September 6, 2019 | Fox News

Iran is once again trying to blackmail the world for billions – we can’t give in

September 6, 2019 | Fox News

Iran is once again trying to blackmail the world for billions – we can’t give in

Iran is once again trying to blackmail the world for billions of dollars, after announcing that it is beginning work to develop centrifuges to accelerate uranium enrichment – a step needed to start producing nuclear weapons.

The world must not give in to Iran.

In a letter to the European Union, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif announced that as of Friday his nation is no longer adhering to restrictions in the 2015 nuclear deal on its atomic research and development.

While the Islamic Republic claims it is only interested in developing nuclear power for peaceful purposes, its behavior points to its desire to keep its options open to develop atomic bombs. Those bombs would pose a threat to Israel, other U.S. allies in the Middle East, and eventually Europe and the U.S. itself.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi, stated that Tehran would further breach the nuclear deal if Europe fails to provide Iran with a $15 billion line of credit aimed at offsetting the impact of crippling U.S. economic sanctions.

The United States and Europe would be making a mistake of historic proportions if they surrender to this latest Iranian threat. Instead, they should stand firm and make clear that Iran will receive sanctions relief only if and when it negotiates a comprehensive new nuclear deal that meets the 12 conditions stipulated by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in a May 2018 address.

Washington should make clear that these sanctions will remain in place until Iran concludes a new agreement ensuring, in a verifiable manner, that it has abandoned its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Premature concessions would merely incentivize Iran to engage in further nuclear blackmail, thereby undermining the International Atomic Energy Agency’s ability to verify the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program. The agency is the United Nations body tasked with monitoring and verifying Iran’s key nuclear-related commitments.

Iran’s latest efforts to intimidate the world come in the wake of multiple Iranian violations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, commonly known as the Iran nuclear deal.

According to a report issued last month by the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran has exceeded the nuclear deal’s limits on uranium stockpiles, uranium enrichment, and installations of advanced centrifuges known as the IR-6.

“Evaluations regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities for Iran remained ongoing,” the report added, effectively acknowledging that the International Atomic Energy Agency has yet to confirm the exclusively peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program.

At the same time, Iran has reportedly refused to answer the International Atomic Energy Agency’s questions about radioactive material at a covert nuclear warehouse in Tehran exposed by Israel last year.

Iran’s failure to declare this material may constitute a violation of a separate set of accords in addition to the nuclear deal, known as the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and that agreement’s additional protocol.

These agreements, which Iran signed in 1973 and 2003 respectively, obligate Iran to provide the International Atomic Energy Agency with information about all nuclear facilities, materials and activities in its territory.

In its August report, the International Atomic Energy Agency alluded to these possible breaches, stating that its interactions with Tehran regarding the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement and the additional protocol “require full and active cooperation by Iran.”

In addition, Iran may have violated the three agreements it concluded by failing to declare nuclear sites, equipment and materials identified in the nation’s covert atomic archive, which Israel seized from a Tehran warehouse last year.

The archive discloses a range of sites, equipment and activity previously unknown to the International Atomic Energy Agency, thereby raising the possibility that illicit conduct continues today without the agency’s knowledge.

Iran’s threat to infringe the nuclear deal’s restrictions on centrifuge research and development marks a further escalation.

In theory, depending on the rate of Tehran’s research and development activity, Iran’s breakout time – that is, the amount of time needed to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon – could drop in half by this time next year.

According to an estimate by the Institute for Science and International Security, Iran’s breakout time as of August was 7.3 to 11.74 months, down from a range of 7.7 to 12.4 months just two months earlier, before its latest nuclear deal violations.

In the face of Iran’s defiance, France is negotiating with Tehran – in coordination with other parties to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – on a $15 billion letter of credit that would enable Iran to receive hard currency, thereby compensating it for the loss of oil sales resulting from U.S. sanctions.

At the root of this proposal lies the apparent assumption that Washington’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal – and the consequent economic crisis Iran faces – has spurred an Iranian decision to achieve a nuclear breakout in retaliation. Thus, by mitigating Iran’s economic woes, the world could supposedly incentivize Iran to return to compliance with the nuclear deal.

The truth is more complicated. In reality, Iran’s incremental nuclear violations aim not to start a war, but to project resolve and to weaken U.S. deterrence.

Iran recognizes that so long as the U.S. is not a party to the nuclear deal, Tehran’s only path out of its economic predicament is to negotiate with the United States. But by extracting funds from the international community, Iran can help stabilize its economy as it waits out the clock until America’s 2020 election, hoping that President Trump loses to a candidate who seeks to reenter the nuclear deal.

Trump withdrew the U.S. from the nuclear agreement with Iran over a year ago, fulfilling a campaign promise.

“At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction, that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful, nuclear energy program,” Trump said at the time. “Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie.”

Should the world capitulate now to Tehran’s threats, it would make productive negotiations less likely. After all, Iran would have no incentive to compromise on its nuclear program if it faces no meaningful economic penalties for its misbehavior.

Ultimately, Iran will only negotiate a stronger nuclear deal if the costs of its nuclear misconduct far exceed the benefits.

The United States and Europe should, therefore, double down on economic sanctions against Iran. In the absence of such measures, Iran will likely continue its efforts to blackmail the international community, pocketing concessions without altering the malign behavior that spurred the crisis in the first place.

Washington should make clear that these sanctions will remain in place until Iran concludes a new agreement ensuring, in a verifiable manner, that it has abandoned its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

Olli Heinonen is senior adviser on science and nonproliferation at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. He is a former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency and head of its Department of Safeguards. Follow him on Twitter @OlliHeinonen. Tzvi Kahn is a senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow him on Twitter @TzviKahn.

Issues:

Iran Iran Global Threat Network Iran Nuclear Iran Politics and Economy Iran Sanctions Sanctions and Illicit Finance United Nations