Whose problem? 89

The US-Iran “agreement” … “can’t actually be an ‘agreement’ in the normal sense of the word [because] there is no prospect of Iran complying with it, and it’s quite possible that it will be proclaimed by the Obama administration regardless of whether Iran has even ostensibly ‘agreed’ to it .

So writes the splendid military-political analyst, Commander J. E. Dyer here.

The following also comes from her article:

Marie Harf is back, smacking down a mildly critical article in the New York Times about a looming problem with Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium (LEU at 3.5% purity), and the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) undertaken in November 2013 as the basis for continued negotiations on Iran’s nuclear program.

The gist of the concern is that the Iranian stockpile has grown 20% since the JPOA was agreed on.  This is a problem partly because it indicates non-compliance with the JPOA, under which Iran’s stockpile was supposed to be frozen.

But it’s also a significant problem because it’s not clear how Iran will be able to comply, on a meaningful timetable, with the stockpile allowance under a long-term deal.  Iran is supposed to get down to an LEU stockpile of 300 kg, and keep it there.  When IAEA completed its most recent inspection, Iran had 8,714 kg of LEU stock in uranium hexafluoride gas form (the form in which it is fed into centrifuge arrays for enrichment).

Iran thus has to convert to other forms, and/or render non-weaponizable, 96% of her current LEU stockpile in order to comply with the terms of the proposed final “agreement”.  Yet Iran has spent the last 18 months enlarging this stockpile, and has claimed technical difficulties with her plan to turn much of the stockpile into fuel elements for nuclear reactors.

An administration official reportedly acknowledged the issue:

“How are they going to do it?” one senior American official said recently when asked about the negotiations, details of which Mr. Kerry and his team are trying to keep confidential. “We’re not certain. It’s their problem, not ours. But it’s a problem.”

The Institute for Science and International Security, moreover, in its analysis of the latest IAEA report, repeated its warning from April 2015 that Iran still has a substantial stockpile of uranium hexafluoride, in oxide form, enriched to the higher 19.75% purity.  Although it would require re-conversion to be enriched further as weapons-grade material, doing that would more than double Iran’s post-“agreement” stockpile of LEU.

The warning about these real problems came to a head with the NYT article on Monday.  Reporters at the State Department’s daily briefing taxed Marie Harf with it; she described the State Department as “perplexed” by it, claiming that the article’s “main contentions are totally inaccurate”. But she proceeded to both misidentify and misstate one of these “main contentions” in her explanation:

“First, the notion in the story that western officials or U.S. officials involved were unaware of this issue or not understanding of what this entails is just absurd,” Harf said.

The article doesn’t say any such thing, so Harf is just arguing against a straw man here.  Her other comments shed no additional light on the issue.  She merely alludes to Iran’s “commitment” to reducing the LEU stockpile to 300 kg.

“What matters is that they [Iran] have committed already, and we said [it] publicly, to reducing their stockpile whenever this implemented 300 kilograms,” Harf said. “The notion that this is some big issue of concern of negotiation is more manufacturing a controversy than actual reality. Everyone who read that story this morning was totally perplexed by it.”

This comes from PowerLine, written and assembled by Scott Johnson:

Intelligence Squared US arranged one of its excellent debates on the upper West Side of Manhattan this week. The debate had as its subject the merits of President Obama’s pending arrangement with Iran. Addressing the proposition that the deal is good for the United States, the debate matched Philip Gordon and Amb. Thomas Pickering (for the affirmative) with Michael Doran and Mark Dubowitz (for the negative), with moderator John Donovan cracking the whip in impressive fashion. The audience votes on the proposition before and after the debate; the team that maximally moves the dial is declared the winner.

Intelligence Squared has made resources on the debate accessible here. The video is below; the transcript is here.

We think the case for the “agreement” or “arrangement”  as made by Gordon and Pickering is extremely weak.

Doran and Dubowitz bring some strong arguments to the debate, and in our opinion win it overwhelmingly. But then, we start off thinking the “agreement” is merely a cover for Obama’s intention to let Iran become a nuclear-armed power.