US signaling approval of low-level uranium enrichment in Iran?

posted at 1:16 pm on April 28, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Almost five years ago, Barack Obama promised to end the impasse with Iran through personal diplomacy, committing to meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “without preconditions” during a 2007 Democratic presidential debate.  Obama hasn’t met with Iranian leadership personally, nor has the standoff over Iran’s nuclear ambitions improved at all during his presidency.  That’s the proper context for this LA Times report that highlights a shift in tone for the US on Iranian uranium enrichment, if perhaps not much of a shift in position:

In what would be a significant concession, Obama administration officials say they could support allowing Iran to maintain a crucial element of its disputed nuclear program if Tehran took other major steps to curb its ability to develop a nuclear bomb.

U.S. officials said they might agree to let Iran continue enriching uranium up to 5% purity, which is the upper end of the range for most civilian uses, if its government agrees to the unrestricted inspections, strict oversight and numerous safeguards that the United Nations has long demanded.

Such a deal would face formidable obstacles. Iran has shown little willingness to meet international demands. And a shift in the U.S. position that Iran must halt all enrichment activities is likely to prompt strong objections from Israeli leaders; the probable Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney; and many members of Congress.

But a consensus has gradually emerged among U.S. and other officials that Iran is unlikely to agree to a complete halt in enrichment. Maintaining an unconditional demand that it do so could make it impossible to reach a negotiated deal to stop the country’s nuclear program, thereby avoiding a military attack.

Is this really a “major concession”? Under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty, any country that offers unrestricted inspections and doesn’t produce highly-enriched uranium has the right to enrich and use uranium at low levels.  The Bush administration repeatedly acknowledged that right while stressing the need to work within the parameters of the IAEA and the non-proliferation treaty. The fact that Iran started this process in secret and lied about it continuously made it pretty clear that their intent wasn’t peaceful at all, but they have always had the right to enrich uranium within the parameters of the treaty.

The difference between then and now is that the US and the other P-5 nations that have struggled to get Iran to stop building nuclear weapons insisted that Iran stop all enrichment activities until the question of their intent was resolved.  That is still the position of the P-5 and Israel, although there have been some suggestions of making a concession to Iran to get their cooperation.  As this concession is described by the LA Times, nothing much has changed except for the sequencing.  Iran would still have to surrender any uranium enriched to the 20% mark, open all of its facilities to unrestricted inspections, and limit enrichment to 5%, far below any useful level for weapons.  That was going to be the end status for any kind of verifiable Iranian cooperation anyway, and without verification, nothing would change from the current status quo, except to get worse.  I doubt the Iranians will agree to this resequencing, mainly because I don’t think they will ever allow unrestricted inspections.

So why describe this as a “major concession” when it’s really just a restatement of principles that have undergirded the dispute for almost a decade — and why offer this now?  I suspect that the White House feels the need for a big win in foreign affairs, and resolving the Iranian crisis peacefully would give Barack Obama a huge boost in prestige before the elections.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, as long as Obama doesn’t give away the house in order to get a Neville Chamberlain moment.  Someone oversold this concession to the LA Times as a way to paint it as a potential breakthrough, but it’s not a very significant change, which means the Iranians are likely to ignore it, or perhaps more likely to use it to make even more demands from the P-5.


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“Cool Obama, oh yeaaaaahhhh” — Obama 2012

Arab Spring in ‘full bloom’. Name one free, or freer populace, due to Obama, I triple dare you.

P.S. don’t name the SEIU and the Black Panthers.

Schadenfreude on April 28, 2012 at 1:22 PM

PBHO is simply showcasing his flexibility. Just wait to see if he wins the election, you will see so much flexibility from PBHO that it will make your head spin.

Bishop on April 28, 2012 at 1:22 PM

I would imagine Israel is NOT all that happy with this news? Bibi, look out, it appears bho is going behind your back to stab you?

Also, bho did his krap going around congress again! This is sure to make Israel un-happy? Just what in the he!! does security to the US have to do with these rop types that want Israel off the face of the earth?

http://www.theblaze.com/stories/president-obama-overrides-congress-to-send-192m-to-palestinian-authority-important-to-the-security-intersts-of-the-united-states/
L

letget on April 28, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Send Dan Savage to negotiate.

batterup on April 28, 2012 at 1:25 PM

peace in our time!

golembythehudson on April 28, 2012 at 1:25 PM

So why describe this as a “major concession” when it’s really just a restatement of principles that have undergirded the dispute for almost a decade — and why offer this now?

Because it keeps the process going -it delays any substantial action against the regime and buys time for them to reach that ultimate goal. We’ve conceded more time.

