What was US President Obama’s aim at the talks on Iran’s nuclear program? The original objective of the Lausanne negotiations was to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons capability and the means to deliver it. Unfortunately, as time has marched on these objectives appear to have morphed more into a desire by the US administration to achieve an agreement.
Please also see a speech I made about the Iran talks in Parliament on 11 February, click here
As the Washington Post put it, “a process that began with the goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons has evolved into a plan to tolerate and temporarily restrict that capability.” Dean of American strategic thinkers Henry Kissinger agrees. He told Congress, “Nuclear talks with Iran began as an international effort … to deny Iran the capability to develop a military nuclear option. They are now an essentially bilateral negotiation over the scope of that capability… The impact of this approach will be to move from preventing proliferation to managing it.”
These views are no different to the view I expressed in early February in Parliament. As I said back then, “When, in five or 10 years, intelligence emerges that Iran has achieved a nuclear breakout capacity, the fault will lie in part with this policy of trying to achieve agreement at all costs.”
Iran’s Middle East strategy has been clear for years. As the negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program reached a crescendo in the days before Pesach, Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the head of the Basij, Iran’s semi-official militia, reiterated his country’s ongoing commitment to the elimination of Israel. It was ‘non-negotiable’, he said.
While the nuclear framework was negotiated, Iran’s military aid to its friends allowed it to accumulate hegemonic power in four regional capitals—Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Sana’a, in Yemen—to the detriment of those who want to resist Iranian hegemony.
Everyone knows that Iran founded, funds and directs Hezbollah. Hezbollah, the political party with a private army in Lebanon, has a veto over the Lebanese government and is now fighting in Syria. Iran has long backed Syria as well with the 200,000 deaths that have taken place over there. Iran has enormous sway over Iraq, a fact which should be seen as a defeat for our common Western interests. Most recently—just as the Lausanne talks reached high gear—Iranian-backed rebels have overrun the Yemeni capital and deposed its president.
So Iran gets the hechsher from the international community for its nuclear program in the hope that its unexported enriched uranium will be diluted under the supervision of a crack team of UN inspectors. But this is disregarding that report after report from the International Atomic Energy Agency—the UN’s nuclear agency—highlighted discoveries of things that are only used in weaponisation programs. UN inspectors, who, according to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), should have unfettered access to all nuclear sites, are regularly barred from entering. These breaches of the NPT are the reason the Security Council passed sanctions against Iran in the first place. These sanctions, as well as autonomous sanctions imposed by numerous countries—including, I am very proud to say, Australia under the previous government—slowed down Iran’s progress and succeeded in bringing it to the negotiating table. But under the Lausanne framework deal, there is no inspection of Iran’s weaponisation or ballistic missile program and it appears the sanctions will be lifted.
As far as I understood, Australia never agreed to Iran keeping 6000 centrifuges (as per the Lausanne Agreement) or leaving Iran with a ballistic missile program. When evidence emerges that Iran is violating the agreement, the sanctions cannot be easily ‘snapped back’. The chance that the Security Council—with the Russian veto—will re-impose sanctions when there are billions of dollars of investment opportunities in a newly re-opened Iranian economy is essentially nil.
As former Labor Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak noted in TIME International, “…It’s clear to me that as long as the ayatollahs are in power, their behaviour will be guided not by their signatures on a paper, but by the extent to which they worry about resumed biting sanctions and the possibility of kinetic attack… The deal described in Switzerland is not what Israel wanted. I would prefer 1,000 centrifuges instead of 6,000. Fordow (the secret Iranian nuclear sit inside a mountain) closed altogether. And all enriched uranium shipped out of the country.
“Why? So that when the day arrives that the Iranian leadership announces, as North Korea did, that it has expelled the inspectors or that it is withdrawing from the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, it must start its sprint for the bomb from that much further back… Iran wants to get to a signature in June, and the relief from sanctions that will soon follow. The smiles they wear are the smiles of a man who has escaped a noose.”
Michael Danby is Member for Melbourne Ports
- Pipes argues Laudsanne framework makes Israeli strikes more likely
- On 8 April I was interviewed about the nuclear deal on J-AIR, it was a frank discussion of whether the Iranian nuclear deal can be conducted separately from its threats to Israel, support for Hezbollah terrorism and regional aggression click here