Right Web

Tracking militarists’ efforts to influence U.S. foreign policy

Zarif Reveals Iran’s Proposal for Ensuring Against “Breakout”

Inter Press Service

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif has revealed for the first time that Iran has made a detailed proposal to the P5+1 group of states aimed at ensuring that no stockpile of low-enriched uranium would be available for “breakout” through enrichment to weapons grade levels.

In an exclusive interview with IPS, Zarif described an Iranian plan, presented at the meetings with the P5+1 last month in Vienna, that would exclude weapons grade enrichment. “The parameters of the proposal would be set to continue Iran’s enrichment but to provide the necessary guarantees that it would not enrich to anything over five percent,” said Zarif.

The plan would involve the immediate conversion of each batch of low-enriched uranium to an oxide powder that would then be used to make fuel assemblies for Iran’s Bushehr reactor, according to Zarif.

Because Iran does not have the capability to manufacture fuel assemblies for Bushehr, the proposal implies that the oxide power would be sent to Russia, at least for several years, rather than remaining in Iran.

The previously undisclosed Iranian plan is part of a broader negotiating stance that insists on the need for a large increase in the number of centrifuges it would have in the future – a demand that the United States and its negotiating partners have rejected.

Obama administration officials have made it clear that they are insisting on very steep reductions in the number of centrifuges, based on the argument that Iran cannot be allowed to have the capability to enrich enough uranium to weapons grade for a single nuclear bomb in less than six to 12 months.

Zarif said he could not discuss the details of the Iranian proposal, because it is “still being negotiated”.

But he described it as involving a complete cycle “from conversion to yellowcake, to UF6, to enriched uranium, back to oxide powder, and back to fuel rods,” all of which would be “designed specifically to meet the requirements of the Bushehr reactor.”

Zarif revealed that the Iranian plan for guaranteeing that Iran could not have a nuclear weapons capability is very similar to the proposal that Iran made to a meeting with the European three (U.K., France and Germany) in Paris in March 2005.

The proposal, which was later published by the Iranian government, included a series of “technical guarantees” against nuclear weapons proliferation. It describes one of those guarantees as “immediate conversion of all enriched uranium to fuel rods to preclude even the technical possibility of further enrichment.”

The U.S.-educated Zarif said he had developed that 2005 proposal himself when he was Iranian Ambassador to the United Nations, after he had consulted with a number of American nuclear scientists on ways to reassure the Europeans and the U.S. that Iran could not enrich enough uranium to weapons grade for a nuclear bomb.

“I asked them what would provide the necessary confidence,” said Zarif. “They gave me a number of elements, which I put in a package and sent to Tehran, and they took it to Paris.”

Frank N. Von Hippel, former assistant director for national security in the White House Office of Science and Technology and now a professor at Princeton University, confirmed in an e-mail that he had been part of a small group of American scientists and others who had met with Zarif to discuss the problem of how to provide assurances that Iran’s civil nuclear programme would not be used to support a nuclear weapons programme.

Von Hippel said his recollection was that the group had suggested “not building up a stockpile but rather shipping [the low-enriched uranium] to Russia to make fuel for the Bushehr reactor.”

Peter Jenkins, then the U.K. permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, participated in the Mar. 23, 2005 meeting at which the Iranian plan was presented.

“All of us were impressed by the proposal,” he recalled in a 2012 interview. The Europeans did not accept it as the basis for negotiation, however, because the George W. Bush administration had insisted that Iran not be allowed to have any enrichment whatsoever, according to European diplomats involved in that earlier phase of negotiations.

Zarif rejected the Obama administration’s position that Iran should obtain whatever reactor fuel it needs for Bushehr or any future reactors from Russia or other foreign sources rather than relying on its own enrichment capabilities. “People should not tell us you have to rely on us,” he said. “It is 30 years too late.”

He was referring to Iran’s experience with its reliance during the early 1980s on a French-based uranium enrichment consortium called Eurodif in which it had a financial stake acquired during the Shah’s regime that entitled Iran to 10 percent of the enriched uranium produced by the consortium.

After the Islamic Republic resumed the nuclear programme begun by the Shah, however, the French government prevented Eurodif from supplying any enriched uranium for nuclear fuel for the nuclear reactor at Bushehr in the early 1980s.

The U.S. State Department acknowledged in 1984 that it had not only ended its own nuclear cooperation with Iran but had “asked other nuclear suppliers not to engage in nuclear cooperation with Iran, especially while the Iran-Iraq war continues.”

The foreign minister ruled out the acceptance of the P5+1 proposal in the last round of negotiations, which reportedly would limit the number of Iranian centrifuges to a fraction of its present total of 19,000.

