October 10, 2014 | Policy Brief

Khamenei’s Expanding Nuclear Redlines

October 10, 2014 | Policy Brief

Khamenei’s Expanding Nuclear Redlines

Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is at it again. Following a recent unsuccessful probe by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the supreme leader’s website has released another infographic* codifying Iran’s new nuclear redlines.

The graphic reiterates key points long held sacred by Khamenei with respect to Iran’s nuclear program. In fact, of the 11 points, five can be traced to a previous infographic from April. Those demands, such as nearly endless nuclear research and development, the need to “be vigilant,” and not allowing officials “to bargain over nuclear achievements,” are more rooted in Khamenei’s political psyche than nuclear physics.

The redlines in the infographic include keeping open the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant, boasting that it “is out of the enemy’s reach.” This comes on the heels of Iran’s demonstrated ability to stand firm on Fordow in 2012 and 2013, when the P5+1 proposed the “stop, shut, ship” scheme.

Another redline in the infographic is an “enrichment capacity amounting to 190,000 SWU” (SWU or Separative Work Units being a marker of centrifuge effort). This, of course, increases concerns about Iran’s weapons aspirations, as it would provide the Islamic Republic with greater enrichment capacity. When Khamenei mentioned this metric in early July, Iran’s Parliament [Majlis] dutifully seconded the idea days later.

Another redline seeks to limit the topics discussed in the P5+1 talks, leaving crucial issues such as ballistic missiles off the negotiating table. To Khamenei, these issues are defined as “the needs of the country,” and thus remain sacrosanct.

The West has lauded the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) which, according to Secretary of State John Kerry, checked Iran’s nuclear march. Experts disagree. But Iran seems to have used the period between the interim and possible final accord to increase its negotiating leverage and harden its stance. As the infographic shows, Iran has done this by adding, not removing, redlines and pushing the West to acquiesce. This would best explain the recent attempts by the P5+1 to find innovative compromises like “letting Iran keep up to 4,500 centrifuges” or “letting Iran have more than 1,500 machines but removing or destroying much of the infrastructure needed to make them run,” as reported by AP.

Should Iran stand firm on these redlines, there will be little chance for a comprehensive agreement by the November 24 deadline that provides the West with satisfactory breakout timelines, SWU limits and a sufficient rollback of Iran’s illicit nuclear infrastructure. Perhaps former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was right when he famously said “We threw out the break[s] on the nuclear train.”

*For a complete translation by FDD’s Senior Fellow Ali Alfoneh, see the Iran Press Review

Behnam Ben Taleblu is an Iran Research Analyst at Foundation for Defense of Democracies


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