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Former Israeli Intel Chief Says Deal Allowing Iran Civilian Uranium Enrichment Is ‘Reasonable’

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"Former Israeli Intel Chief Says Deal Allowing Iran Civilian Uranium Enrichment Is ‘Reasonable’"

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Gen. Amos Yadlin (ret.)

Gen. Amos Yadlin (ret.)

The former head of Israel’s military intelligence said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed published online on Tuesday evening that an agreement with Iran on its nuclear program that would allow it some capabilities to enrich uranium for civilian purposes would amount to a “reasonable” deal.

Former Israeli Defense Forces intel chief Gen. Amos Yadlin, who is now the director of Israel’s Institute for National Security Studies, and Avner Golov, a researcher at the institute, write that an ideal agreement would involve Iran completely dismantling its nuclear program and ceasing all enrichment. “A less good, but still reasonable, agreement,” they add, “would be a compromise that meticulously addresses the critical elements of Iran’s nuclear program. Iran would retain its right to enrich uranium, but only to a low 3.5%-5% nonmilitary grade.” In addition, the authors say that such a “reasonable” deal would include more intrusive inspections, and the closing of two controversial nuclear facilities and Arak and Fordow:

This agreement would put clear limits on Iran’s centrifuges. The country, which currently has more than 19,000, would be allowed to keep a small, symbolic number to prove that Iran has the presumptive right to enrich for nonmilitary purposes. It would also cap the amount of enriched material, which the International Atomic Energy Agency would oversee. To ensure this, Iran would have to re-sign and implement the additional protocol, which would enable the IAEA to carry out much more thorough inspections. The Iranians would also have to guarantee that the Arak reactor is not functional. Fordow would be closed, and all Iranian nuclear activity would have to be carried out at Natanz. Last, the transformation to fuel rods would be done outside of Iran to ensure that the Iranians won’t ever be able to use the enriched uranium for a bomb in case they abandon the agreement in the future.

Yadlin’s position marks a distinct departure from the official Israeli government line announced this week, in that it supports a peaceful Iranian nuclear program that doesn’t allow for the Islamic Republic to enrich its own uranium — a position that experts have called “unrealistic.”

While Western and Obama administration officials aren’t giving too many details on what they think a final agreement will look like, some have speculated that there’s a good chance a compromise will include allowing Iran to continue to enrich uranium at low levels. But not if Congress has its way. As Foreign Policy reported on Tuesday, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators, backed by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, “strongly oppose lifting any of the existing sanctions on Iran unless Tehran” agrees to cease all uranium enrichment on its soil.

Indeed, a bipartisan group of senators said in a letter to President Obama last week that they would continue to pile on more sanctions on Iran unless the Islamic Republic gives up all enrichment.

Talks between Iran and the P5+1 (the five members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) in Geneva this week have been reportedly positive as Iran presented its position on Tuesday that reportedly envisions an “endgame” in the standoff over its nuclear program. Officials from the U.S. and its international partners remain cautious about the Tehran’s intentions but the Iranians maintain they are ready to talk. “We are very serious. We are not here symbolically, to waste our time,” Iran’s lead negotiator Abbas Araqchi said Tuesday. The negotiations are continuing on Wednesday, with reports that all sides will reconvene in a few weeks.

Update

Retired Israeli Brig. Gen. Shlomo Brom also said last year that Iran should be allowed to enrich uranium for civilian use as part of a comprehensive agreement. “It is clear,” he said, “that such an agreement would not be possible without letting Iran having low level of enrichment.”

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