Big surprise.

BKeyser on April 28, 2012 at 1:26 PM

Bibi even more committed to striking Iran now.

How can they not be? It will be in Israel (or more likely Riyahd) where Obama’s concessions on Iranian nuclear capability will be proven to be really dumb.

BobMbx on April 28, 2012 at 1:26 PM

BobMbx on April 28, 2012 at 1:26 PM

My pretty large stake in DBO says that Bibi and Israel will do the necessary thing by early summer.

MJBrutus on April 28, 2012 at 1:31 PM

as long as Obama doesn’t give away the house in order to get a Neville Chamberlain moment.

Good luck with that.

petefrt on April 28, 2012 at 1:33 PM

what would mittens do?

Pragmatic on April 28, 2012 at 1:38 PM

In order to change position it is incumbant upon one to have first had a position.

Exactly what is, was, or has been The One’s Position?

jaydee_007 on April 28, 2012 at 1:38 PM

if its government agrees to the unrestricted inspections, strict oversight and numerous safeguards that the United Nations has long demanded.

Chances of a snowball surviving in hell has better odds.

GarandFan on April 28, 2012 at 1:41 PM

Because nothing will heal the planet & stem the rising tide like a nuclear Iran.

Dark Star on April 28, 2012 at 1:41 PM

what would mittens do?

Pragmatic on April 28, 2012 at 1:38 PM

Talk about lazy. It isn’t as though Mitt hasn’t discussed and published his ideas.

MJBrutus on April 28, 2012 at 1:43 PM

Schadenfreude on April 28, 2012 at 1:22 PM

Muslim Brotherhood?

BL@KBIRD on April 28, 2012 at 1:59 PM

Trust Obama? He promotes himself as African-American when he is in reality 50% Red Diaper Baby, 43.75 Arab (descendant of Arab Slave Traders) and only 6.25% Black.

Basilsbest on April 28, 2012 at 2:24 PM

Obama

Just save the negotiating time and nuke one American city as an apology to Iran for allowing 50 Americans to be taken hostage back in 79.

Of course it would need to be a city in a red state.

lm10001 on April 28, 2012 at 2:27 PM

Are we suppose to be surprised that the coolest man in the world, who recycles his speeches does it everything else?

Cindy Munford on April 28, 2012 at 2:32 PM

I’m confused, perhaps Hills can set me straight. Is this an example of ‘smart power’ or strategic use of a ‘reset button?’

It should be easy to discern which of the two Obama foreign policy doctrines is in play, but I missed class the day they taught ‘nuance.’

NeoDawg on April 28, 2012 at 2:33 PM

Not to worry, if Barry is re-elected you will see a US embassy in and Barry’s first visit to Tehran…

albill on April 28, 2012 at 2:37 PM

Talk about lazy. It isn’t as though Mitt hasn’t discussed and published his ideas.

MJBrutus on April 28, 2012 at 1:43 PM

What was his position on Iran and Nukes before 2006? I don’t really trust his personal website as a source for his views on anything, actually.

Buckshot Bill on April 28, 2012 at 2:38 PM

So the “diplomatic breakthrough” is approval of what the Iranians have already done and were planning to continue doing, so they can continue doing it with our approval, even though they were going to do it no matter what we said.

And what we are “approving” is the first necessary step or two on the way to obtaining weapons grade uranium, which the Iranians are well past.

How absurd is all that?

If the situation weren’t so serious this ridiculous ex post facto revisionist “diplomatic” charade would be a joke. I’m sure the Iranians are laughing. I doubt the Israelis are.

If the Iranians and the world still had any doubts that Obama is weak and impotent this should remove all doubt. There should be no doubt in Israel’s mind they are on their own. And I expect the coalition we formed to impose sanctions on Iran to start falling apart, maybe sooner and faster than anyone thought.

God help us if Obama is re-elected to run our foreign policy another four years. He could make Chamberlain and Daladier look like tough negotiators.

farsighted on April 28, 2012 at 2:41 PM

Iran is still at war with us, no?

Curtiss on April 28, 2012 at 2:44 PM

Count me as not shocked that another Democrat President is handing nuclear power to a crazy regime.

txhsmom on April 28, 2012 at 2:45 PM

Cannot disagree with Ed more strongly on this. Iran made a farce of the NPT treaty they signed. Treating them as any other NPT signatoree is obscene, despite being signed to the treaty they as stated above for 20 years worked in secret on a nuclear weapons program.

The notion that verification or anything they commit to is some sort of acceptable result is unreal to me. This is North Korea all over again. Nothing more than buying more time for the West’s enemies.

