Robert Zarate and Daniel Blumenthal, writing for Foreign Policy:
As the United States and other world powers resume nuclear talks with Iran in Geneva, Barack Obama's administration is pushing hard not only to wrap up a short-term nuclear deal with the rogue nation, but also to dissuade Congress from imposing any new sanctions on the Iranian nuclear program. In a rare move, President Obama personally made his case to key Democratic and Republican Senate leaders this week. U.S. diplomats have explained that the United States seeks a deal that "stops Iran's nuclear program from moving forward," but careful analysis suggests the pact's reported terms fall alarmingly short of that stated goal.
First, the deal's current measures fail to get Iran to completely open up its nuclear program to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). While Iran announced this week that it will provide more transparency to the IAEA on specific declared nuclear sites, the well-timed announcement elides Iran's ongoing refusal to let the world's nuclear watchdog verify that the country has not just correctly, but also completely, declared all its nuclear materials and activities. Indeed, Iran has rejected nearly a decade's worth of legally binding demands by the IAEA, the 35-country IAEA Board of Governors, and the U.N. Security Council for its full transparency and cooperation. That's a big problem because Iran has a long, long, long, long, long history of hiding weapons-relevant nuclear activities from the world.
Second, the proposed deal still fails to fully freeze the growth of what's known as Iran's "nuclear weapons-making capability" -- that is, Iran's ability to rapidly build a nuclear explosive on increasingly short notice. To be sure, the short-term deal would stop some discrete elements of Iran's nuclear program from advancing. Specifically, it would require Iran to halt the production of "20 percent" enriched uranium that (counterintuitively yet technically) represents nine-tenths of the effort required to produce "90 percent" bomb-grade uranium, and to convert at least some of its current inventory of 20 percent uranium into a form that creates technical -- but far from impossible -- hurdles to further enrichment. It would oblige Iran not to use advanced "second-generation" centrifuges that can enrich uranium much more efficiently than "first-generation" units. And it would temporarily prohibit Iran from bringing online a dangerous heavy-water nuclear reactor that's ideal for producing plutonium optimized for a nuclear explosive.