Occam’s razor applied to the Iran talks

At the invitation The Israel Project and Omri Ceren, I sat in yesterday on a conference call with Dr. Emily Landau on the Geneva talks with Iran. Landau is a senior research associate at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv and is the institute’s arms control expert. She is the author of the study “Decade of Diplomacy: Negotiations with Iran and North Korea and the Future of Nuclear Nonproliferation” (PDF). Her column on the Geneva talks was published in Haaretz earlier this week.

Audio of the call is posted here at the top of the page. I think it is worth your time if you want to understand a little more deeply what to look for and what is coming down in Geneva.

At the outset of the call Dr. Landau identified four or five apparent issues with the original draft agreement of the interim deal on which the United States was ready to sign off before France spoiled the party. Dr. Landau points out that the deal did not achieve a freeze but did provide relief from sanctions which just began to bite seriously in the past year.

The issues identified by Landau under the draft interim agreement include Iran’s right to continued enrichment to 3.5 percent, a failure to limit Iran’s continued manufacture of new centrifuges, Iran’s possible continued testing of new generation centrifuges at Natanz, the lack of any limitation on Iran’s continued construction at Arak and the unresolved open question raised by Iran’s Parchin military facility, where weaponization research/testing is suspected. Later in the call Landau mentions the draft’s acknowledgement of Iran’s enrichment rights, one of the provisions to which France reportedly objected. Landau writes with regard to Arak in her Haaretz column:

The original clause on Arak – that would have prevented Iran from commissioning the facility for six months, but would have allowed for continued construction work – is Iran’s tactic in a nutshell. To make “concessions” that are not concessions at all, because Iran was not on track to commission the facility in the next six months, but certainly wanted to be able to continue construction work so that it would be ready to do so later in 2014. And in return, to get sanctions lifted.

Dr. Landau asks why parties other than France aren’t raising these technical issues. They are straightforward issues with respect to which she finds the apparent concessions to be puzzling. I asked Dr. Lanadau: Isn’t the simplest explanation that the United States is okay with Iran’s development of nuclear weapons?

She laughed uncomfortably and responded that she took Obama at his word while acknowledging the circumstantial basis of the question. As we have all learned in recent days if not earlier, taking Obama and his “declared policy” (to borrow Dr. Landau’s term) at face value is a big mistake.

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