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Ominously, various Western reports say that the P5+1, while probably aiming to demand that Iran remove its stockpile of 20-percent-enriched uranium from the country, is now prepared—unlike in the past—to allow it to keep its 3-percent-enriched stockpile. Ephraim Kam, deputy head of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, notes that the latter stockpile already has enough uranium for three to four nuclear bombs. And if removing that stockpile as well
is not insisted upon, it will not stop Iran from striving toward a nuclear weapon…. [Such] a deal would provide legitimacy to Iran’s nuclear enrichment program. Even if it is recognized as civilian in nature and is placed under more stringent supervision, it will not be possible to sufficiently oversee Iran’s nuclear-related activity.
The upshot is that the winner of the first “round” is Iran. Even if the reports—and there are many of them—on leniency toward its 3-percent stockpile turn out to be wrong, Iran gains time. May 23 is only a little more than five weeks from July—when the EU’s intensified sanctions on Iranian oil are supposed to start. It is all too easy to picture Iran introducing “proposals” on May 23 that Ashton and others will delightedly find “constructive”—while agreeing to schedule another convocation for, say, about July 1, and also agreeing to put off the ramped-up sanctions while such exciting “progress” is being made.
Meanwhile, of course, Iran could keep its centrifuges spinning while remaining immune—unless Israel were to go very much against the “consensus”—from any military attack.
Where’s the Obama administration in all this? Reports that quote Ashton’s and Jalili’s upbeat assessments of Saturday’s meeting also quote more guarded reactions by U.S. officials. One such official, for instance, told the New York Times that “dialogue is not sufficient for any sanction relief…. There must be an urgent effort and concrete steps…. We believe there is a conducive atmosphere, but we need to test it…the window for diplomacy is closing.”
The problem here is that if Washington is really skeptical and serious as those words seem to imply, it’s hard to square with teaming up with the Europeans, Russians, and Chinese. If such an invincible faith in multilateral diplomacy could, on a kind reading, be ascribed to an invincible naiveté, it could also be ascribed to a tacit collusion with Iran on stalling tactics—stalling tactics aimed at what is still perceived as the real “danger,” Israeli military action, while the world strides blindly down another deadly path of appeasement.
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