As generally expected, the Almaty talks between the P5+1 and Iran earlier this month failed to achieve a breakthrough, or even an agreement to hold another round of talks in the immediate future. Interestingly enough, this dismal outcome has not aroused much interest; the media reports and commentary on the latest round of talks have lacked any sense of crisis.
Iran is satisfied with the result because it serves its interest of playing for time to advance its program, while warding off the prospect of a military attack. The United States, for its part, has resisted declaring the negotiations a failure, as such a conclusion would force it to pursue more coercive measures, which it is reluctant to do.
In parallel to the failing diplomatic track, Iran is continuing to advance the development of its nuclear program. Slowly but surely Iran is advancing its nuclear program by enriching uranium to low and medium levels and developing a plutonium route to nuclear weapons. Consequently, we are approaching a point where Iran’s infrastructure is so advanced that the international community will no longer have any realistic option to veto an Iranian decision to build nuclear weapons.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano recently stated that based on available intelligence the IAEA could not rule out the possibility that Iran has had a military nuclear program as recently as 2009, and perhaps up to the present.
There is a growing suspicion among some observers that Iran may have constructed secret nuclear facilities that would be beyond the reach of IAEA inspections, which only are in place at Iran’s declared facilities. In a recent op-ed in the Washington Post, Ray Takeyh— an Iran expert who served in the State Department during President Obama’s first term—connected the prospect of such secret facilities to reports that Iran is preparing to operate a new generation of high speed centrifuges. According to Takeyh:
“The lax nature of the NPT’s [Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty] basic inspection regime makes it an unreliable guide to detecting persistent diversion of small quantities of fuel from an industrial-size installation. Meanwhile, Iran’s mastery of advanced centrifuges will give it the ability to build secret installations that can quickly enrich uranium to weapons-grade quality. The speed and efficiency of these machines means that only a limited number would be required, so the facilities housing them are likely to be small enough to escape exposure. Iran’s nuclear weapons strategy does not necessarily require either the Fordow facility or continued production of uranium enriched to a medium level, or 20 percent.”
One of the more misinterpreted features of Iran’s behavior in the nuclear realm is the careful and cautious manner by which it proceeds. Iran engages in negotiations even though it has no intention of reaching a deal because this enables it to buy time, and makes it more difficult for the international community to justify a military attack. Iran is careful not to cross red lines that would provoke more aggressive action against it, beyond the economic sanctions that it has not been able to avoid.