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Set High Standards for Iranian Nuclear Talks

1:51 PM, Sep 20, 2013 • By MICHAEL WARREN
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Robert Zarate writes at the Foreign Policy Initiative:

Hassan Rouhani

Eager to jumpstart stalled negotiations for a “nuclear deal” with Iran, President Obama is reportedly mulling direct talks with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani when world leaders converge at the U.N. General Assembly next week.  Yet despite a decade’s worth of diplomacy and non-military pressure, the United States and other world powers have failed so far to persuade Iran to halt its drive to nuclear weapons-making capability.  Instead, the potential threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program has only grown.  Even if it is true that Iranian leaders have not made the final decision to assemble a nuclear weapon, Iran not only holds all of the raw ingredients required for an atomic bomb, but also is making technical advances that could rapidly shorten the amount of time it would need to build a nuclear weapon to a matter of months, if not weeks.

While Obama has repeatedly said that it would be “unacceptable” for Iran to get nuclear weapons and that he is keeping the military option “on the table,” it is clear that he remains open to an Iranian nuclear deal.  However, if the United States wants a nuclear deal that does not simply paper over the problem of Iran’s efforts to get rapid nuclear weapons-making capability—but actually resolves that dangerous problem—then U.S. policymakers and lawmakers should debate now what hurdles a nuclear deal ought to clear for it to effectively and durably cap Iran’s destabilizing nuclear ambitions.

High Standards for an Iranian Nuclear Deal

If the United States chooses to resume nuclear talks with Iran, it should negotiate with clear purpose and without any illusion.  Any Iranian nuclear deal should serve to punish Iran for continually violating the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons of 1968 (NPT), NPT-required International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear safeguards agreements, and numerous resolutions by the IAEA Board of Governors and the U.N. Security Council, and moving dangerously close to nuclear weapons-making capability in defiance of the international community.  The deal should also impose and enforce changes to Iranian nuclear behavior that provide a model for other NPT signatories as to what constitutes responsible nuclear behavior. 

For any proposed nuclear deal with Iran to be effective and durable, it therefore should meet the following high standards:

(1)  Any Iranian nuclear deal should require “zero enrichment” to close off Iran’s path to a nuclear bomb using centrifuges to produce weapons-usable high enriched uranium.

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