Posts Tagged ‘IAEA’

In the foreign policy world, the words Iran and nuclear in the same sentence immediately get the attention of the State Department, Defense Department, Intelligence Agencies and all the rest. Why is the U.S. Government so worried about Iran? Should you be worried about it as well, or is it all just the same old Iraq talk all over again? The Ivory Bunker will do its best to tell you over the next 400 words or so.

I’ll first highlight four reasons why I think the U.S. Government is worried about a nuclear Iran. First, they are worried about the immediate and practical implications of a nuclear-capable Iran led by anti-semitic and somewhat unstable dictator.  Second, they are worried about what a nuclear Iran would mean for the future of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Regime.  A nuclear Iran could signal what arms control gurus have feared for decades – the effective end of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), a treaty that has more or less stymied the expansion and proliferation of nuclear arms for almost four decades. Third, the U.S. Government is concerned about the potential proliferation, either accidental or intentional, of nuclear weapons from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) to Hezbollah or another related terrorist organization. Fourth, they are concerned about the potential domino effect of latent proliferation spreading across the Middle East, as Saudi Arabia and possibly Egypt consider following in Iran’s footsteps down the nuclear path.

Should you be worried about this? The good news is that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon nor will they be likely to get one in the next several years.  The bad news is that Iran has not signed the Additional Protocol (AP), which allows International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to inspect all potential facilities, both declared and undeclared, for evidence of nuclear weapons.  So we don’t know for sure how far along Iran really is in their nuclear exploits.  What we do know is that Iran has been operating an enrichment facility at Natanz and they just opened a nuclear reactor at Bushehr. We also know they have been frequently denying IAEA inspectors access to certain facilities and have provided incomplete explanations of issues the IAEA has raised.  But unless Iran has another secret enrichment facility (which is indeed possible), they cannot develop sufficient Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) without kicking out IAEA inspectors from Natanz. This in turn would send a clear signal to the world of Iran’s intentions and would likely incur the actual wrath of China and Russia, not just the feigned sort U.S. diplomacy has worked so hard to achieve.

The bottom line – there is no need to panic just yet.  I believe, as do several other foreign policy writers, that Iran will do its best to hedge its nuclear capabilities, going as close as possible to constructing a bomb without actually going the entire way.  All the United States and the UN more broadly can do is continue to disincentivize non-cooperation and promote full cooperation.  Any deal between the P5+1 should aim to have Iran sign the Additional Protocol and forswear most domestic enrichment capabilities (perhaps leave some enrichment symbolically for prestige preservation). In exchange, the P5+1 should give further security guarantees, economic aid and offer a secure supply of enriched uranium fuel under international controls for Iran’s future nuclear plants.