On the Iran Nuclear Crisis

Robert Einhorn’s report “Preventing a Nuclear Armed Iran” is particularly interesting not because its recommendations are that revolutionary, but because it suggests what the broad outlines are of the Obama administration’s negotiating strategy. Einhorn served until recently as the Department of State’s Special Advisor on Non-Proliferation and Arms Control, he maintains close ties with the negotiating team and his perspective is likely as close to official government policy as anything.

Einhorn acknowledges that the Iranians will insist on retaining uranium enrichment capacity and the ability to create nuclear arms if they deem it necessary. However, he believes US concerns can still be dealt with as long as the agreement makes any Iranian attempt at nuclear breakout a “detectable, lengthy and risky process that would not only fail but would inevitably result in Iran paying a very high price in terms of its national interests.”

Einhorn proposes several technical solutions to the problem, suggesting that the Fordow plant be turned into a research facility, that the Arak reactor’s ability to produce plutonium be greatly reduced, and that the Iranian program be subject to stringent monitoring by the IAEA.

Given that just last Saturday Iran’s Vice President announced plans to redesign the Arak plant to limit the plutonium it can make, it would seem that Einhorn’s proposal is already bearing fruit. By most media accounts, the negotiations between the West and Iran have proceeded very well to date. Iran has complied with the interim agreement, and is already ahead of schedule in diluting it’s enriched uranium as stipulated by the 6 month agreement. Representatives have even announced that they plan to Meet in New York in early May to start drafting the final text.

The greatest challenge to successful negotiations may come from hardliners within both countries. Republicans in the US and Netanyahu in Israel have been furious over the prospect of any deal that might permit Iran to continue enriching Uranium, and may attempt to scuttle it.

Rouhani’s administration recently admitted to reshuffling leadership positions in Iran’s atomic energy agency as a way of sidelining the hardliners, holdouts from the Ahmadinejad administration, who had opposed any deal. Ultimately the decision to proceed with the deal depends on Ayatollah Khamenei. Western media reports that he has been cautiously open to the possibility of a deal, but as long as his intentions remain uncertain so is the future of an accord between Iran and the US. — E. S.