Iran and the P5+1 signed in Geneva (November 24th) an interim agreement that has already been called historic that should resolve the Iranian nuclear case within six months and that guarantees that Iran does not produce nuclear weapons.
The highlights of the agreement (that have been disclosed) include, among other things, an Iranian commitment to suspend uranium enrichment to a level of above 5%, to dilute its roughly 200kg stockpile of 20%-enriched uranium or convert it to oxide which is harder to turn back into the hexaflouride gas, not to operate the new advanced centrifuges (IR-2M) that can enrich uranium at speeds that are five times as fast as the old generation of centrifuges (IR-1), and to suspend major development work at the Arak heavy water reactor (IR-40) for six months. Furthermore, no fuel can be put into the reactor, and it cannot be turned on, and more stringent inspection by the IAEA will be allowed.
In return, the West will lift some of the sanctions on trade of precious metals and on the petrochemical industry and will unfreeze Iranian $6 billion in assets. The process for lifting the sanctions will not be reversible, as the West is claiming, given that much longer and a tremendous diplomatic effort is required to begin. The lifting of the sanctions heralds the loosening of an important means of pressure on Iran. This leverage, coupled with the removal – at least on the part of the US – of the military option is perceived in Iran as a tremendous accomplishment.
“The deal” (which Iran’s Supreme Leader and President rushed to hail as Iran’s success in “getting the West to recognize its enrichment rights”) should not leave Iran with any enriched uranium at 20% (from which progress can quickly be made to enrich uranium to weapons grade), but allows it to continue to enrich uranium to a level of 3.5%, essentially leaving it the option to achieve weapon grade enrichment at any time it chooses and to carry out a nuclear break out by using the fast centrifuges in its possession.
With regards to the West, and particularly the US, since Rouhani’s election and even prior to that, the US has conducted backchannel negotiations with Iran (some of which were hidden from Israel) via Oman, Bill Burns and through the Asia Society, and wanted to “close a deal” with Iran (some of the agreements reached in Geneva were formulated through the secret bilateral channel between Iran and the US). To close the deal with Ahmadinejad, who served as an authentic and blunt expression of the Iranian regime (in the spirit of the Supreme Leader on the eve of the signing of the agreement on Israel’s being an “inhuman entity” and a “rabid dog”), was too difficult for the American and European governments.
Rouhani’s election and his “diplomatic blitz of speeches” along with heavy use of social networks (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube), which the “Iranian people” are prohibited from using, tweets and posts that have a nice ring to Western ears allowed the US and the West (again) to present the “moderates in Iran” and the “new face of Iran” and to sign an agreement, the key points of which are familiar and been repeated for years. Ahmadinejad did not provide the goods – Rouhani, who deceived the West back in 2003, in a willingness to suspend enrichment and advance other critical components of Iran’s nuclear program (e.g. Uranium Conversion Facility in Esfahan UCF) succeeded in his mission.
The US preferred buying short-middle range peace and reject or even accept a nuclear Iran or a nuclear threshold Iran. Saudi Arabia, even more disappointed by American policy in the Middle East, has already announced in various channels that should Iran become nuclear, it would consider this option (as an antidote to the Shia nuclear bomb ) – perhaps through Pakistan, whose nuclear program it funded. This will lead to nuclear proliferation in the Middle East and to a nuclearized Middle East. In addition, this will lead to a reinforcement of the “resistance camp” (Syria headed by Assad, Hezbollah, Palestinian terrorists that oppose the peace process) and even harden Palestinian positions in talks with Israel.
Iran is well aware of the weakness in Washington. It has already won the battle over the nuclear fuel cycle (despite sanctions) and it appears to be on its way to victory in the political arena. This arena may be decisively influential in reshaping the Middle East after the “Arab Spring” or “Islamic Awakening”, the preferred name by Tehran.
The only avenue through which Iran can be prevented from achieving the nuclear option is through the final agreement to be signed in six months (unless Iran drags its feet, as usual) to ensure Iran is no longer able to enrich at all and to remove all enriched uranium up to 3.5 and 20% out of the country, and the number of UF6s that have not been introduced into the centrifuges, and to destroy the range of centrifuges (similar to destruction of the Syrian chemical weapons production system).
Evidently, this is not what is expected to happen – the agreement is historic and paves the way for a new, far more dangerous and bloody Middle East.