Iran In Brief

Why ISIS prefers zero enrichment

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May 18, 2008

Ray Takeyh has an op-ed in today’s Washington Post recommending that the U.S. give up its insistence on “suspension for incentives” in favor of “enrichment for transparency.” He proposes that in exchange for an “indigenous enrichment capability of considerable size” Iran be required to accept a highly intrusive inspection regime that would go beyond existing measures, including “24-hour monitoring, continuous environmental sampling and the permanent presence of inspectors who have the right to visit any facility without prior notification.”  He adds that Iran’s breakout capacity would be constrained by limits on the amount of fissile material it is allowed to hold.

Takeyh’s proposal is not the first to suggest that the U.S. get realistic about Iran’s enrichment intentions and find some smart way to allow the centrifuges to keep spinning while limiting the proliferation risk.  Ambassadors Pickering and Luers Professor Walsh had a similar proposal. (insert hyperlink)

Here’s why ISIS feels differently: First, we have argued for some time that there are actually very few, if any, magic ways to establish and implement a verification regime that ensures Iran is not running a parallel program while developing plenty of expertise in centrifuge enrichment operations.  Second, even if a regime could be devised, we doubt it would be acceptable to Iran (which rejected continuous camera-based monitoring at Natanz after arguing successfully that Urenco doesn’t have such cameras).  Third, and most important, we don’t think that the nonproliferation-minded among us should shrink from the challenge with which Iran confronts all NPT and disarmament-lovers. 

There is no easy solution to the Iran case, but when one is found it is likely to include the following:

1) a commitment by the U.S. to direct talks with Iran without preconditions;
2) a corresponding commitment by Iran to adhere to the Additional Protocol and suspend, if only temporarily, enrichment;
3) a broad U.S. policy to support long-term fuel assurances for Iran and other countries in the region seeking a nuclear power capacity—concluding as many 123 Agreements as possible with Gulf states that include such assurances in exchange for forgoing enrichment and reprocessing;
4) a sincere U.S. commitment to work in a concrete way toward implementation of Article VI
5) Doing a much better job explaining to the Iranian people that the U.S has no desire to deprive Iran of its right to peaceful nuclear energy, and will do all it can to facilitate Iran’s acquisition of reactor technology so long as Iran follows the example of other countries in the region to forgo enrichment and reprocessing (for which it has no need because of all the fuel that is stored in the International Fuel Bank or equivalent mechanism).

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