U.S. and Iranian officials have described last week’s framework for a deal to slow Iran’s nuclear weapons program with disturbingly different details. According to a Times of Israel report Tuesday, the U.S. account also differs significantly with a key ally – France.
The proposed deal lets Iran continue to develop use advanced centrifuges which could allow for uranium enrichment as much as 20 times faster than the Islamic Republic’s current technology. After 12 years, Iran can actually resume enriching uranium, which the newspaper reported “would enable Iran to more rapidly accumulate the highly enriched uranium needed to build nuclear weapons, accelerating its breakout time to the bomb.” The source is an internal French government fact-sheet which the newspaper was able to review, but which has not been released publicly.
That timeline, however, dovetails with an acknowledgment President Obama made this week in an interview with National Public Radio. Iran’s “break-out” time to make a bomb could shrink “almost down to zero” by year 13 after any final deal is negotiated, Obama said.
Israeli analyst Ehud Yaari identified six terms in the proposed agreement in which the United States and Iran have offered different assessments. Among them: Iran believes it stands to secure immediate relief from crippling economic sanctions, while the U.S. says that relief comes in phases as various commitments are met. In addition, Iran believes it can continue to use the Fordo underground uranium enrichment plant for developing centrifuges, while the U.S. says no enrichment could take place there for 15 years.
Israeli Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz briefed reporters Monday on recommendations which could lead to “a more reasonable agreement.” The Fordow plant must be shut down entirely, inspectors must be able to make unannounced visits “anywhere, anytime” and development of new centrifuges must be prohibited, he said.
Although Israel prefers a diplomatic solution to the issue, Steinitz acknowledged, it was still reserving the right to take military action against Iran should it be necessary.
“It’s still on the table, it’s going to remain on the table,” he said. “It’s our right and duty to decide how to defend ourselves, especially if our national security and even very existence are under threat.”
Read the full interview in which Olli Heinonen details his concerns