France shows some backbone
The much hyped nuclear deal between Iran and the nations representing the U.N. Security Council fell through on Saturday. It appears we have France to thank.
The plan was accurately described by Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as a “very, very bad deal” for the West and a sweetheart deal for Iran.
But U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry tried to muddy the waters after the talks collapsed, claiming that Iran pulled back and that the other negotiators, from Britain, France, Germany, Russia, China and the U.S., were unified.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif responded by blaming the other side for “gutting more than half” of a U.S. draft agreement, saying “no amount of spinning” could alter that fact.
The BBC quoted a Russian foreign ministry official as saying, “Iran was happy about the draft joint document, but since a decision during the negotiations is approved by consensus, it was impossible to reach a final agreement.”
It was French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius who blew the whistle on a deal Mr. Kerry was apparently all for making. Saying France would not play “a fool’s game,” Mr. Fabius reportedly objected, saying that the agreement would allow Iran to continue work on a nuclear reactor at Arak that produces plutonium as a by-product and would allow Iran to keep stockpiles of uranium enriched to 20 percent, a precursor to producing nuclear weapons.
These were exactly the points made by Mr. Netanyahu when he denounced the agreement that Mr. Kerry had described to him. In the end the U.N. team of nations pulled together, raised Mr. Fabius’ points and, apparently, decided to contest Iran’s demand that its “right” to enrich uranium be formally recognized. At that point Iran said, “No deal.”
But the dangerous plan to relax sanctions on Iran in exchange for its temporary promises to slow the production of enriched uranium has not yet been repudiated by the United States or Britain.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC, “On the question of will it happen in the next few weeks, there is a good chance of that,” he said of an interim agreement. “A deal is on the table, and it can be done.”
Iran’s foreign minister appeared to agree, saying, “We are committed to constructive engagement.”
A more constructive course for the U.S. would be to deny Iran’s right to enrich uranium, intensify sanctions, and wait for Iran to lower its demands. A deal which allows any uranium enrichment to continue will only be safe if Iran submits to intrusive and intensive international verification.
Inspectors must verify that Iran is only producing reactor fuel at an enrichment level of 3 to 4 percent, and it is not producing weapons grade fuel, nor does it have the capacity to do so. The reactor at Arak has to go as well. Only then will the imminent specter of an Iranian nuclear weapon disappear from the international stage.