It was reported last week that, in anticipation of the May 23 multilateral nuclear talks with Iran in Baghdad, President Obama had already conceded that Iran can continue to enrich uranium so long as it does so at levels no higher than 5 percent — i.e., not weapons grade. This concession, leaked to the major news outlets but analyzed by none, gives self-defeating a bad name. It would not only make it easier for Tehran to break out and make nuclear weapons whenever it wants, but it would give Iran’s neighbors every reason to demand similar nuclear-fuel-making “rights.” With any luck, Iran will reject this offer. Meanwhile, Congress, which is already toying with legislation to tighten our nuclear-nonproliferation policies, should get busy.
Is the president’s position really all that bad? His defenders insist that his 5 percent solution is simply pragmatic. U.N. Security Council Resolution 1737 demanded that Tehran cease making nuclear fuel. But demanding total suspension flies in the face of Iran’s “inalienable” right under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) to make nuclear fuel for peaceful purposes. They also point out that Obama is firm in demanding that Iran open up selected military sites to inspection, close down its heavily fortified enrichment site at Fordo, and send as much as possible of the 20 percent enriched uranium it has produced so far to a third country. Iran, they note, has already begun to balk at these additional demands. The bottom line, in their view, is that the president’s proposed deal gives the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) the access it needs to prevent Iran from taking the last steps toward making bombs, and that’s all that matters.
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