Acknowledging Iran’s Nuclear Capabilities: “Beyond Zero Enrichment: Suggestions for an Iranian Nuclear Deal,” Matthew Bunn, Belfer Center, Harvard, Kennedy School; “The Paradox of Iran’s Nuclear Consensus,” Kayhan Barzegar; World Policy Journal.

Written by admin on November 24th, 2009

Concluding that there is “virtually no chance that Iran will agree to zero enrichment,” Matthew Bunn of Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, recommends that acquiescing to a limited Iranian enrichment program is the “least bad option” for the United States.  His conclusion was based on an assessment that economic sanctions would not stop Iran’s enrichment program and that a military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities would be unproductive, and after the dust settled, probably compel Iran to develop a bomb in covert sites. He recommends agreement on a near-nuclear capability, where Iran would continue to enrich uranium but not actually build a bomb. Blunn recognizes the drawbacks in this scenario. But he believes that possessing the threat that Iran could quickly assemble a bomb if need be would satisfy significant factions within Iran’s foreign policymaking establishment. The “carrot” of expanded trade, investment and other benefits would strengthen the so-called moderates, bring other voices into Iranian decision-making (eg. finance or oil ministers), and raise the political threshold when deciding to build a bomb. Iranian hardliners would be further undermined with a U.S.-Iran agreement which reduced Iran’s perceived security threats.

Blunn’s conclusion that Iran will not give up totally its enrichment program was seconded by Kayhan Barzegar, a research fellow at the Belfer Center and an assistant professor in Tehran’s Islamic Azad University. He quickly squelches any suggestion that Iran will become more accommodating in the aftermath of its recent turbulent presidential election. Political divisions within Iran may exist on a number of foreign policy issues but they “will not,” says Barzegar, “severely impact the previous consensus around the nuclear issue as a matter of national and geostrategic pride.”  Underscoring this consensus was that Ahmadinejad’s presidential rival – Mir Hossein Moussavi – supported Iran’s nuclear development.

Recent opinion polls confirm popular support for Iran’s on-going uranium enrichment. Asked whether they would favor an agreement whereby the current sanctions would be removed and Iran would continue its nuclear energy program but agree not to enrich uranium, only 31% of those surveyed favored the idea, while 55% were opposed and 14% did not give an answer. Significantly, the poll found that two thirds of Iranians would agree not to build nuclear weapons and permit IAEA inspectors full access to nuclear facilities in exchange for lifting current sanctions – but one third would consent only if Iran’s enrichment program was permitted to continue.

Barzegar predicts that Iran’s nuclear program will progress independently of any future nuclear negotiations. He suggests that the extent of the program will significantly depend on whether Israel continues to threaten preemptive attacks and whether Washington persists in its efforts to delegitimize the regime. Barzegar offers compelling reasons why Iran’s leaders would find weaponization to be “untenable, unnecessary, and unwise.” But faced with threats from Israel and the United States, “it is hardly surprising that the Iranian government views an independent nuclear fuel cycle as interchangeable with deterrence.”

Three possible end games are envisioned: a verifiable Iranian nuclear fuel cycle subject to international monitoring following Washington’s guarantee not to disturb Tehran’s security and legitimacy; an independent nuclear capability not aspiring to weaponization resulting from the failure of negotiations to assure Iran’s security; or, development of a nuclear weapons program in the face of mounting, credible threats. Barzegar suggests that Ahmadinejad, having consolidated his power and backed by the Supreme Leader, would be willing and capable to engage in substantive negotiations with the U.S. and Western leaders, so long as Iran is treated as equal, the negotiations are devoid of threats, and accompanied by a “genuine change” in attitude toward the Islamic Republic.

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1 Comments so far ↓

  1. Cialis says:

    zZi9Xk Excellent article, I will take note. Many thanks for the story!

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