The agreement that France, Germany and Britain reached with Iran this week signals that the diplomatic option of dealing with Iran's nuclear weapons program no longer exists. To understand why this is the case, we must look into the agreement and understand what is motivating the various parties to accede to its conditions.
The agreement stipulates that the European-3 will provide Iran with light water reactor fuel, enhanced trade relations and more nuclear reactors. In exchange, the Iranians agree that for the duration of the negotiations toward implementing the agreement ? including a European push for Iranian ascension to the World Trade Organization ? it will not develop centrifuges and will not enrich uranium. At the same time, the Europeans accepted Iran's claim that it has the legal right to complete the entire nuclear fuel cycle ? meaning, it has the legal right to enrich uranium. Strangely, in a separate Iranian agreement with the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency, the Iranians announced that they would cease enriching uranium effective Monday, November 22, rather than immediately. This apparently annoyed the Europeans, but it wasn't a deal breaker.
The Weekly Standard this week explained that light water reactor fuel of the type that the Europeans have agreed to give Iran can be used to produce bomb material within nine weeks. Since the IAEA inspectors only visit Iran every three months, it would be a simple matter to divert enough light water fuel to produce a bomb between inspections. And so, the agreement itself holds the promise of direct European assistance to Iran's nuclear weapons program.
While the Europeans were congratulating themselves for their feckless diplomacy, the Iranians were taking to the airwaves and arguing that they gave up nothing in the deal and received everything. Hamid Reza Asefi, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said the suspension of nuclear activities would last only until Iran and the Europeans reached a long-term agreement. For his part, Iranian chief nuclear negotiator Hassan Rowhani said that enriching uranium is "Iran's right, and Iran will never give up its right to enrich uranium."
Iran's interest in making the deal is clear. The IAEA governing board is set to meet next week to discuss Iran's nuclear program. By agreeing to the deal with the Europeans, Iran has effectively foreclosed the option, favored by the US, of transferring Iran's nuclear program to the UN Security Council for discussions that could lead to sanctions on Iran.
Caroline B. Glick is the senior Middle East fellow at the Center for Security Policy in Washington, D.C., and the deputy managing editor of The Jerusalem Post, where this article first appeared.
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