Those who Don’t Learn from History are Doomed to be Fleeced
In her conference call with the Israel Project last week, nonproliferation expert Dr. Emily Landau raised this general objection (.pdf) to any deal that would be reached with Iran:
The problem is that we have the experience of the early period, the 2003 – 2005 period when Rouhani was leading the nuclear negotiations on the part of Iran. Two very short periods of suspension of uranium conversion activity were achieved in those – during the course of those two years. But what happened in those periods, very short periods – the first was eight months, the second was six months – the activities were suspended, but Iran was also trying to circumvent the deal at almost every turn. And those first eight months and the later six months were spent with the 3 sides haggling and quibbling over every aspect of the very limited deal that they had reached. Who was upholding what and why and what did they really agree upon and just endless arguing, haggling, over these issues. The first suspension period, the eight – month one, ended with the Iranians accusing the Europeans – at the time it was negotiations with the EU-3 – of not upholding their end of the bargain, saying that the Europeans had promised to get the Iranian case off the agenda of the IAEA by June of 2004, and because that was not the case they were ending the suspension. Well, why was it not taken off the agenda of the IAEA? Because Iran was not upholding, in good faith, the provisions of this suspension deal. And that is the kind of dynamic that we can probably expect to see in the next six months with regard to any interim deal.
One of the key issues surrounding the “nuclear dispute” as media folks like to call it – but is really more a case of Iran’s nuclear cheating – was whether Iran would accept the IAEA’s “additional protocol.” The “additional protocol” was a more intrusive inspection regime that Iran signed onto in 2003.
In his statement hailing the P5 + 1 deal with Iran President Obama referenced the 2003 deal:
For the first time in nearly a decade, we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back. Iran has committed to halting certain levels of enrichment and neutralizing part of its stockpiles.
Diplomats and journalists have cited the 2003 agreement as a precedent for current negotiations with Iran. For one thing it was the first nuclear agreement between Israel and the West. Furthermore, Iran’s lead negotiator then was Hassan Rouhani, now Iran’s president.
While that may have been the first nuclear deal reached with Iran; the lessons from it may not be ones that the cheerleaders for the P5 + 1 deal have in mind.
As I mentioned, in 2003, Iran committed to the IAEA’s “additional protocol.”
Here’s how the New York Times reported Iran’s Pact: ‘Full Cooperation’ on October 22, 2003:
Having received the necessary clarifications, the Iranian government has decided to sign the I.A.E.A. Additional Protocol and commence ratification procedures. As a confirmation of its good intentions the Iranian government will continue to cooperate with the agency in accordance with the protocol in advance of its ratification; While Iran has a right within the nuclear nonproliferation regime to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes it has decided voluntarily to suspend all uranium enrichment and processing activities as defined by the I.A.E.A.
According to the I.A.E.A. Iran signed the additional protocol December 18, 2013.
Nearly a year later, on September 20, 2004 the New York Times reported Iran Rebuffs U.N. Agency on Atom Issue:
Mr. Rowhani, however, strenuously objected to the order to end enrichment.
“They cannot force Iran to suspend enrichment through the resolution,” he said. “The Europeans also know that if there is a way, that way is through negotiations.”
He added a threat, saying, “I believe that Iran will stop implementing the additional protocol if its case is sent to the Security Council, and Parliament will probably demand from the government to drop out of the nonproliferation treaty.”
Remember, the signing of the additional protocol was unconditional. A year later, Iran was saying that it was conditional.
A few months later the New York Times reported, Nuclear Accord Eludes Iran and Europeans:
Among the ideas presented by the Iranians, participants said, was a phased approach including enhanced monitoring and technical guarantees devised to allow Iran to again enrich uranium, a process used in producing nuclear energy and nuclear bombs. But the Europeans reject that approach, arguing that Iran’s nuclear activities are so suspicious that the country should never again be allowed to enrich uranium. …
The meeting on Wednesday was the first by the negotiating teams since the Bush administration softened its position to allow the Europeans to offer broader economic incentives to Iran. In exchange, the United States has extracted a pledge from the Europeans to refer Iran’s case to the United Nations for possible censure or penalties, if the negotiations fail.
One of the points to remember here, is that the reason Iran was dealing with E3 (Britain, France and Germany) was because the United States (under President George W. Bush) was deemed to unreasonable. Yet even the E3 concluded that “Iran’s nuclear activities are so suspicious…” that they should not be allowed to enrich uranium. A year and a half after after signing an agreement to affirm “its good intentions” Iran had played so many games that its partners no longer trusted it.
One of the tokens to prove its good intentions was agreeing to the additional protocol. According to the IAEA the additional protocol never came into force for Iran. Iran signed an agreement and never implemented it. (Click on image for larger picture.)
And in the deal signed Saturday night there’s this commitment from Iran.
Fully implement the agreed transparency measures and enhanced monitoring. Ratify and implement the Additional Protocol, consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Majlis (Iranian parliament).
To paraphrase Charles Krauthammer, Iran has sold the West the same rug again.
But as the New York Times now explains in A Step, if Modest, Toward Slowing Iran’s Weapons Capability:
At the beginning of Mr. Obama’s presidency, Iran had roughly 2,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, barely enough for a bomb. It now has about 9,000 kilograms, by the estimates of the International Atomic Energy Agency. A few thousand centrifuges were spinning in 2009; today there are 18,000, including new models that are far more efficient and can produce bomb-grade uranium faster. A new heavy water reactor outside the city of Arak promises a new pathway to a bomb, using plutonium, if it goes online next year as Iran says it will.
True rollback would mean dismantling many of those centrifuges, shipping much of the fuel out of the country or converting it into a state that could not be easily adapted to bomb use, and allowing inspections of many underground sites where the C.I.A., Europe and Israel believe hidden enrichment facilities may exist. There is no evidence of those facilities now, but, as a former senior Obama administration official said recently, speaking anonymously to discuss intelligence, “there has never been a time in the past 15 years or so when Iran didn’t have a hidden facility in construction.”
Despite sanctions Iran’s nuclear weapons program has progressed and, as the headline makes clear, the P5 + 1 deal doesn’t roll it back but slows it down. There are, of course, many other problems with the deal including the language “comprehensive solution would involve a mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparency measures,” effectively affirming the rogue regimes “right” to enrich. The secret facilities aren’t addressed in the P5 + 1 deal either.
There are many reasons to mistrust Iran or doubt that the deal would be effective. However, the story of the additional protocol is easy to follow. It is a case of Iran reneging on its commitments and defying binding Security Council resolutions. It also will be the story of the coming six months and longer.
Let’s say sometime in the future a secret Iranian nuclear facility is discovered or Iran is found to be cheating on some other part of the deal. Let’s say then the United States that it is re-imposing some of the sanctions it loosened. Will Iran, chastened, come clean about the extent of its cheating and submit to the sanctions? Or will Iran summon all the outrage it can muster and claim that the West changed the terms of the agreement and then refuse to abide by even the minimal terms it agreed to? The story of the additional protocol answers that question.
Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to be out-bargained in Geneva.