1. NYT says Obama plans to sidestep Congress on an Iran deal. An October 19th article in the New York Times stated that the Obama administration “will do everything in his power to avoid letting Congress have a vote” on a final nuclear deal with Iran.
2. Do Iran’s recent steps to dilute some of its enriched uranium mean Tehran is serious about reaching a deal on its nuclear program? This question is based on a Monday Reuters report that a new IAEA report said Iran diluted 4,100 kg of 2% enriched uranium to the natural uranium level (0.7% uranium-235). The article at the Center for Security Policy points out that a September 2014 IAEA report specified this was a separate batch from Iran’s 12,464 kg of reactor-grade uranium (enriched to 3 to 5%). Iran can still make 7-8 nuclear weapons from its reactor-grade uranium stockpile if this uranium was further enriched to weapons-grade.
3. New U.S. Concessions. The Iranian news service Mehr reported this week that the Obama administration has offered to allow Iran to operate 4,000 uranium centrifuges. Iran is using centrifuges to enrich uranium to reactor-grade and could easily adapt them to enrich to weapons-grade. Iran has 19,000 centrifuges but only about 9,000 are currently operational.
If this report is true it is consistent with previous reports of U.S. offers allowing Iran to operate 1,500-4,500 centrifuges if it converted any uranium it enriched to uranium power. As I explained in an October 2 National Review Online article, these previous concessions would do little to stop or slow Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
4. Dennis Ross Thinks There Could be a Partial Nuclear Deal with Iran. Ross thinks a partial deal which “contains” Iran’s nuclear program and prevents Tehran from moving closer to a nuclear “breakout” capability – the ability to produce enough weapons-grade fuel for one nuclear weapon – would be a good outcome for the nuclear talks. Ross says this might also be achieved by a “muddling through” strategy under which Iran would agree to limit its nuclear program and the West would not impose additional sanctions. Under such a scenario, the nuclear talks would be suspended for a few months but bilateral talks with Tehran would continue….The current understandings with Iran allow Tehran to continue to enrich uranium and keep a huge stockpile of reactor-grade uranium which could be used to fuel 7-8 nuclear weapons if this uranium was enriched to weapons-grade. Iran also has been permitted during this year’s nuclear talks to install new centrifuge designs that may be four to 16 times more efficient. These are unacceptable concessions that Ross is proposing be made permanent under a partial deal with Iran or through a muddling through strategy.
America has not yet prevented a country that desires to obtain nuclear weapons from going nuclear. I suspect that we will not be able to prevent Iran from going nuclear. Unfortunately, the change in the balance of power in the Middle East that would result from Iran going nuclear is not a pleasant one.