Thursday 04 June 2015

Iran’s Uranium Hoard

Since Iran agreed in late 2013 to negotiate limits on its nuclear ambitions, the Obama Administration has boasted that its diplomacy has “frozen” Iran’s progress, particularly the regime’s stockpile of enriched uranium. Turns out this isn’t true.

That’s the conclusion of a report Tuesday by the Institute for Science and International Security (the other ISIS), a clearinghouse for technical analysis on Iran’s nuclear programs. Under the 2013 interim nuclear agreement, Iran was not prevented from running its centrifuges to enrich uranium. And enrich it has, producing some four tons of low-enriched uranium since the agreement came into effect in January 2014.

The agreement did require Iran to convert the enriched uranium into an oxide form that cannot be easily turned into weaponizable material. And here is where Iran has failed to comply. As the ISIS report notes, Iran has produced only 150 kilograms of uranium oxide, “a mere five percent of what was expected.” Since last November Iran hasn’t even bothered to convert any enriched uranium into oxide.

Iran has until the end of June to convert the remaining 3,800 kilos into oxide if it’s to honor the terms of the deal. Don’t hold your breath. The Iranians claim that their efforts to oxidize the uranium have been slowed by technical snafus and fouled by sabotage. Sabotage by whom? It makes no sense for the West to stymie an attempt to reduce Iran’s stockpile of weapons-usable uranium.

A likelier explanation is that Iran never intended to honor the interim agreement. Now it can use its additional uranium stockpile either to drive a harder bargain as nuclear negotiations approach their June 30 deadline—or drive harder toward a bomb.

Meantime, the U.S. State Department continues to insist that Iran has met its nuclear commitments under the interim agreement. That follows an Administration pattern of trying to salvage its nuclear diplomacy—not only with Iran but also with Russia—by ignoring or minimizing violations of previous agreements. Another example is last week’s International Atomic Energy Agency report, which notes that Iran “has yet to propose any new practical measures” to comply with an agreement it struck with the Agency to come clean on the “possible military dimensions” of its nuclear work.

Iran’s preferred method of nuclear cheating typically takes the form of seemingly technical and arguable infractions of an agreement that collectively amount to massive violations. In this case the infractions add up to four tons of enriched uranium. This is the regime with which President Obama proposes to sign the most consequential nuclear deal of this century.

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