With such a flimsy agreement, I wonder what will be left of Western commitment to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. And Israel will have to draw its own conclusions.
Ostensibly, official US policy on Iran’s nuclear program is clear: The US will not allow Iran to produce a nuclear bomb. Moreover, US President Barack Obama has said that, for this purpose, “all options are on the table” — implying a military option as well. In addition, according to many reports in American newspapers, Obama has ordered the development of diversified US military capabilities with which to attack Iranian nuclear facilities, far beyond what existed in the previous administration — providing further evidence of the president’s seriousness.
But many people do not understand the meaning behind the vague statement, “We will not allow Iran to manufacture a nuclear bomb.” When will this happen? Who will decide that this is the time for action? How? What does “manufacture” mean? Robert Einhorn seeks to answer these questions in a 56-page comprehensive paper, just published by the Brookings Institution, titled “Preventing a Nuclear-Armed Iran: Requirements for a Comprehensive Nuclear Agreement.”
This paper cannot be ignored, since until a few months ago Einhorn was one of the top officials on Iran in the Obama administration, and he is very knowledgeable on the topic. (Einhorn was the secretary of state’s special adviser for nonproliferation and arms control. During the Clinton administration, he was assistant secretary for nonproliferation.) In addition to analyzing Iran’s intentions toward nuclear weapons and discussing the principal issues in the negotiations, Einhorn outlines the key requirements for an acceptable comprehensive agreement that, in his view, “would prevent Iran from having a rapid nuclear breakout capability and deter a future Iranian decision to build nuclear weapons.”
According to Einhorn, the essence of an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 could be as follows: Iran will retain the capability to produce the material necessary for a bomb (full fuel cycle), so theoretically it will be able to produce a bomb should it decide to do so. But the agreement that the US should try to reach will include the most sophisticated and exacting controls and monitoring, which will immediately spot any breakthrough in Iran’s nuclear program. The capability that Iran will be permitted under the agreement will be greatly reduced compared with its current capability (for example, far fewer centrifuges), so that from the moment of the breach and its identification, the US will have enough time to respond with very severe sanctions, and with force too, if necessary.
In order to dissuade the Iranians from advancing toward a bomb, it will be made clear to them by various means that Iran will pay a heavy price for violating the agreement, and that the US will respond quickly in the event of a violation to prevent any possibility of the Iranians reaping the rewards of the violation.