The Geneva Interim Accord onÂ Iran’s nuclear programs may trigger Israeli military action.
As these talks continue and drag on, look for a startling development:Â IsraelÂ may attackÂ Iran’s heavy-water reactor – now being completed near Arak – arguing thatÂ IranÂ does not need to manufacture weapons-grade plutonium if its nuclear programs are truly peaceful as claimed. Not being involved in the interim agreement,Â IsraelÂ would be free to act, points out 2008 presidential candidateÂ Mike HuckabeeÂ in a recent interview.
Former U.S. Secretaries of StateÂ Henry KissingerÂ andÂ George ShultzÂ wrote in a Dec. 2 opinion article in The Wall Street Journal that sixÂ U.N.Â resolutions that had called for a full halt to all ofÂ Iran’s uranium enrichment and plutonium production, have now effectively become a baseline. In their critique of the deal, which comes after a “decade-plus negotiating effort,” they write that world powers underplayed their hand, combining “steadily advancing Iranian nuclear capabilities with gradually receding international demands.” They cite the “modest benefit of the Geneva agreement,” lengtheningÂ Iran’s breakout time by only “several weeks,” but foresee a nuclear-arms race breaking out in the Middle East.
The most likely scenario, leading to military action, is actually fairly predictable: First,Â Israeli intelligenceÂ would soon reveal thatÂ IranÂ is cheating. However,Â U.S. intelligenceÂ agencies, reporting to theÂ White House, would likely dispute this report, with theÂ State DepartmentÂ and others not wishing to reimpose severe sanctions during the six-month period that is meant to testÂ Iran’s true intentions.
It has become clear already, though, thatÂ IranÂ and the United States have differing interpretations of the Geneva Interim Accord, relating mainly to theÂ Arak reactor, whose main purpose seems to be the manufacture of plutonium for bombs. TheÂ White HouseÂ Fact Sheet states that “Iranhas committed to no further advances of its activities atÂ Arak” – whileÂ IranianÂ Foreign MinisterÂ Mohamad Javad ZarifÂ announced that “building and construction will continue inÂ Arak.”
Still, Geneva is not yet a “done deal.” Our formerÂ U.N.Â AmbassadorÂ John R. BoltonÂ wrote in the Dec. 8Â Pittsburgh Tribune-Review column: “Verification is the elephant in the room in the Iranian nuke deal.” That is precisely the issue now being debated at theÂ International Atomic Energy AgencyÂ in Vienna. Expect an impasse – or a bad compromise,
By analogy with the 40-megawattÂ CIRUS reactorÂ inÂ India, one can estimate an annual Arak production of about 10 kilograms of plutonium, sufficient for one bomb. In fact,Â IndiaÂ usedÂ CIRUS, constructed in the 1950s with help fromÂ CanadaÂ and the United States, to manufacture Plutonium-239 for its 1974 test explosion. We know little about the “conversion efficiency” ofÂ India’s test device or about any subsequent efforts to weaponize it – a major undertaking.
The Arak facility is a relatively easy target: It is above ground, about halfway between Tehran and Isfahan, but closer toÂ Iran’s western border withÂ Iraq. According to published photographs, it includes a complex of buildings, in addition to the reactor itself.