Home  > Historical Perspectives
Ditch the bomb, keep civil nuclear program, West tells Iran (ISRAEL HAYOM) Yoni Hirsch and Shlomo Cesana 04/08/12)Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_article.php?id=3873 YNet News - Yediot Achronot YNet News - Yediot Achronot Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
Is Israel signaling acceptance of an Iranian civilian nuclear program? • Barak stipulates Iran halts uranium enrichment, removes material from territory, decommissions Fordow, allows inspection • In exchange Tehran keeps low-grade uranium for research.

As the U.S. and other Western countries were making demands on Iran ahead of renewed nuclear talks, Defense Minister Ehud Barak on Sunday issued a statement listing Israel´s stipulations for the negotiations between Iran and the West, which include the expectations that Iran halt all uranium enrichment, remove all enriched nuclear material from its territory and transfer it to a third country acceptable to both sides, and completely shut down the Fordow nuclear enrichment facility at Qom.

According to a statement issued by Barak´s office on Sunday morning, Israel would concede to Iran´s procurement of nuclear fuel rods, intended for the country´s nuclear research facility, on the condition that it halted uranium enrichment to 20 percent, and removed all existing enriched material from the country, including material enriched to 3.5%. Israel will agree to Iran keeping several hundred kilograms of enriched uranium of a low level, which cannot be enriched further to produce a nuclear weapon.

In addition, Israel expects Iran to decommission its nuclear facility in Qom, to submit to oversight by the International Atomic Energy Agency and expose its nuclear history as it relates to possible military dimensions.

If Iran agrees to these terms, Israel will agree to allow Iran to procure nuclear fuel rods for research purposes. The statement from Barak´s office said the defense minister presented Israel´s stipulations to the highest echelons of the U.S. administration.

Appearing on CNN´s Global Public Square (GPS) with Fareed Zakaria over the weekend, Barak downplayed the effect that sanctions are likely to have on Iran and said they would not persuade it to change course. Referring to the most recent sanctions on Iran´s banking system - most notably by the SWIFT clearinghouse - Barak said, "It´s clear that the depth of the sanctions is different from what we had in the past and it has its impact ... it probably will encourage them to move. But to tell you the truth, we hope for the better. But I don´t believe that this amount of sanctions and pressure will bring the Iranian leadership to the conclusion that they have to stop their nuclear military program."

Asked whether Israel would consider a "very intrusive inspection regime" as sufficient, Barak replied that Israel would welcome it. "We are not against any kind of effective and urgent sanctions, not even against negotiations. But we told our American friends, as well as the Europeans, that we would have expected the threshold for successful negotiations to be clear, namely that the P5+1 will demand clearly that [there is] no more enrichment to 20% [and that] all the already enriched 20% material [is transported] out of the country to a neighboring trusted country." Barak also sounded a cautionary note, warning against the dire consequences of complacency."We see the Iranian nuclear military program as a challenge to the whole world, not just to Israel. We are convinced that to deal with it once it is nuclear will be much more complicated, much more dangerous, much more costly in terms of both the human life as well as financial resources."

On Friday, The Washington Post reported that U.S. President Barack Obama had told Iran that the U.S. would not object to a civilian nuclear program as long as it refrains from developing nuclear bombs.

Columnist David Ignatius, who is known for his unique access to the Obama administration, reported that during a two-hour meeting at last month´s Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, Obama asked Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to convey to Iran´s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei that if the Ayatollah were to live up to his recent remark, that Iran "will never seek nuclear weapons," the U.S. would not object to having the regime continue with its nuclear efforts.

The extent to which the Islamic Republic would be allowed to enrich uranium would be resolved in the upcoming negotiations, according to the report.

Reacting to the report, a top Israeli defense official seemed to indicate that Israel would not be opposed to a limited Iranian civilian nuclear program, if all the military dimensions of Iran´s program were stopped and brought under IAEA inspections.

Speaking on Army Radio on Sunday morning, Amos Gilad, the head of the Political and Security Department at the Defense Ministry, said that the most important aspect of the deal formulated by the West was the U.S. president´s affirmation that Iran would not be allowed to develop a nuclear weapons capability.

"The point of departure is that the U.S. and Europe will not allow Iran to develop nuclear weapons," Gilad said. The West, Gilad said, was offering the Iranians "carrots," but the central position of the P5+1 "remains the same: no Iranian nuclear weapons."

According to Washington Post, Obama wanted to drive home the message that "time is running out for a peaceful settlement and that Tehran should take advantage of the current window for negotiations."

Erdogan was to relay Obama´s offer while visiting Iran last week. He was also scheduled to meet other top regime officials, including Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has recently been embroiled in a political spat with the supreme leader.

"The statement [by Khamenei] highlighted by Obama as a potential starting point was made on state television in February. Khamenei said: ´The Iranian nation has never pursued and will never pursue nuclear weapons ... Iran is not after nuclear weapons because the Islamic Republic, logically, religiously and theoretically, considers the possession of nuclear weapons a grave sin and believes the proliferation of such weapons is senseless, destructive and dangerous,´" Ignatius writes, adding that the challenge now facing U.S. policymakers is how to make these words serve as a "serious and verifiable commitment" to refrain from assembling the bomb.

Ignatius further writes that the decision to use Erdogan as the go- between for back-channel talks with Iran is "the most dramatic evidence yet of the close relationship Obama has forged with the Turkish leader," and the fact that Hakan Fidan, the head of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization, attended Erdogan´s meeting with Obama and accompanied him on his Iran visit attests to the intelligence official´s crucial role.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported Saturday that the United States and other Western nations were planning to demand that Iran immediately close and ultimately dismantle a recently completed nuclear facility deep under a mountain near Qom.

The Obama administration and its European allies will also call for a halt in the production of higher-level enrichment of uranium fuel, and the shipment of existing stockpiles of that fuel out of Iran, the newspaper said, citing U.S. and European diplomats.

The diplomats told The Times that they could not imagine any agreement that left Iran with a stockpile of fuel, enriched to 20% purity, that could be converted to the grade needed to make an atomic bomb in a matter of months.

"We have no idea how the Iranians will react," a senior Obama administration official told the newspaper. "We probably won´t know after the first meeting."

The opening talks are tentatively set for Friday, but their location is unclear.

In January, major powers signaled willingness to reopen the talks about curbing Iran´s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons but said Tehran must show it was serious about negotiations. Iran says its nuclear program is aimed solely at generating power.

The United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany are the six powers involved in diplomacy aimed at resolving the long-running row over Iran´s atomic plans.

Russia and China recently joined the four Western powers in expressing "regret" over Iran´s expansion of higher-grade enrichment, most of which is now taking place deep inside a mountain near the Shi´ite Muslim holy city of Qom to better protect it against Israeli or U.S. attacks.

The focus on diplomacy followed rising tensions between the West, which is seeking to cut Iran´s oil sales, and Tehran, which threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz through which almost one- fifth of oil traded worldwide flows.

The United States has gradually tightened sanctions on Tehran due to its failure to answer questions about its nuclear program.

Return to Top