapon. One example: In talks last month in Istanbul, Tehran seems to have convinced international negotiators of the sincerity and weight of a fatwa, or religious edict, by the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that a nuclear bomb is haram – forbidden – in Islam.
Last week, for instance, former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard said the fatwa will help promote confidence about Iran’s nuclear activities.
The ayatollah is not beholden to keep his word, but that doesn’t seem to be of much concern. At the Istanbul talks, the West agreed for the first time to Iran’s demand that it may enrich uranium, with restrictions – despite UN resolutions to the contrary.
The Islamic regime has continuously believed that the more its nuclear program is expanded and progress is achieved, the less likely the West will demand a halt to the program – and if Iranian leaders remain steadfast in the face of all threats, the more likely the West will eventually accept a nuclear Iran.
Recent chronology bears this out.
When President Obama took office in 2009, Iran was under several UN sanctions conditioned on its suspension of all uranium enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. At the time, Iran had 1,200 kilos of low-enriched uranium at its Natanz facility.
Mr. Obama chose to engage the Islamic regime, believing that an extended hand would yield better results than threats. He reasoned that a new US approach would be welcomed by Tehran because it was a complete change from the Bush administration.
However, the radicals ruling Iran saw this extended hand as weakness. They engaged the Obama administration while enriching uranium beyond the benign 3.5 percent level, as it had been limited to for many years, to the 20 percent level. While that is not a high enough enrichment level for a nuclear weapon, it is high enough to get to bomb-grade very quickly – in a matter of weeks if Tehran decides to do so.
Early in 2010, Obama, realizing his defeat in the negotiation phase, moved to a sanctions phase. But instead of the crippling sanctions he had promised, he started step-by-step sanctions that Iran’s clerics saw as further proof of America’s inability to stop Iran, which emboldened them to speed up their program.
Today Iran, under further sanctions by the United Nations, United States, and European Union, has over 5.5 tons of enriched uranium – enough to eventually make six nuclear bombs. It continues to enrich uranium with more than 9,000 centrifuges at Natanz, both at the 3.5 and 20 percent levels, and at the previously secret site, the Fordow facility, deep in a mountain near the city of Qom, to the 20 percent level.
All the while Iran is expanding the number of centrifuges at both sites, with a possibility that there are more sites unknown to the West or the International Atomic Energy Agency.
This takes us to the current set of negotiations. In Instanbul, the West handed the Islamic regime a historic win. For the first time in the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the West offered Iran full acceptance of its nuclear enrichment process if Iran stopped the 20-percent enrichment.