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Uranium Deal with Iran Likely Dead

9:25 AM, Nov 19, 2009 • By JOHN NOONAN
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No surprise here, Tehran doesn't believe sanctions will materialize and have buried the lion's share of their HEU stockpiles -- and accompanying centrifuge cascades -- in a massive underground complex near the Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center. Isfahan, Tehran's version of Cheyenne Mountain, is well protected by advanced Russian radar systems, surface-to-air missile batteries, and roughly 150 meters of rock and concrete. The logistical hurdles involved in destroying such a facility would be nearly insurmountable.

Iran's foreign minister said in remarks reported Wednesday that he opposes sending the country's enriched uranium abroad under a tentative deal negotiated with the United States and other big powers last month. The foreign minister's remarks cast further doubt on the deal, which the Obama administration had hoped would defuse a standoff over Iran's nuclear ambitions.

The foreign minister, Manouchehr Mottaki, told the student news agency ISNA that Iran would consider a simultaneous swap of its nuclear fuel for other uranium. But he told ISNA, "Definitely, Iran will not send its 3.5 percent-enriched fuel out."

Mr. Mottaki is the highest-ranking Iranian official to openly reject the deal, which was brokered by the United Nations nuclear agency and would require Iran to export much of its low-enriched uranium abroad for processing. But it was unclear whether Mr. Mottaki's comments reflected Iran's official stance or were simply more posturing from Iran, which has yet to give an unambiguous official response to the nuclear deal.

So Iran has very publicly played President Obama for a fool, faking their way through negotiations that were a farce from the get-go. The question now becomes one of response. Israel has indicated that the current negotiations could be Iran's last chance for a non-military solution. Now that Iran's own foreign minister has admitted that negotiations will fail, will the United States drop its objections to Israeli military action? And, more importantly, will Obama green light the massive ordnance penetrator -- a weapon widely believed designed specifically for the inaccessible Isfahan facility -- for export?

Chances that the White House will order a U.S. strike hover between slim and none and equipping the capable Israeli Air Force with MOPs would essentially be the same thing as condoning an attack. It's more likely that the Obama administration has resigned itself to a restructured deterrence framework with the Iranians -- an increasingly difficult task, considering how aggressively the president is cutting both our strategic arsenals and missile defense.