WASHINGTON – With the re-election of Barack Obama, the U.S. plans further discussions with Iran over its nuclear enrichment program, a position that runs counter to the intentions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, according to a report in Joseph Farah’s G2 Bulletin.
Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency, or IAEA, said that negotiations will resume in December. There is an indication that the U.S. position would be to lessen at least some of the unilateral U.S. sanctions on Iran, depending on the concessions to which Iran intends to agree.
Iran has stated that it will consider cutting back on its enrichment efforts in exchange for a lessening or elimination of sanctions. The U.S. approach appears to be a compromise between the two positions as the two countries have agreed in back-channels to continue discussions as opposed to the more direct military action that Israel is threatening.
The U.S. position undoubtedly will be met with congressional opposition.
Meantime, Netanyahu has broken months of silence on the issue of Iran’s nuclear program by publicly restating the military option to deal with what Israel believes is Iran’s accelerated efforts to manufacture nuclear weapons.
U.S. and Israeli intelligence officials, however, appear to disagree on just how far Iran is in that process.
The Israeli prime minister, who has called for new elections on January 22, has hinted that after his re-election, Iran’s nuclear program will cease to exist.
His position comes despite internal opposition from his own military and intelligence chiefs, saying that the “responsibility, in the end, is that of the prime minister.”
Sources say that Netanyahu has had a strike strategy on Iran’s nuclear facilities ready to implement since 2010.
Netanyahu’s insistence comes despite the apparent opposition from Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who pointed out that Iran has delayed its own program by eight months, thereby giving Israel more time to decide whether or not to take military action against Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities.
In effect, Barak said, Iran has not yet met the “red line” referred to by Netanyahu in his recent speech before the United Nations General Assembly.
The U.S. and Israel have differing interpretations as to where that “red line” is to be drawn.
“From the U.S. perspective,” said an open intelligence source, Stratfor, in a recent report, “Iran exhibiting the intent and capability to weaponize a nuclear device would be enough to consider military action. Israeli leaders, by comparison, have said that Iran gaining the ability to produce enough fissile material for a single nuclear device would alone justify an attack.”
Based on a recent IAEA assessment, Iran has converted its higher level of uranium at the 20 percent level into powder for its medical research reactors, which technically makes it harder to reprocess the uranium for weapons production.
Israelis, however, are concerned that this is the enriched uranium stockpile the IAEA knows about, suggesting that Iran may have other enrichment efforts under way at still secret installations.
Weapons-grade uranium enrichment needs to achieve 90 percent or more purity levels.
The IAEA in a report last August conceded that Iran has moved some of its enrichment efforts into fortified bunkers deep underground, making them impervious to an air attack.
Sources say that Barak still believes that negotiations meant to get Iran to halt its nuclear program won’t work.
Netanyahu has stated that Israel will not tolerate a nuclear Iran and will not allow Iran to achieve the level of enrichment to make nuclear weapons.
For its part, Iran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes, it is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and is a member of the IAEA. As a consequence, it says it has an “inalienable right” to develop a nuclear program which includes uranium enrichment.
In addition, the Iranians point to fatwas, or religious edicts, from Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini, barring the development of nuclear weapons. Such edicts from the Supreme Leader are tantamount to law in Iran.
Israel, which is assessed by U.S. intelligence to have more than 200 strategic and tactical nuclear weapons developed at its nuclear reactor at Dimona, is neither an NPT signatory nor a member of the IAEA, even though it points to IAEA reports to assess the status of Iran’s nuclear development program.
Nevertheless, Iran has sent signals to pursue negotiations which Washington, with Obama’s recent reelection, will pursue. While Iran hasn’t provided any details of any concessions to date, Washington believes Iran is sounding more conciliatory.
An Iranian lawmaker, Mohammad Hassan Asafari, suggested that Tehran would be willing to suspend its enrichment to the 20 percent level in exchange for an easing of economic sanctions.
Sources say that Iran has now sent a signal for further discussions with the recent diversion of at least 37.6 percent of its enriched uranium stockpiles for reactor use, the action to which Barak referred.
Sources say that this diversion for use in its medical reactors makes the amount of enriched uranium for further enrichment to weapons grade less than what is needed to manufacture one nuclear weapon. They add that this has set back any alleged weapons program some eight months with the enrichment uranium Western intelligence knows about.
Obama’s reelection lessens the uncertainty that Iran had exhibited over who would occupy the White House. Now that Obama has been reelected for another four years, the Iranians are expected to do what is necessary to continue negotiations and ward off any attack.
If he had lost his reelection bid, sources believe the military option would be more imminent, since Mitt Romney during the presidential campaign echoed Netanyahu’s view that Iran should not be allowed to even have a nuclear program, let alone a program to allow the develop nuclear weapons.
However, Netanyahu said that Israel will go it alone, if necessary, to launch an attack once he believes that Iran has reached the proverbial red line.
Unless Iran has agreed to suspend its enrichment efforts as Netanyahu demands, sources say that an Israeli military attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could come anytime between January and next summer – a period in which Israel believes that proverbial red line will have been reached.
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