A former US envoy to the United Nations warned this week that the US-led P5+1 talks with Iran may be heading toward a deal under which Iran is permitted to continue enriching uranium to 3.5% on its soil, and would thus be able to “turn a switch and effectively increase enrichment at any time, and build a weapon at a time and place of its choosing.”
In a telephone briefing for US Jewish community leaders, Ambassador Mark Wallace noted that Iran was pressing for an easing of economic sanctions going into this month’s Moscow round of negotiations, and that the West was desperate to maintain diplomatic engagement, with European players notably anxious to stave off the notion of military intervention.
It was vital that sanctions were maintained, and that imminent heavier sanctions not be weakened or delayed, Wallace told the briefing for the Jewish Federations of North America. “You’ll see an effort to dial back or postpone the impact of those sanctions,” he predicted. “Now is not the time to delay.” In fact, he said, “it’s time to impose an economic blockade on Iran.”
However, far from holding to tough positions, Wallace said, he feared that the West’s “desperate effort to get some sort of progress on a deal” would lead it “to allow methods of enrichment that will institutionalize Iran’s nuclear program.”
Specifically, said Wallace, he saw a risk that “the P5+1, the United States and frankly Israel will take a position that allowing Iran some level of enrichment — 3.5 percent, which is typical for a civilian nuclear energy program — would be acceptable.”
‘My concern is that we will see the Israelis waver and concede some level of enrichment as part of a grand bargain at some point soon,’ Wallace said
The problem with that approach, he said, is that it “would allow Iran to continue to build up the infrastructure of its nuclear program, so that it could turn a switch and effectively incresase enrichment at any time and build a weapon at a time and place of its choosing.” He said he saw “real signs” of readiness for such a deal.
Wallace, who today heads the bipartisan non-profit group United Against Nuclear Iran, urged the Jewish leaders, “whenever you talk to an Israeli official,” to “make them promise you” that Israel will not waver from its demand that Iran be required to halt all enrichment. Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly set out an Israeli position that Iran halt all enrichment and ship out already enriched uranium.
“My concern is that we will see the Israelis waver and concede some level of enrichment as part of a grand bargain at some point soon,” Wallace said.
He noted that members in good standing of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty have the right to civilian nuclear power but not to enrich uranium. And Iran, he stressed, had long been in violation of its treaty obligations. Iran, he said, could not be trusted to be allowed to enrich uranium on its soil.
Wallace recalled President Barack Obama’s commitment not to allow Iran the bomb — “he famously promised no containment” — but worried that this presidential position would be redefined, “in the desperate effort to get some sort of progress on a deal.”
If Iran can keep playing for time in the negotiations through the summer, he said, then its “fear of any military attack” would “diminish greatly,” because the US would then be entering the final stages of the presidential election campaign.
Speaking in the same telephone briefing, The Times of Israel’s editor David Horovitz lamented the “outrageous failure of the international community” to unite effectively to thwart Iran via economic pressure. “You have an unstable regime closing in on weapons of mass destruction, with declared genocidal interests… But they haven’t been pushed to that moment of choice (between survival and maintaining their nuclear drive) because there has not been universal international support.”
Countries like India, China and Russia, he added, “have combined to let Iran off the hook to a large extent, and therefore we are having these unthinkable discussions about a potential resort to military action.”