May 31, 2012

Congressional zero-enrichment demand will “lead to either an Iranian nuclear weapon or a new war”

In an important piece in the LA Times, Daniel Kadishson explains how Congressional demands for “zero enrichment” as the only acceptable diplomatic resolution to the Iranian nuclear impasse is obstructing legitimate chances to ensure Iran does not build a nuclear weapon and to prevent war.
“To prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon,” he writes, “verification is more important than zero centrifuges.”
Kadishson argues that “Members of Congress who demand only that Iran agree to a complete, permanent suspension of all uranium enrichment and allow unfettered inspections in all facilities, and are trying to legislate that the U.S. can accept nothing less, are ignoring reality in a way that will likely lead to either an Iranian nuclear weapon or a new war.
Kadishson suggests that “it is better to let Iran openly have five centrifuges with international inspectors allowed unrestricted access throughout the country than to let Iran claim it has zero centrifuges and no nuclear military program without having the means to verify this.”  With this in mind, “U.S. negotiators should have bipartisan support from Congress to pursue any agreement that precludes Iran from building a nuclear weapon.”
But the “zero-enrichment ultimatum” that was pursued by the Bush administration and which is now being demanded by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains popular in Congress, despite the demonstrated failures of this approach.
Sure enough, for negotiations to progress in good faith, it is critical for the U.S. to demonstrate seriousness about a diplomatic endgame in which it would recognize an Iranian right to enrich under the Non-Proliferation Treaty in exchange for Iranian acceptance of verifiable limits on and inspections of its nuclear program.
Yet the efforts by Congress to challenge this approach–particularly in the weeks that preceded the Baghdad talks–have undermined the confidence-building that had come out of the Istanbul talks and could poison hopes for progress in Moscow.

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