We have made a monstrous mistake in Israel relying on the West again, a mistake of historic proportions :(

saus on April 28, 2012 at 2:48 PM

I will add that this policy makes the NPT treaty a joke, and will herald the destruction of non proliferation for the future at every level.

saus on April 28, 2012 at 2:49 PM

Please pay attention to another foreign-policy end-run over Congress that Obama just pulled. It was part of a Friday-night news dump, and we learn about it from foreign news sources.
http://www.powerlineblog.com/archives/2012/04/there-he-goes-again.php

Andy McCarthy is linked in this post, and he has a solution to stopping Obama’s riding roughshod over Congress. Do we have a Congress ready to tackle Obama?

onlineanalyst on April 28, 2012 at 2:50 PM

peace in our time!

golembythehudson on April 28, 2012 at 1:25 PM

Pretty close.

A closer parallel is what France and Germany did in the mid-1930s when they approved Hitler’s rearmament of Germany after the fact. The spineless rationalization was that Germany had the same right to the means to defend itself against aggression as any other nation.

farsighted on April 28, 2012 at 2:52 PM

I will add that this policy makes the NPT treaty a joke, and will herald the destruction of non proliferation for the future at every level.

saus on April 28, 2012 at 2:49 PM

May as well just tear the Non-Proliferation Treaty up.

This would affirm it is unenforced, non-operative, meaningless, and dead — that it has gone the way of the League of Nations after the Japanese and Italian aggressions in the 1930s.

farsighted on April 28, 2012 at 2:57 PM

These are likely there to prevent Israel from attacking Iran.

Schadenfreude on April 28, 2012 at 3:03 PM

farsighted on April 28, 2012 at 2:57 PM

I’m still in shock, but yes.

saus on April 28, 2012 at 3:27 PM

…but everybody said that when JugEars was elected…our standing and reputation in the world would change and we would be admired!
…how’s that working out for us?

KOOLAID2 on April 28, 2012 at 3:45 PM

I say go ahead and give the Iranians some enriched uranium.

Deliver it with B-52 bombers.

gordo on April 28, 2012 at 4:20 PM

Take this along with the $192M he’s giving to the PA/Hamas bunch of terrorists and he’s really setting this country up for a terrible time in the middle east. This goes way beyond a thumb in Israel’s eye. These 2 things along should amount to giving aide and comfort to the enemy and bring dear leader up on charges.

Kissmygrits on April 28, 2012 at 4:50 PM

I don’t care how obnoxious you thought the MittShills were. And I understand the GOP Progressives are trying their level best to “scrape Christians from their shoes”. But for at least one last time Conservatives need to support the GOP candidate to get rid of who is absolutely the worst president in my lifetime.

hawkdriver on April 28, 2012 at 4:50 PM

I don’t care how obnoxious you thought the MittShills were. And I understand the GOP Progressives are trying their level best to “scrape Christians from their shoes”. But for at least one last time Conservatives need to support the GOP candidate to get rid of who is absolutely the worst president in my lifetime.

hawkdriver on April 28, 2012 at 4:50 PM

I agree. Obama is that much of an existential threat to freedom across the world.

Progress towards a genuinely Conservative GOP (taken over from the ground up by Tea Partiers) or a separate conservative force can wait for a little while longer… November at the latest.

We need to save the country first.

In the mean time… we need more Tea Party Precinct Chiefs. Utah should be the model as to how we change the GOP from the ground up: more tea party precinct chiefs and primaries against establishment types.

But anyone who is thinking of voting for ABO needs to seriously do so. Right now ABO is Romney… so suck it up.

And if we get enough Tea Party types in Congress and Senate then maybe Romney will see the virtues of genuinely small government.

Chaz706 on April 28, 2012 at 5:31 PM

It swings itself.

He doesn’t want trouble, he is starting to panic!

Unfortunately, there is a lot of hardware over there. Probably to scare the Iranians while they run their enrichment and negotiating processes simultaneously.

The “big stick” will soon be out of Dear Leader’s control and the narcissist in him will let it fly.

IlikedAUH2O on April 28, 2012 at 8:23 PM

what would mittens do?

Pragmatic on April 28, 2012 at 1:38 PM

…Mitten’s would get his head to fit his ears!
(…beautiful picture!)

KOOLAID2 on April 28, 2012 at 9:29 PM

Is this really a “major concession”?

No, it’s a ploy that would allow the Obama administration to back off from the sanctions while proclaiming a “victory.”

J.E. Dyer on April 29, 2012 at 12:08 PM

Did Neville Chamberlain ever eat dog?

steveracer on April 30, 2012 at 6:17 AM