“We’re not going to redefine our practical needs,” he said, referring to the language in the Joint Plan of Action agreed to last November calling for agreement on an Iranian enrichment programme whose “parameters” would reflect Iran’s “practical needs”.

But the foreign minister indicated that Iran was “prepared within the scope of those practical needs to work on timing, to work on various technical details….”

Zarif criticised statements by former and present U.S. officials to the news media as well in the negotiations referring to demands that the number of Iranian centrifuges must be geared to the need to extend the time required for “breakout” to 6 to 12 months.

Some of the statements made to the press, including those by former State Department proliferation official Robert Einhorn, as well as some of those made in the negotiations “amount to posturing”, Zarif said, adding that they “amount to creating expectations that can never be met.”

“It will be much more productive if everyone involved refrains from shaping the debate in a way that [it] will be out of control,” said Zarif.

Zarif said the U.S. insistence on Iran’s ending of all enrichment at its Fordow facility, which is located in a tunnel under a mountain, is based on “the argument that you can’t have this facility, because otherwise we can’t bomb it.”

The implied assertion of the right to bomb Iranian facilities “strikes the wrong chord in the Iranian psyche and produces exactly the opposite reaction,” he said.

Zarif challenged the view reflected in Western news coverage that the Rouhani government is under strong political pressure to produce results in the talks that would remove the worst sanctions.

The last round of talks in Vienna, which were unsuccessful “has been the easiest time at home,” he said, and “the toughest time” for him as he had to explain “each positive result to a population that is extremely skeptical of the West’s intentions.” If he rejected a deal, Zarif said, he would receive a “hero’s welcome.”

Gareth Porter is an independent investigative journalist and winner of the 2012 Gellhorn Prize for journalism. He is the author of the newly published Manufactured Crisis: The Untold Story of the Iran Nuclear Scare.

Share RightWeb

Featured Profiles

Nominated for the post of attorney general by Donald Trump, William Barr held the same post under George H.W. Bush, and established a reputation as a staunch conservative and supporter of executive authority.


Pundit Charles Krauthammer, who died in June 2018, was a staunch advocate of neoconservative policies and aggressive U.S. military actions around the world.


Former Weekly Standard editor and current Fox News commentator Bill Kristol is a longtime neoconservative activist who has been a leading right wing opponent of Donald Trump.


Jon Kyl, a hawkish conservative, served in the Senate from 1996-2013 and again in 2018, and helped guide Brett Kavanaugh through his confirmation process.


Paul Ryan (R-WI), Speaker of the House from 2015-2018, was known for his extremely conservative economic and social views and hawkish foreign policies.


On August 16, 2018, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the formation of the Iran Action Group (IAG). It would “be responsible for directing, reviewing, and coordinating all aspects of the State Department’s Iran-related activity, and it will report directly to me,” he stated. Amid speculation that the Donald Trump administration was focused on…


Norm Coleman is a lobbyist for the Saudi Arabian government, chair of the Republican Jewish Coalition, and former senator from Minnesota, known for hawkish, pro-Likud, and anti-Iran foreign policy views.


For media inquiries,
email rightwebproject@gmail.com

From the Wires

Had Washington made an effort after the last time President Trump promised to quit Syria to pursue diplomatic and military channels and prepare the ground for a U.S. departure, we have had something to celebrate.


Although a widespread movement has developed to fight climate change, no counterpart has emerged to take on the rising danger of nuclear disaster — yet.


U.S. supporters of Israel are in a bind: public opinion is changing; there are more actors publicly challenging Israel; and the crude, heavy-handed tactics they have successfully used in the past to silence criticism now only aggravate the situation.


As the civilian death toll from Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen grows and the backlash against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s role in Khashoggi’s murder escalates, former Sen. Norm Coleman’s control of Republican Party campaign purse strings positions him as a key influencer of Republican congressional action, or inaction, in curtailing the increasingly aggressive and reckless actions of Saudi Arabia.


Increasingly, Turkey and Saudi Arabia are positioned as rivals, each with pretensions to Middle Eastern influence or even hegemony. It’s not clear whether they can continue to coexist without one or the other—or both—backing down. This has made it more difficult for the United States to maintain its ties with both countries.


What does President Trump’s recent nomination of retired Army General John Abizaid to become the next U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia signify? Next to nothing — and arguably quite a lot.


The Donald Trump administration’s handling of nuclear negotiations with Saudi Arabia promises to lay bare some realities about security issues and nuclear programs in that part of the world that the administration has refused to acknowledge.


RightWeb
share