Obama’s Iranian Charade in Geneva

Here is what you need to know about how nuclear inspections really work.

Professor (Emer.) Abraham H. Miller

OpEds Prof. Abraham Miller
Prof. Abraham Miller

Succumbing to Iran’s desire to have a nuclear bomb, the Obama administration is entering into a charade in Geneva that will allegedly halt Iran’s nuclear program for ten years.

President Barack Obama has repeatedly assured the world that he would not permit Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.

That promise is now as believable as Obama’s promise that if you like your healthcare you can keep your healthcare.

Even the idea that the president’s use of the International Atomic Energy Agency and the inspection process will keep Iran from developing a bomb in ten years is an exercise in deception. The inspections have been largely meaningless.

News reports claim the Geneva deal, with its lifting of sanctions, permits Iran to not only develop a bomb but also to acquire the resources for further aggression in the Middle East, as it is currently doing on Israel’s northern frontier, in Yemen, and with its propping up  of the Assad regime in Syria.

For those who will be swayed by the allusion to the IAEA and inspections, here is what you need to know about how inspections really work.

The inspection process relies on the country’s own description of its processing procedures. As it turned out, the IAEA reported in 2009 that Iran “miscalculated” how their procedures worked and produced 33% more low enriched uranium (LEU) than could be calculated from their information.

This is not a trivial error. It means the difference between having enough material for a nuclear bomb or not.

If that was not sufficient concern, the amount of nuclear material that leaves the enrichment facility is also at issue. The inspectors do their own inventory just once a year, so the diversion of material for further surreptitious enrichment is hardly an obstacle.

At the technical level there is one greater and more obvious problem. LEU needs to be enriched only to five percent to be used to generate power. Iran enriches its LEU to twenty percent. It is far easier to get from 20% percent enrichment to 90% than from one percent to five percent.

The technical issues more than suggest that Iran intends to build a bomb by having a breakout capacity, moving quickly from LEU to high enriched uranium (HEU). Equally important are the human characteristics of the negotiations.

The Iranians have issued a fatwa that it is un-Islamic to possess nuclear weapons, but as James Robbins has insightfully noted, that fatwa, unlike the other fatwas issued by the Iranian government, has never been published, raising the question of whether it even exists—not that its existence would alleviate concerns about the regime’s nuclear ambitions.

President Obama has referred to the missing fatwa as if it is a meaningful statement about Iran’s intentions. This is an incredulous act of naiveté or deception. Pakistan has not found it un-Islamic to possess a nuclear device, and other Islamic states have more than stated their intentions to pursue a nuclear bomb should Iran possess one.

The Iranian regime has scorned Obama as desperate to reach an agreement with them.

If you listen to what the Iranians say, there is nothing that will deter them. Neither sanctions nor asset seizure or diplomatic isolation has remotely comprised the Iranian pursuit of a nuclear weapon. Iran will never give up its enrichment program.

And then there is Parchin, an advanced military weapons facility that is widely believed to be the site of surreptitious enrichment.  New construction has been taking place at the facility, which seems to be designed to cover up enrichment work that was done there. To date, Iran has not permitted IAEA inspectors to inspect Parchin.

The very nucleus of Iran’s weapons program is off limits to inspection. In addition, the IAEA has raised new concerns about questions Iran will not answer.

If Iran was not interested in creating a nuclear device, it would not be enriching uranium above 5% and equally important, it would not be creating an intercontinental ballistic missile, which has only one function, to deliver a nuclear strike.

Iran has everything it needs to create a nuclear weapons program. It has announced its intentions to do so, and that Israel is its target.

Obama believes that Iran will emerge as the hegemonic power in the Middle East, and that America needs to build a relationship with it. If that means Iran will possess a nuclear device, then the only immediate threat will be to Israel, and Obama does not care about its survival.

The ten years palliative is designed to tell the true believers that something meaningful happened in Geneva to thwart Iran’s ambitions. Nothing of the sort has happened. Iran will continue as it has with Parchin, and equally clandestine operations at its Fordow facility, providing the highly enriched uranium for a breakout weapons program.

It will wait ten years the same way Mohammed observed the peace with Mecca, the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah, for ten years.

Obama has brought the entire world one step closer to Iranian hegemony in the Middle East and a potential nuclear arms race in the region.

Abraham H. Miller is an emeritus professor, University of Cincinnati, a former counterterrorism consultant to the National Institute of Justice, and a senior fellow with the Salomon Center.