Two Israeli security experts said on Friday that they could envision a deal between Iran and the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany) over the former’s nuclear program that would include a provision allowing Iran to enrich low-grade uranium for civilian use.
“It is clear,” said Israeli Brig. Gen. (ret) Shlomo Brom at an event at the Center for American Progress today, “that such an agreement would not be possible without letting Iran having low level of enrichment.” Brom is the former director of the Strategic Planning Division in the Planning Branch of the General Staff.
Meir Javedanfar, an Iranian-Israeli analyst and lecturer at the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, shared that view. “If the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] gives a clean bill of health to Iran’s nuclear program,” he said at the same event, “And we know that Iran does not have any capability to make a nuclear weapon I think that could be acceptable to Israel.”
The United Nations has passed resolutions calling on Iran to suspend uranium enrichment. The Islamic Republic has not answered questions raised by the IAEA about suspected military dimensions of its nuclear program. Some argue that Iran should not be allowed to enrich uranium at any level, even as part of any future agreement.
Former Bush administration official Michael Singh, now at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, argued this position at the CAP event today saying it’s a poor negotiating strategy and “poor policy” to allow Iran to enrich uranium. “I don’t see any reason why we should trust Iran with a uranium enrichment program,” he said, adding that he thinks that Iran ultimately wants a nuclear weapon.
But Brom countered that indeed, the assumption is that Iran wants nuclear weapons and the goal of the negotiation process is to get its leaders to change their minds:
BROM: Certainly they want nuclear weapons that is the basic assumption. But the other assumption that we are having is that we are putting pressure on the Iranians to make them change their minds, to make them reach a point in which the costs will be too high and they will change their minds. And that is the question: Then what is happening when they change their mind? … You should not create a situation in which the costs of changing their minds will be still much higher than bearing the costs of the pressures.
Iran’s leaders “never told the public that they have a military program so once an agreement is reached and they are allowed a low level of enrichment and producing nuclear fuel …they can declare it a victory,” Brom said, adding, “A good agreement is an agreement which the two sides can declare victory.”
The Obama administration floated the possibility that it could accept a deal that would allow Iran to enrich uranium for civilian purposes as part of a wider deal but currently the the United States has said that Iran needs to comply with U.N. resolutions and suspend enrichment.
The Obama administration is aware, not only of the threat an Iranian nuclear weapon poses, but also the potential negative consequences of a military attack on Iran, such as those outlined in a recent bipartisan expert report. And that, coupled with U.N., U.S. and Israeli assessments that Iran has not yet decided on whether to build a nuclear weapon, leads the administration to pursue a diplomatic solution with Iran, a track the it deems the “best and most permanent way” to solve the nuclear crisis.