New Report: Nuclear Deal Should Allow Iran A Civilian Program

(Photo: Atlantic Council Iran Task Force report)

A new report released on Thursday by a Washington, D.C. think tank says that an agreement with Iran over its disputed nuclear program should include a provision to allow the Islamic Republic to keep civilian aspects of its program in exchange for a “complete lifting” of nuclear-related sanctions.

The report, titled “Time to Move from Tactics to Strategy on Iran” by the Atlantic Council’s Iran Task Force, also recommends more technological, academic and cultural exchanges between Iranians and Americans and to introduce measures to “facilitate trade in food, medicine, and medical supplies.”

At an event at the Atlantic Council on Thursday, Barbara Slavin, the report’s principle author, said that Iranians not only blame their own government for the effects of international sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic over its nuclear program, but they also “blame the United States as well.”

“And I worry very much that we are losing the goodwill of the Iranian people,” Slavin added.

On enrichment, the report, which comes as Iran and the five permanent U.N. Security Council members and Germany (P5+1) come together for new talks, says that “the Obama administration should lay out a step-by-step reciprocal and proportionate plan that ends with graduated relief of sanctions on oil, and eventually on the Iranian Central Bank, in return for verifiable curbs on Iranian uranium enrichment and stocks of enriched uranium, and assurances that Iran does not have undeclared nuclear materials and facilities.”

But while some have argued that Iran should not be allowed to enrich uranium at all, the Atlantic Council’s Iran Task Force, which includes former CIA and NSA Director MIchael Hayden, former Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff James Cartwright, and former Ambassador Thomas Pickering, implies that a deal with Iran should include allowing it to enrich uranium for civilian purposes, or below 5 percent purity (90 percent is needed for a weapon):

A complete end to nuclear- related sanctions, however, will require a verifiable end to Iranian enrichment beyond 5 percent U-235 and a reasonable understanding of how much low- enriched uranium Iran actually needs for a peaceful nuclear program

That assessment echoes one made recently by two Israeli experts, who said that an agreement between Iran and the P5+1 over the former’s nuclear program should include a provision allowing Iran to enrich low-grade uranium for civilian use. “It is clear,” said Israeli Brig. Gen. (ret) Shlomo Brom last October, “that such an agreement would not be possible without letting Iran having low level of enrichment.”

But the Atlantic Council Iran Task Force report also recommends that some sanctions, mainly ones that hurt ordinary Iranians, be lifted now as a sign of goodwill and to boost “people-to-people” ties. The Task Force says the Treasury Department should designate “a small number of US and private Iranian financial institutions as channels for payment for humanitarian, educational, and public diplomacy-related transactions.” Such a move, said Task Force head and former Deputy Treasury Secretary Stuart Eizenstat at the Atlantic Council event today, would “make it hard” for the Iranian regime to blame the U.S. for the tough times Iranians currently face.

The report comes on the heels of another new expert report on Iran from Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and the Federation of American Scientists says that Iran’s nuclear program cannot be “bombed away” and that diplomacy was the only way to keep it peaceful. “Given the country’s indigenous knowledge and expertise, the only long-term solution for assuring that Iran’s nuclear program remains purely peaceful is to find a mutually agreeable diplomatic solution,” the report said.