Last week, as the P5+1 (the five permanent Security Council members – the United States, France, Britain, China, Russia plus Germany) brought proposals to talks with Iran to contain its nuclear program, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was speaking to the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps cadets in Tehran. According to the Fars News Agency, in referring to the Western countries, he said, “The front of oppression, arrogance and bullying is weakening and on the verge of demise despite its apparent hue and cry.” The Supreme Leader called on the Iranian elites and youths to “rely on their talents and double their efforts to accelerate the country’s scientific progress.”
These words resonate as the second round of talks in Baghdad ended late last week seemingly with only one agreement – to meet in Moscow again in mid-June. This, after previous talks a month earlier, led to last week’s meetings. (Do we detect a pattern here?)
On Sunday, May 27, Iran’s nuclear chief Fereydoon Abbasi told Iranian State television that Iran will not halt its production of higher grade uranium of 20%.
Iran's duplicity continues. Talks lead to more talks but Iran shows no sign of containing its nuclear ambitions. Iran wants existing and prospective sanctions curbed, and its full nuclear rights affirmed, but offers nothing in return. And as one American official is quoted as saying, "Every day we don't figure this out is a day they move forward with their nuclear program."
What is clear is that without an understanding, Iran will continue on this path to becoming a nuclear power, threatening not only the region but that of the entire world.
Just the facts
(1) Avoiding and obfuscating restrictions on its nuclear program has been a strategy for Iran for many years. According to a May 14 New York Times article, Hamidreza Taraghi, a political analyst, spokesman for the Islamic Coalition Party and adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei said: “Without violating any international laws or the nonproliferation treaty, we have managed to bypass the red lines the West created for us… But here we are, enriching as much as we need for our nuclear energy program.”
In referring to Iran’s uranium enrichment facility at Fordow, another Iranian official who asked to remain anonymous told the New York Times, “Wait for our leaders to announce, for example, a new mountain bunker so Fordow will be forgotten.”
(2) This tactic is not new. In both 2003 and 2004, the EU-3 nations (France, Germany, and the United Kingdom) attempted to address Iran’s nuclear ambition through extended diplomatic efforts. Following the October 2003 talks, Iran “officially agreed to suspend all uranium enrichment and reprocessing activities.” In November 2004, Iran agreed to a temporary suspension of its enrichment program in exchange for the IAEA not referring Iran to the UN Security Council.
Iran’s discussions with the West are in order to buy time to develop nuclear technology.
Iran’s former chief negotiator Hassan Rowhani conceded that Iran had entered into discussions with the West from 2003 to 2005 in order to buy time to develop nuclear technology. In 2006, Rohani told The Telegraph, “The world did not want Pakistan to have an atomic bomb or Brazil to have the fuel cycle, but Pakistan built its bomb and Brazil has its fuel cycle.”
(3) Iran’s relentless call for the destruction of the State of Israel entered a new phase at the same time the P5+1 talks were taking place last week. Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, said to a defense gathering, "The Iranian nation is standing for its cause and that is the full annihilation of Israel.” According to Itay Baron, head of IDF Military Intelligence research, Iran possesses 450 missiles capable of striking Israel.
(4) A new report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) indicates that Iran is continuing uranium enrichment work in defiance of U.N. resolutions. According to The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), Iran’s monthly production had risen by about one-third with some of the uranium having been processed into higher-grade material. The ISIS analysis states: “This total amount of 3.5% low enriched uranium hexafluoride, if further enriched to weapon grade, is enough to make over five nuclear weapons.” The IAEA found traces of uranium enriched up to 27% at Iran’s Fordow enrichment plant.
Whether or not this was intentional is undetermined, however, it does show Iran’s capacity to accomplish higher enrichment. Reportedly, it only takes months to enrich uranium to weapon grade, once 20% enrichment is achieved. The report showed that Iran has installed additional uranium enrichment centrifuges at Fordow. Included in the report were satellite images showing “extensive activities” at the Parchin military complex where there have been suspicions of nuclear weapons research, and where Iran has denied IAEA inspectors access to investigate.
