The Obama administration is in desperation mode on the nuclear talks with Iran. With the prospect of a Republican Senate taking action next year to thwart its controversial nuclear diplomacy and a fast approaching November 24 deadline for the talks, the Obama administration reportedly has doubled down on its previous one-sided concessions to Tehran by offering to allow it to operate up to 6,000 uranium centrifuges.
Further confusing this situation, the Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the president wrote a secret letter to Iran’s supreme leader Ali Khamenei in which he reportedly stressed that “any cooperation on the Islamic State was largely contingent on Iran reaching a comprehensive agreement with global powers on the future of Tehran’s nuclear program by a November 24 diplomatic deadline.”
Although the Obama administration made several disturbing concessions to get Iran to the bargaining table, one of the worst was implicitly conceding to Tehran the “right” to enrich uranium by allowing it to operate uranium centrifuges. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu bluntly made this point when he visited the United States in September when he said Iran has no need for uranium enrichment and any enrichment it conducts is for one purpose: making nuclear bombs.
Charles Krauthammer made a similar point during the Fox News Special Report program last night, saying that to get a nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration “has abolished the central idea of nonproliferation . . . you cannot enrich.”
Using 9,000 centrifuges currently operating, Iran is enriching to reactor-grade enough uranium to fuel about two nuclear weapons per year if further enriched to weapons-grade. Although allowing Iran to operate 6,000 centrifuges means it would accumulate reactor-grade uranium at a slightly slower pace, this proposal ignores the risk from Iran’s large reactor-grade uranium stockpile and the fact that far fewer centrifuges are needed to enrich to weapons-grade from reactor-grade.
Using less than 2,000 centrifuges, Iran could enrich from reactor-grade to weapons grade in 2.2 to 3.5 months. Iran currently has enough reactor-grade uranium to make enough weapons-grade nuclear fuel for at least seven nuclear weapons if further enriched.
The Obama administration’s decision to allow Iran to enrich uranium was unconscionable and made the negotiations to slow or halt the Iranian nuclear program an unacceptable risk to American and international security from the outset. Over the last year, Obama officials gave away more and more to Tehran in the nuclear talks, setting the stage for a final agreement that is certain to be a diplomatic train wreck.
Words escape me to discuss the foolhardiness of the letter that President Obama reportedly sent to Ayatollah Khamenei last month. Given that Iran is in part to blame for the surge in sectarian violence in Iraq since 2011 due to its ties to the Maliki government and its training of Iraqi Shiite militias, why would the United States be discussing cooperation with Iranian officials against the Islamic State and linking this to getting a nuclear agreement? If the United States was to say anything to Iran about restoring stability to Iraq and defeating the Islamic State, it should be: “Stop meddling in Iraq!”
A Republican Senate and responsible oversight of the president’s abysmal foreign policy cannot come soon enough.