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Iran: Let's make a deal, with conditions
WASHINGTON – As negotiations have dragged on over Iran's nuclear program, and the West continues to tighten the sanctions screws, Tehran wants to make a deal.
The Iranians have offered to cap uranium enrichment at five percent and allow the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, to undertake intrusive inspections of its facilities if the West drops its sanctions.
Up to this point, Iran is assessed to have developed the capability to enrich uranium up to 20 percent, which is necessary for medical research. This assessment is backed by the IAEA at this point, although Israel believes Iran will reach a uranium enrichment level for nuclear weapons – 90 percent – within a few months.
The intriguing thing, however, is the red line Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu literally drew on a cartoon of a bomb with a lit fuse at the 90 percent level in his recent speech before the United Nations.
His demonstration either inadvertently or purposely undermined all of his brinkmanship comments over the past several months of an impending Israeli military attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.
Until now, the Israeli government has claimed that Iran is approaching a "zone of immunity" in which a conventional military attack may not be possible and is looking to destroy Iran's nuclear sites, believing the Islamic republic is using its nuclear program to make nuclear weapons.
However, Iran as a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, and as a member of the International Atomic Energy Agency, or the IAEA, has a right to undertake uranium enrichment.
Currently, Iran is assessed by the intelligence community at being able to enrich up to 20 percent. Analysts say that to achieve the 90 percent level of weapons grade enrichment requires technology levels which Iran has not yet achieved.
Under the NPT, Iran could make all the components to make a nuclear weapon, but not put together all of those components into a nuclear bomb.
Analysts say that Iran isn't even near the stage of constructing an actual bomb which would have to undergo underground testing to determine its reliability. They add that Iran also lacks yet other technologies needed to then miniaturize a reliable nuclear weapon that could fit on a missile to deliver the weapon. Analysts estimate that Iran is years from such a capability.
Iran contends, however, that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes. Because of the international concern over Iran's use of its nuclear program to make nuclear weapons, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has issued fatwas, or religious edicts, against making nuclear weapons. Such fatwas carry the weight of law in the Muslim world.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi has stated that Iran is prepared to "institutionalize" Khamenei’s fatwas.
"We are willing to put in place further mechanisms," Salehi recently told the U.S. think-tank Council on Foreign Relations, referring to the five percent cap on enrichment and allowing intrusive IAEA inspections which it hasn't allowed to date.
In exchange, he wants the West to rescind its series of four sanctions it has imposed on the Iranian economy until Iran halts its nuclear enrichment efforts.
By intrusive inspections, the IAEA can enter a facility without first notifying Tehran.
Iran has begun to feel the effects of the sanctions on its economy as the value of its own currency, the rial, has plummeted against the value of the dollar and euro.
If Israel doesn't attack Iran prior to the U.S. elections in November, and if President Barack Obama should win, it gives him more flexibility to work with the Iranians which Israel contends is just buying the Islamic republic more time to develop enrichment up to the 90 percent level.
Ironically, it is the Western nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, to which Iran is a signatory – but Israel is not – that allows the Islamic republic to enrich up to that level, along with building other components that could comprise a nuclear weapon. The NPT forbids signatories from putting those components together into a workable nuclear weapon.
F. Michael Maloof, staff writer for WND’s G2Bulletin, is a former senior security policy analyst in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. He can be contacted at email@example.com.