Turkey's Siren Song on Iran

Why the US should reject renewed calls for sham negotiations with the Islamic Republic.

Turkey’s foreign minister came to Washington on Friday, trying to push another fake “peace in our time” deal with Iran. Given the Obama administration’s track record with Iran to date, they may take it – with disastrous consequences.

Ahmed Davotoglu hectored members of Congress and activists who have been pushing for tough measures on the Iranian regime, arguing that a spoonful of sugar was all that was needed to get Iran to “cut a deal on limits to its nuclear program.”

“The deal is clear. It could be resolved in a few days,” Davotoglu said. The problem was “mutual distrust,” made worse by U.S. sanctions. “What happened [as a result of sanctions]? Iran produced more” enriched uranium, he argued.

We have heard this siren song many times before. In 2003, when the International Atomic Energy Agency woke up to the fact that Iran had been lying to IAEA inspectors for the previous 18 years about its secret nuclear weapons-related program, the same advocates of talks with Tehran argued that everything could be resolved “in a few days.”

Then IAEA secretary general, the Egyptian Mohamed Elbaradei, flew to Tehran in February 2003 to meet with Iran’s then “moderate” president, mullah Mohammad Khatami. Instead of a few days, talks dragged on for two years, during which time the Iranian regime completed construction on key facilities needed for its weapons program.

Are our memories so short that we have forgotten this charade? Iran’s top nuclear negotiator was criticized by Mahmoud Ahmadinejad during the 2005 presidential elections in Iran for having “gone soft” and “caving in to imperialist powers” by signing an agreement with the IAEA that theoretically opened Iran’s nuclear facilities to inspections.

But Ahmadinejad hadn’t read the memo – at least, not yet. The former negotiator, Hossein Musavian, revealed the truth in a television interview that should have put a halt to any future attempts to negotiate with Tehran.

”Thanks to our dealings with Europe, even when we got a 50-day ultimatum, we managed to continue the work for two years,” Musavian said of the 2003 deal that was eventually struck. “Today, we are in a position of power." The negotiations with Europe and the IAEA had been a ploy to “buy time” so Iran could complete work on its enrichment facilities, he added.

Every time the U.S. or the Europeans or the P5+1 (the permanent UN Security Council members plus Germany) engage in “negotiations” with Tehran, the Iranian regime feigns to make concessions, then enriches away.

That is precisely what is going on today. Except that today, Iran is so close to the bomb that the slightest mistake will be deadly.

Thanks to the IAEA inspections, we now know that the Islamic Republic has enough enriched uranium to make four nuclear warheads. Much of this uranium has been enriched to twenty percent. Once uranium is enriched to 20%, Iran can complete the process to reach weapons-grade fuel in just a few weeks. That means Iran can “break out” of any agreement and make the fuel for nuclear weapons between two inspection visits by the IAEA, making it extremely difficult to detect – until too late.

We also know that Iran has developed a nuclear warhead with aid from Pakistani nuclear black market genius, A.Q. Khan, and has extensively tested all of its non-nuclear components to validate the design.

In November, thanks to a mysterious explosion at a missile research center outside of Iran, we learned that Iran has been working hard to develop a new ICBM with a range of 10,000 miles. While the design parameters of that missile are not well known, it is clear that the Iranian regime is developing this missile in order to target the United States.

The man who designed that new missile, who was killed in the blast, left behind instructions that the epitaph on his tomb should read: “Write on my tombstone: This is the grave of the one who wanted to annihilate Israel."

I was asked by the Department of State in November 2005 to travel to Vienna, Austria to address delegates from non-aligned countries at the IAEA about Iran’s nuclear programs. I argued at that time that the IAEA was required to refer Iran to the UN Security Council because it was in clear violation of its commitments under the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).

As I told the delegates, there is no difference in the technology or the facilities needed to enrich uranium to three or four percent for use as fuel in a civilian power reactor, and the facilities required to enrich uranium to 90 or 93% to build nuclear weapons. “The only thing separating the two is a matter of intent.”

The leaders of the Islamic Republic of Iran have stated their intent time and time again: it is to destroy America, and wipe Israel off the map. For those who have ears, let them hear.

Over the past three years, Turkey has left the Western camp, encouraged by President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton as a “moderate” Islamist regime.

We should be having a national discussion about “who lost Turkey,” because today Turkey has become the ally of the Islamic Republic of Iran, not the United States.

Make no mistake: the siren song we heard from Turkey’s foreign minister last week was intended to advance Iran’s nuclear weapons ambitions, not to thwart them.

I have always advocated for helping the people of Iran in their struggle for freedom against this tyrannical Islamist regime, because I believe our problem is not with the people of Iran or even nuclear weapons in Iran, but with the regime that has its finger on the nuclear trigger.

At the end of my 2005 book, Countdown to Crisis: the Coming Nuclear Showdown with Iran, I laid out specific steps the U.S. government could take to promote regime change in Iran, without committing U.S. troops or engaging in a strategic bombing campaign.

I fear the window of opportunity for taking such steps is quickly closing, and that the Obama administration, egged on by pressure groups such as the pro-Tehran National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) and their Congressional acolytes, Reps. Chris Van Hollen (D, MD) and Jim Moran (D, VA), will be tempted to conclude another specious “peace in our time” deal with Tehran.

Can we negotiate with Tehran’s current leadership? I think the regime’s track record of using negotiations to buy time shows that we cannot. But for the sake of argument, if such a negotiation were possible it would have to achieve the following goals:

-      Total transparency, as demanded by the IAEA under the NPT requirements. That means opening all of Iran’s nuclear facilities and the ability of IAEA inspectors to hunt for undeclared facilities unhindered by the regime.

-      Access to nuclear scientists outside of Iran. The Iranian regime continues to stonewall IAEA attempts to interview key nuclear scientists, and in some cases is holding their families hostage. As we learned with Iraq, it is crucial that the IAEA be able to interview these scientists outside of Iran. They must be allowed to bring their entire families with them for safety.

-      Removal of all nuclear stockpiles from Iran. Because enriching uranium to 20% amounts to roughly 95% of the separation work needed to make weapons-grade fuel, the IAEA must remove all nuclear material from Iran.

-      Supervised dismantling of enrichment-related facilities. Because of its repeated violations of the NPT, Iran has no right to enrichment technology, period.

These are the minimum standards for any safe, verifiable agreement with the Iranian regime over their nuclear program; and they don’t even begin to address the other problems we have with this regime such as its ongoing support for terrorist groups abroad and its abominable human rights practices at home.

So to Turkey’s foreign minister, I say: nice try.

After Neville Chamberlain returned from negotiating with Adolf Hitler in Munich, Winston Churchill famously commented, "You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor, and you will have war."

Let us not make the same catastrophic choice again.

Stay tuned.

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