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Opinion

By not lifting sanctions, West and Obama are helping Iran enrich uranium

The West just blew its latest chance to rein in Iran's nuclear enrichment program. Though Iran expressed willingness to compromise on key demands, by refusing to ease sanctions, the P5+1 nations offered no meaningful reciprocity, derailing the possibility of a deal with Tehran.

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Like Iran, Argentina, Brazil, and Japan also maintain a "nuclear option." They, too, could break out of the NPT and make a nuclear device in a few months. And like Iran, Argentina and Brazil also do not permit full "Additional Protocol" IAEA inspections.

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The real legal red line, specified in the IAEA's "Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements," is the diversion of nuclear materials to a weapons program. However, multiple experts and official reports have affirmed over the years that they have no evidence that any such program currently exists.

For example Mohamed El-Baradei, the Nobel Peace Prize laureate who spent more than a decade as the director of the IAEA, said that he had not "seen a shred of evidence" that Iran was pursuing the bomb. The November 2011 IAEA report on Iran's nuclear program also backs up this assessment, stating that Iran's research program into nuclear weapons “was stopped rather abruptly pursuant to a ‘halt order' instruction issued in late 2003.”

Even US officials have conceded that they have no proof that Iran is actively pursuing a nuclear bomb at present – and, in fact, that they have good evidence that Iran has not re-started its nuclear weapons program since 2003.

Following the release of the classified National Intelligence Estimate in 2011, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper confirmed in a Senate hearing that he has a “high level of confidence” that Iran “has not made a decision as of this point to restart its nuclear weapons program.”

And Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in early 2012: "Are they [Iranians] trying to develop a nuclear weapon? No. But we know that they're trying to develop a nuclear capability. And that's what concerns us."

By refusing to ease sanctions on Iran, the P5+1 nations so easily gave up on what could have been a golden opportunity to inspect the Parchin facility and suspend Iran's 20 percent uranium enrichment. This indicates that they are not truly worried about any Iranian nuclear weapons program.

What they really appear to be doing is using nuclear issues as an excuse to attempt to destabilize the regime via never-ending draconian sanctions. All the while Iran will continue to stockpile enriched uranium.

Yousaf Butt, a nuclear physicist, serves as a scientific consultant for the Federation of American Scientists.

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