As the latest round of Iran talks end without results, it appears that both Israel and Iran understands what the United States does not; that any talks with Iran amount to little more than negotiating terms of war.
The US administration appears to be attempting the impossible; allowing Iran to continue its development of nuclear weapons whilst, at the same time, convincing the Israelis that America has their best interests at heart. In an era when nuclear power is used, in many countries, to provide energy for domestic use, it is difficult to argue that Iran should not be allowed that same opportunity. There is no doubt, however, that Iran’s uranium enrichment is not solely intended for domestic, peaceful purposes. Enrichment, in simple terms, is the process of increasing the level of the U-235 isotope in uranium, which – in its natural state – is less than one percent U-235. For civilian applications, uranium is enriched to between three and five percent U-235. Weapons-grade uranium needs to be enriched to 20 percent U-235. Iran is currently enriching to both levels and claims that its 20 percent enrichment is for use in a medical research reactor.
A senior Iranian lawmaker, Hossein Naqavi Hosseini, recently claimed that Iran had halted uranium enrichment but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says that there is no evidence the country has halted these operations. Additionally, Mansour Haqiqatpour, Iran’s Deputy of National Security, confirmed to the IRNA news agency that Iran was indeed continuing to enrich uranium to the 20 percent level. As well as weapons-grade uranium, nuclear weapons require delivery systems, such as missiles, artillery shells and other munitions. Iran continues to develop its own ballistic missile program, despite the 2011 assassination of Hassan Tehrani Moghadam, the country’s leading missile designer.
The doomsday question, of course, is whether or not Iran would actually use nuclear weapons, were it to complete the development of them. Given that country’s long history of public threats against both Israel and the United States, the messianic views of the ruling mullahs – obsessed, as they are, with bringing about the “end times” – and its desire to be recognized as the leader of the Islamic world, a nuclear Iran should be considered an imminent threat to world peace. Whilst the citizens of Iran struggle with a failing economy and likely prefer prosperity over conflict, their leaders appear determined to initiate a war.
Iranian Deputy Chief of Staff Massoud Jazayeri recently told Iran’s Fars news agency that American and Israeli interests were within the range of Iran’s armed forces and that America would “soon find out” that Iran’s power “cannot be ignored.” These obvious threats are, of course, nothing new but, without nuclear weapons, Iran’s armed forces are no match for the United States military; once they are in possession of an operational nuclear arsenal, however, the Iranian leadership clearly believes it will have achieved a level of parity that allows it to exert its wishes upon its neighbors, as well as upon the US.
The recent talks did little to lessen the daylight that exists between the goals of respective participants; Iran is demanding an easing of the sanctions that have continued to hobble its economy. The Islamic Republic continues to assert its right to enrich uranium. Whether or not Iran would actually go as far as to start a war, it appears to be attempting to negotiate the terms of that war. It has been reported that France refused to accept current terms, although US Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters Saturday that the French “signed off” on the latest proposal presented to the Iranians. Israel is opposed to any deal with Iran: By definition, a deal requires as exchange of terms and Iran, clearly, intends to reject any terms that do not accept its nuclear program. Any deal that involves recognition of Iran’s right to produce enriched uranium is a negotiation of the terms of war, whether Iran is the initiator or Israel strikes first, in a bid to destroy Iranian nuclear facilities.
Talks are scheduled to resume November 20. The US administration appears to be moving towards an acceptance of Iran’s nuclear program whilst taking steps to guarantee the nation does develop weapons. Such a proposal appears highly unrealistic since any international recognition of Iran’s nuclear program would inevitably lead to that country expelling weapons inspectors and, thus, render itself free to develop the program without any oversight. Israel would likely not remain passive in such a situation. The pattern emerging is worrying; it appears Iran may eventually emerge with some form of accepted enrichment program. The avoidance of a regional, if not global, war will then be based on hope alone: The hope that Israel doesn’t strike Iran’s nuclear facilities and the hope that Iranian sabre-rattling is nothing more than empty bluster.
If Iran manages to successfully negotiate favorable terms in future talks, the Middle East will have moved much closer to war – one likely to draw in world powers and potentially trigger a wider conflict. At the very least, such an outcome would forever damage US-Israeli relations, which would be a blow to both countries.
Editorial by Graham J Noble