(5) Two new rounds of sanctions against Iran are scheduled to go into effect in the coming weeks. On June 28, the U.S. will begin to sanction foreign companies that carry out oil trades with Iran’s central bank. On July 1, the 27 member countries of the European Union will impose a ban on Iranian oil imports.
South America and Beyond
Iran’s capability to produce nuclear weapons has serious ramifications beyond Israel and the Middle East. Iran’s deepening relationships around the world, either directly or through its proxy Hezbollah, means this nuclear technology and weapons could be shared throughout the world. According to a March 2012 report from the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security, “There is general consensus among dozens of experts as well as current and former law enforcement and intelligence officials interviewed by the Majority Investigative Staff that Hezbollah — more than any other terror group — is most capable of flipping a U.S. based fundraising cell into a lethal terror force, should Iran decide that is in its interests.” Notably the report states that Hezbollah fundraising cells are “prevalent” throughout the United States.
In South America, Venezuelan President and Iranian ally Hugo Chavez has expressed interest in developing his own nuclear program with assistance from Iran. In 2009, the New York Times reported that Chavez is seeking to “create a ‘nuclear village’ in Venezuela with technological assistance from Iran.”
It has been widely reported that Iran has been actively mining for uranium in Venezuela’s Roraima Basin. Testimony before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations by Ilan Berman in February 2012 corroborates reports of Iranian mining in the Basin. According to the Wall Street Journal, the basis for the Iran-Venezuela mining initiative is a 2008 signed agreement in which Iran and Venezuela “agreed to cooperate in the fields of nuclear technology.”
Iran has been actively searching for uranium in Latin America.
Iran has also been actively searching for uranium in other parts of Latin America. According to Ilan Berman’s Senate testimony, “a $30 million joint mining deal concluded between Tehran and Quito (Ecuador) back in 2009 has positioned [Ecuador] to eventually become a supplier for the Islamic Republic.” Berman also points out that “Iran is believed to be extracting uranium from as many as 11 different sites in Bolivia’s east, proximate to the country’s industrial capital of Santa Cruz.”
Iran is believed to be working to establish military operations in Latin America. A May 20 report stated that hundreds of Iranian Revolutionary Guards are training South American forces. And, according to a 2011 AEI report, networks coordinated by Hezbollah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps operate in at least 12 countries throughout Latin America.
According to testimony given before the House Committee on Homeland Security in July 2011, Latin America security expert Douglas Farah said, “There is growing concern that Hezbollah is providing technology for the increasingly sophisticated narco tunnels now being found along the U.S.-Mexican border.” Farah points out that DEA officials suspect that Hezbollah views drug trafficking as a source of revenue to be used for terrorist attacks.
Voicing Your Opposition
A May 18 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 21 countries, including Lebanon, Egypt, and Turkey, are strongly opposed to Iran acquiring nuclear weapons.:
Write the President, Senators, and members of Congress to say that sanctions need to be fully implemented immediately as Iran remains in defiance of UN Resolutions to stop its enrichment plans and it is clear that Iran is not ready or willing to take the steps to bring it into compliance with Security Council resolutions. Remind them that Iran is not just targeting Israel, or even the Middle East but the entire world, and convincing Iran that all options are on the table is crucial. Thank your representatives for passing the Iran Sanctions Accountability and Human Rights Act of 2012 and the President for implementing strong sanctions.
The United States and other countries have recognized Israel's legitimate concerns and her right, and even duty, to protect her citizens from an existential threat.
Institute for Science and International Security
ISIS Analysis of IAEA Iran Safeguards Report
Wall Street Journal
On Iran, We'll Probably Get Fooled Again
New York Times
After Talks Falter, Iran Says It Won't Halt Uranium Work
The Weekly Standard
Negotiating with Iran, 1979 and 2012
Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs
The Iranian Leadership’s Continuing Declarations of Intent to Destroy Israel
The Institute for National Security Studies
Decade of Diplomacy: Negotiations with Iran and North Korea and the Future of Nuclear Nonproliferation
The Israel Project
A History of Iran’s Defiance of Nuclear Negotiations