This is what President Barack Obama and his State Department Secretary, John Kerry, have foisted off on us in an allegedly interim deal with the Iranians concerning the latter’s nuclear weapons program:
Iran committed to:
- halt enrichment above a 5% threshold
- dismantle the technical connections required to enrich uranium above 5%
- neutralize its stockpile of near 20% enriched uranium
- halt progress on its enrichment capacity
- construction on the plutonium reactor at Arak will “halt”
- increased transparency and intrusive monitoring
What Iran has in place:
- 18,000 centrifuges installed
- more than 10,000 operating
- some number of tons of low-enriched uranium
- 440 pounds of higher-enriched uranium (roughly a bomb’s worth) in a form that can be converted relatively quickly to fissile warhead material
The P5+1 (US, Russia, PRC, UK, France, plus Germany) committed to:
- not impose any new sanctions
- suspend sanctions on “certain sectors” of Iran’s economy
- unfreeze $4.2 billion in revenue from oil sales if Iran meets “other conditions.” These last two easily can run over $7 billion in total
Obama summarized the remaining sanctions this way:
The broader architecture of sanctions will remain in place, and we will continue to enforce them vigorously[.]
Let’s review the bidding here. Iran has agreed to stop enriching above a purity, and the UN gets to watch. We’ve seen already the effectiveness of the UN at watching weapons programs.
Iran’s dismantling? They’ll unplug some plugs, clip some wires, and call it a day. OK, that’s an exaggeration; Iran has promised, essentially, to shorten its centrifuge cascade at the 5% threshold. The simplicity of a centrifuge cascade, though, is illustrated in Figures 6 and 7 in a unit of Dr Frank Settle’s description of Nuclear Chemistry, located here. Settle has this to say, in particular:
Cascades of individual centrifuges constructed to produce LEU [Low enriched uranium] for reactors can be easily reconfigured to produce HEU [Highly enriched uranium] for weapons.
LEU typically is uranium enriched to less than 20%; it’s a simple matter of adjusting the cascade length to stop at 5%. Keep in mind, now, that Iran agreed to dismantle, not to destroy. The components will remain in Iran’s possession; the pipings, etc., necessary to regenerate the longer cascades in order to resume weapons grade enrichment will remain an easy matter to reconnect. And they have 8-ish thousand centrifuges with which to set up additional cascades, with which to accelerate their “5%” uranium production. But Iran promises….
Iran will retain its tons of existing LEU—and that 5% is the critical base, the hardest stage of enrichment; everything after that is just those cascades repeating a process. However, Iran promises to neutralize its near-HEU by combining it with Oxygen to make the HEU into an oxide. This, though, not only is a chemical reaction, relatively simple to reverse, if not entirely cheap (but see what we’re giving the Iranians, below), the oxide is just a standard intermediate step in getting from uranium ore to reactor- or weapons-grade metal. The HEU will be entirely straightforward to recover.
And the Iranians promise to stop “progress.” OK….
In return for these…promises…and letting the UN “watch,” we’re giving the Iranian government a ton of money. Money with which to reverse that neutralization; money with which to reconnect those centrifuge cascades and to generate additional ones; money with which actually to develop the engineering capacity to assemble a deliverable warhead (which, recall, requires no missiles—although Iran now will get a taste of money with which to continue that development—but only a train car or a collection of suitcases separately carried into the target zone); money with which to fund its terror operations, its support of its Syrian and Iraqi operations; etc; etc; etc.
Oh, and Obama will “vigorously enforce” the remaining sanctions, and they’re reversible. The first is risible: he’s never vigorously enforced; he’s been dragged kicking and screaming to any sanctions at all.
Moreover, any reversal will be strictly an American one, if it happens at all. Neither the PRC nor Russia will agree to re-ratchet sanctions, and the UK government, like our own, has no stomach for stern measures of any sort on the world stage—a natural outcome of an insistence on moral equivalence. Germany will simply do what it’s done since 2003: sit on the sidelines and cluck. France might be willing to act unilaterally, but that’s a small, lone voice in the wilderness.
This is a terrible “deal,” and the Israelis and most Americans are wholly justified in demurring from it. But we have “peace” in our time.
NB: the bulk of this was cross-posted a bit ago on Ricochet, a site well worth frequenting outside its paywall, and even more worth frequenting for the modest subscription fee.