Iran has just a few months to prove that its new diplomatic offensive is not a smokescreen to mask moves towards nuclear bomb capability, according to one of the United States’ most experienced Middle Eastern diplomats.
Ambassador Dennis Ross, who has advised several American presidents, including Barack Obama, on the region, believes there are practical steps that the Iranians, under new president Hassan Rouhani, could take to demonstrate the peaceful objectives of their nuclear programme.
They could, for example, stop installing new centrifuges used for uranium enrichment, or begin converting more of their stockpiles of the metal into fuel.
Another signal, he said, would be Iranian willingness to answer questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency “after all these years of not answering” and to give IAEA inspectors “access to key people”.
What worries the Israelis, he said, would be “a negotiating process that looks like it’s leading nowhere but allows the Iranian nuclear programme to continue unchanged to the point where the Israelis lose their military option. If they think that’s where things are headed, then it makes a strike much more likely.”
If there is no sign of progress by early next year, “then you are in a different place”.
Mr Ross, who was in London this week for the UJIA dinner, noted that, a year ago, the Iranians took heed of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s warning that one bomb’s worth of material would cross a red line and actually began a process of converting some of their enriched uranium for fuel usage.
Mr Ross added that the international community’s current focus on Iran and events in Syria and Egypt “creates more space for the peace process”.
WHAT THE DEAL MUST INVOLVE
BY Michael Herzog for BICOM
1. Iran must ship out its enriched uranium, including low enriched uranium. They should be left with less than one bomb’s worth of the material, so if they decide to violate the agreement and make a bomb, it will take a long time.
2. Intrusive inspections must be allowed at all sites suspected by the IAEA of being related to weapon research, such as Parchin.
3. The Arak heavy water reactor must be shut down — it can produce weapons-grade plutonium. When it becomes hot it will be impossible to stop. Israel took out the Iraqi reactor at Osirak in 1981 before it went hot, and reportedly did the same with a Syrian reactor in 2007.
4. A very limited time-frame must be kept. The nuclear programme should be frozen during talks.
5. The heaviest sanctions should be left in place until it is clear the Iranians are serious.