Sunday, 24 November 2013

Iran gets the gold mine, Israel gets the shaft.

Likely the worst possible outcome has been achieved by the supposed Geneva Nuclear Negotiations regarding Iranian enrichment. It does nearly nothing to degrade Iran's current capabilities, has weak enforcement mechanisms, and largely does not put in place any barriers to stop an Iranian sprint toward a nuclear weapon (aka "breakout capability" if such capability has not already been achieved.

Let's look at the big points: It allows Iran to retain HALF of it's working stock of 20% Oxide for fabrication of fuel. Like that's going to be used for "fuel" without being diverted. Right. The next point, that Iran won't enrich uranium over 5% for the duration of the 6 month interim agreement is rendered meaningless by this, because they're already the vast majority of the way to nuclear grade material.

No further advances of activities at Natanz, Fordow or on the Arak (plutonium) reactor? Doesn't matter. They've already got sufficient capability to enrich to 90% in a matter of weeks for at least 6 nuclear devices. That initial nuclear deterrent is all they need to buy them time to avoid a ground assault against their production facilities. The footnotes about enrichment are equally unappealing, as they allow Iran to "replace" centrifuges, and keep the centrifuge cascades already in place without degrading their ability to produce, even if 12 cascades are currently in an non-operative state. That can be changed on a VERY short notice.

Iran gets to CONTINUE R&D practices which are "not designed for accumulation of the enriched uranium." Oh really? There's an awful LOT you can learn about a process by doing things "similar" to that process, and a whole bunch of "dual use" technology to develop out there.

No "new" locations for the enrichment. Are we REALLY sure that we know about all the "current" ones? My guess is no. No reprocessing or construction of a facility capable of reprocessing?

"Unannounced" inspections and daily IAEA inspector access when not present for basically other purposes at Fordow and Natanz. Anybody who's been paying attention knows that these are the Iranian "showroom" floor. The real heavy work is being done at military hardened "black sites." However, there will only be "managed access" to the centrifuge assembly workshops, centrifuge rotor production workshops and storage facilities, and uranium mines and mills." This means that if the Iranians want to hide their true progress, they just need to properly direct the IAEA Inspectors away from the workshops and storage of "sensitive" items, and there will be no easy way to confirm any "off the books" mining and production milling.

So what does Iran get in return?

No new UN or US administration nuclear related sanctions, plus a "financial channel" for oil revenues to facilitate humanitarian trade (food, medicine, medical devices and medical expenses), and payment for UN obligations and Iranian student college tuition for students abroad.

A "pause" of efforts to further reduce Iran's crude oil sales, allowing Iran's "current" customers to purchase their current "average" amounts of crude oil, and enable "repatriation" of an agreed amount of revenue held abroad. What this means is basically Iran gets to bring back a certain amount of money held overseas that has been held up by international sanctions, which Iran can then infuse into its economy. That infusion will go a LONG way toward mollifying the most "radical elements" of the Iranian Republic, aka the young who are openly rebelling against the clerical establishment, and who are the ONLY hope of reforming the Iranian government.

Iran gets its sanctions on Oil exports and associated services and gold & precious metals, as well as associated services lifted. Let's see, exactly how much gold does Iran have in it's national stockpile? Well, at least as of 2011, Iran was holding as much gold as the United Kingdom, and was purchasing more. That amount was estimated at above 300 tons of gold at that time (approximate value in today's US dollars: about $12 BILLION dollars ($11,932,800,000 = $1,243 per oz x 16 oz per pound x 2,000 pounds per ton x 300). Again, that is assuming that we know of ALL the gold that they have purchased and were holding.

Suspension of sanctions on Iran's auto industry and licensing of parts for Iranian civil aviation. Cars are an important piece of life, and planes allow for people to get from place to place easily.

So what does this buy the Iranians?

Time. I've done enough negotiations to be able to recognize when the other party is stalling because they think that their current project or income stream will change the equation of the negotiation, or that the other party's negotiation strength will be diminished, damaged or destroyed by some delay.

The Iranians are really, REALLY close to having a functional nuclear weapon. If they can run out the clock to get hold of one, that will be the end of trying to keep them from joining the "nuclear club." Further, the deal explicitly lays the groundwork for recognizing a future Iranian "mutually defined enrichment programme with mutually agreed parameters consistent with practical-needs, with agreed limits on scope and level of enrichment activities, capacity, where it is carried out, and stocks of enriched uranium for a period to be agreed upon." Notice that last little bit: not permanently, but for an agreed period of time.

The Iranians learned the nuclear lessons of India, Pakistan and North Korea well: delay, obfuscate, make token concessions and then withdraw them at times that it suits you to do so, while continuing to work in the background toward the ultimate goal of a nuclear weapons program sufficient to head off any sort of localized ground invasion, as well as leverage to use against any country as a "massive retaliation" option for interference in domestic affairs. Once you do that, effectively you become untouchable as a nation from any sort of major outside governmental change. If you can then repress your own people sufficiently to prevent revolution, you have ensured your continued power base so long as you can maintain your ideology.

At this point, there is really only one hope to prevent a nuclear weapon possessing Iran: an Israeli strike. If the Israeli's get any indication that Iran has finished a nuclear weapon, expect a short, brutal and very effective attack by Israel upon Iran which will take out a significant swath of the Iran's military assets. Let us hope that Israel has the stomach for such an action. The cowardice of Obama Administration officials, from President Obama and Sec. Kerry on down has show that the current US administration does not.