Thursday, November 12, 2009

Ahmadinejad hinting about international fuel bank

Ahmadinejad recently speaking about the possibility of Iranian participation in an international fuel bank reminds me of his September suggestion that Iran purchase fuel for its medical reactor. Meaning it may be a preview of an agreement now being worked on.
"One of the most important issues of today is definitely nuclear cooperation at the international level, whether in building a power station or reactor or whether it is about Iran's presence in the global fuel bank," Ahmadinejad said.
With this, it seems as if several somewhat puzzling happenings in the Middle East are beginning to become explainable together.

ArmsControlWonk in September gave a very rough outline of how a multi-national enrichment facility in Iran could provide the West with huge amounts of information about Iran's nuclear program and make it impossible for Iran to build a parallel program in secret.
Now that we know about at least this one covert facility, it is the time to reach a deal with Iran about placing a multinational enrichment facility on Iranian soil. This may seem paradoxical, but such a facility is the best way of ensuring that Iran cannot set up other secret enrichment facilities later. We obviously now know that “suspension” is not the answer; they can use the freedom such inactivity gives their workers to setup new plants outside the prying IAEA inspectors’ view. We need to be with the Iranian scientists and engineers 24 hours a day, seven days a week to understand what they are doing. Of course, the first step will be to require lists of workers at both the covert and overt enrichment plants as well as enough supporting documentation (shift schedules, pay stubs, payroll accounts come immediately to mind) to instill confidence in the West that we know everyone who has worked there. Of course, while we are checking those documents, Westerners can be working in the plants; keeping an eye on those already there. They could start that tomorrow.
If this is the direction the US has decided to take, it would remove uncertainty about hidden nuclear programs in Iran in exchange for giving Iran a clear overt pathway towards nuclear capability if chose to redirect its efforts to a weapon.

If an agreement such as this is reached, the Middle East has become a new world, the US will be explicitly accepting an Iranian nuclear weapons capability and even if the US maintains its sanctions on Iran's support for anti-Iranian groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, it will give up the most effective tool it had ever found for gaining international cooperation in its campaign to sanction Iran.

I had thought the US had been overly reassuring to Israel recently. In that Hillary dramatically announced that she was on Israel's side on the settlements when she could have just continued US policy of quietly accepting it to cause less embarrassment for the US' string of Arab puppets. Her activities make sense as efforts to assuage Israeli apprehension about its support from the US after the US finally openly accepts an Iranian latent nuclear weapons capability.

If there are Israelis who still believe there is a possibility that Iran be left without nuclear capability, then they will be hugely disappointed by any deal that disclaims such a possibility. They'll blame the deal and the deal-maker but in fact this will just have been an acceptance of reality.

2010 will tell. The United States essentially has a choice between this and the status quo. I think a multi-national fuel production effort that gives the US rapid and close information about Iran's program, and more importantly, allows the US to declare victory and gracefully move away from its "no enrichment" position is the better choice from the US point of view. US negotiators may agree.


Lysander said...

I came upon an interesting bit of info yesterday when I learned that it appears Ahmadinejad is scheduled to Visit Brazil on the 23rd. Don't want to post a long url but a Google search will reveal many entries dated yesterday.

Assuming no major announcement takes place, it is excellent news. If nothing else, it is a sign of the failure of U.S. policy to show Iran as an isolated outcast nation when a major power like Brazil seeks closer ties with Iran. It also shows that the world is moving on to accept a nuclear capable Iran even if the U.S./Israel do not. It makes it easier for Russia and China to ignore U.S. demands for sanctions.

Now let us speculate a bit, just for fun.

1) It may simply be that Lula Da Silva is mad as hell about the Honduras coup and this is his way of zinging the U.S. back.

2) IS it possible that Iran and Brazil announce some cooperation in the nuclear field? Could Brazil announce it is ready to sell 20% uranium to Iran? Seems unlikely, but what a splash that would make. I know absolutely nothing about Brazilian politics, so I'm just guessing.

Again, the meeting itself is big news, even if nothing comes of it.

Anonymous said...

Arnold, I am in awe of your optimisim,

Lysander, Lula's support for Ahmadinejad isn't a new development. He was supportive of Ahmadinejad both just before the election and in the Immediate aftermath.


Lysander said...

Thanx Masoud.

I still think a visit now, right on the heals of Perez' visit, and right in the midst of nuclear negotiations where U.S./E.U./Israel are trying to pressure Iran is significant.

It also doesn't hurt that Brazil's international profile has just been raised after defeating the U.S. for the 2016 Olympic bid.

Arnold Evans said...

I think Iran's doing pretty good right now, across a bunch of fronts.

Brazil could provide big advances to Iran's enrichment program. I'd love to see that, but I have no reason to think it will happen yet. Maybe we'll hear a hint when Ahmadinejad speaks in Brazil.

I don't consider myself optimistic. But I very recently, in late September believed the US had painted itself into a corner that if Iran didn't commit to a suspension, the US would move to sanctions.

I knew sanctions would be a bad move, from a US point of view, and I knew Iran would not even indulge the idea of suspending, but the US position was clear and stated repeatedly even by the Obama himself.

Then the big showdown came, the Iranians didn't say anything about suspension, and the US says "oh, if they make a gesture of trading some LEU for reactor fuel, we don't need sanctions".

Turned out the US and Iran had been in communication all along, the sanctions stuff had just been a performance.

The main lesson is that once it is clear that even the US can understand that sanctions will not advance US interests, then we can be pretty sure we won't see sanctions. Same for a military strike, which means the US has no tools to use against Iran and knows it.

It isn't optimistic, it is just how the world looks.

Anonymous said...

I agree that Iran is doing well across a number of points, though i doubt that direct cooperation on nuclear affairs with Brazil is in the cards right now, though that would be a treat.

I didn't mean to be snarky. It's genuinely nice to read someone who's expectations, while well researched are so much more positive than my own. In my opinion the US and Iranian establishments are just too far apart, and the EU has too much to loose for there to be any significant progress between the two sides.