A Washington DC based watchdog monitoring US nuclear negotiations with Iran has said that the White House’s latest backpedaling on its negotiating positions follows a consistent trend.
In a statement to reporters, The Israel Project pointed to a Wall Street Journal report by Carol Lee about the deferment of a previously stated US demand that Iran resolve “questions concerning the possible military dimensions” (PMDs) of its atomic program at the front end of an agreement.
“Lee’s piece was specific to PMDs, but she could have written a near-identical column on centrifuges, heavy water work, and ballistic missile development,” the statement said.
The report comes as the negotiations hit yet another stumbling block before the fast-approaching March 31st deadline after Tehran refused to cooperate with a United Nations probe into whether Iran had tried to build atomic weapons in the past.
In response, say individuals close to the negotiations, the United States and the rest of the P5+1 are revising their demands on Iran to address these concerns before a final deal is signed.
Instead, the United States and its negotiating partners are now seeking Iran’s upfront approval on a 12-step work-plan to resolve questions related to their weaponization work. This new plan backpedals from previous stances, now seeking access to only some of Iran’s sites and documents believed to be tied to the “possible military dimensions” (PMDs) of Tehran’s nuclear program.
The new plan wouldn’t require Iran to immediately address the outstanding issues raised by the IAEA’s 2011 report on Iran’s nuclear program, requiring a full and detailed explanation of these activities only in the later years of the nuclear deal, which now looks like it will last 15 years. Essentially, this would be a move by the administration allowing Iran to put off disclosures until the pressure from sanctions has been lifted.
Analysts see this as another instance in the United States’ backpedalling on their demands from Iran regarding its nuclear program. The Israel Project, further noted that, “PMD disclosure is about baselining all of Iran’s nuclear activities – not just its known civilian parts – as a prerequisite for verifying that those activities have been halted under a nuclear deal,” and removing that disclosure would leave international inspective bodies virtually blind about whether Iran is continuing down developing the military aspects of its program.
This change of direction from the United States comes after the White House had assured law-makers over the course of the past year that they would deliver tangible and significant concessions from Iran regarding the PMDs and verification.
This latest capitulation follows on a series of increasingly permissible Western stances on Iran’s nuclear program.
What started in 2004 as a demand for permanent termination of uranium enrichment, changed the following year into allowing Iran to continue some enrichment at low-enriched uranium levels (LEU), i.e., less than 20 percent. Then instead, in 2009, Iran was asked to ship most of its LEU abroad to be turned into fuel rods with 20 percent enriched uranium, in addition to dropping the initial insistence that Iran halt fuel-cycle activities before proceeding to negotiations. In 2013, that position again changed, allowing Iran to keep enough 20 percent enriched uranium to run a research reactor while only suspending operations at its Fordow facility, despite previous demands that the facility be shut down. At that point, Iran promised to give up half of its 20 percent enriched uranium through a circuitous route, pledging to convert it into a form which could easily be reconverted to its original form, and it has retained the means of doing so.