Nuclear breakout possible in two months, group warns

Former US diplomat insists sanction relief for Iran is disproportionate; Jewish groups continue to push Congress on Iran policy

Rebecca Shimoni Stoil is the Times of Israel's Washington correspondent.

Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak, 150 miles (240 kilometers) southwest of Tehran (photo credit: AP/ISNA/Hamid Foroutan/File)
Iran's heavy water nuclear facilities near the central city of Arak, 150 miles (240 kilometers) southwest of Tehran (photo credit: AP/ISNA/Hamid Foroutan/File)

WASHINGTON — The agreement reached between Iran and the P5+1 “provides disproportionate sanctions relief to Iran,” a former US ambassador and CEO of the United Against Nuclear Iran advocacy organization complained early Sunday morning.

Mark D. Wallace, who served in the past as the US representative for UN management and reform, warned in a lengthy statement that “by not agreeing to dismantle a single centrifuge, Iran has not rolled back its nuclear infrastructure and with the many centrifuges that it is currently operating, Iran retains the ability to breakout and produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon in as little as 2 months.”

“At the same time,” he added, “the carefully constructed sanctions architecture developed over decades has been significantly rolled back.”

Wallace complained that attempts to characterize sanctions “as a spigot that can be turned off and back on” were “unrealistic” and warned that “if Iran’s industrial-size nuclear program is not rolled back, Tehran will inherently maintain the breakout capacity to build such a weapon.”

The CEO — whose organization includes on its advisory board former International Atomic Energy Agency deputy director general Olli Heinonen, former Mossad director Meir Dagan and Fouad Ajami, professor and director of Middle East Studies at The Johns Hopkins University School for Advanced International Studies — described the agreement as “a disappointment for those of us who have worked to pressure Iran’s economy and impose the toughest sanctions in history on Iran — the same sanctions that brought the regime to the negotiating table.”

Wallace warned that “those touting this agreement do not appear to understand the fragility of sanctions, or the dangers of rolling them back and easing the economic pressure on Iran.”

Jewish groups which had been vocal on the subject of Iran policy were quick to respond to the announcement of a deal, made late on Saturday night for Washingtonians.

Noah Pollak, executive director of the right-leaning Emergency Committee for Israel, described the deal as “a defeat for the United States and the West,” complaining that “it fails to uphold even the minimum demand of repeated UN Security Council resolutions that Iran must stop enriching uranium.” Pollak, in his statement, called on Congress to “make clear that it does not support this deal.”

“Congress should make clear the United States will support Israel if Israel decides she must act to prevent a regime dedicated to her destruction from acquiring the means to do so,” Pollak added.

Across the political spectrum, J Street quickly welcomed the announcement, arguing in a statement that “the accord has several very important provisions that will effectively freeze Iran’s program and begin to roll it back.”

“Secretary of State John Kerry, Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman and their negotiating partners deserve our thanks for their clear-eyed pursuit of a diplomatic resolution, which remains the most desirable way to achieve the shared goal of the US, Israel and all parties with a stake in the security and stability of the Middle East,” the organization continued.

In direct contradistinction to Pollak’s response, J Street urged Congress “to get behind this agreement and continue to give our negotiators the time and space they need to complete a comprehensive and verifiable agreement with Iran that will lift the nuclear threat from the region and the world.” The organization also reinforced in its statement its support for the administration’s request to Congress to hold off on more, tougher sanctions legislation that will come to the Senate in the second week of December.

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