Karl Smallwood writes: Today I found out that during the height of the Cold War, the US military put such an emphasis on a rapid response to an attack on American soil, that to minimize any foreseeable delay in launching a nuclear missile, for nearly two decades they intentionally set the launch codes at every silo in the US to 8 zeroes.
We guess the first thing we need to address is how this even came to be in the first place. Well, in 1962 JFK signed the National Security Action Memorandum 160, which was supposed to ensure that every nuclear weapon the US had be fitted with a Permissive Action Link (PAL), basically a small device that ensured that the missile could only be launched with the right code and with the right authority.
There was particularly a concern that the nuclear missiles the United States had stationed in other countries, some of which with somewhat unstable leadership, could potentially be seized by those governments and launched. With the PAL system, this became much less of a problem.
Beyond foreign seizure, there was also simply the problem that many U.S. commanders had the ability to launch nukes under their control at any time. Just one commanding officer who wasn’t quite right in the head and World War III begins. As U.S. General Horace M. Wade stated about General Thomas Power:
I used to worry about General Power. I used to worry that General Power was not stable. I used to worry about the fact that he had control over so many weapons and weapon systems and could, under certain conditions, launch the force. Back in the days before we had real positive control [i.e., PAL locks], SAC had the power to do a lot of things, and it was in his hands, and he knew it.
To give you an idea of how secure the PAL system was at this time, bypassing one was once described as being “about as complex as performing a tonsillectomy while entering the patient from the wrong end.” This system was supposed to be essentially hot-wire proof, making sure only people with the correct codes could activate the nuclear weapons and launch the missiles.
However, though the devices were supposed to be fitted on every nuclear missile after JFK issued his memorandum, the military continually dragged its heels on the matter. In fact, it was noted that a full 20 years after JFK had order PALs be fitted to every nuclear device, half of the missiles in Europe were still protected by simple mechanical locks. Most that did have the new system in place weren’t even activated until 1977.
Those in the U.S. that had been fitted with the devices, such as ones in the Minuteman Silos, were installed under the close scrutiny of Robert McNamara, JFK’s Secretary of Defence. However, The Strategic Air Command greatly resented McNamara’s presence and almost as soon as he left, the code to launch the missile’s, all 50 of them, was set to 00000000. [Continue reading...]
For nearly two decades the nuclear launch code at all Minuteman silos in the United States was 00000000
The New York Times reports: The foreign policy chief of the European Union and Iranian officials announced a landmark accord Sunday morning that would temporarily freeze Tehran’s nuclear program and lay the foundation for a more sweeping accord.
After marathon talks that finally ended early Sunday morning, the United States and five other world powers reached an agreement with Iran to halt much of Iran’s nuclear program, and some elements would even be rolled back. It was the first time in nearly a decade, American officials said, that steps were taken to halt much of Iran’s nuclear program and roll some elements of it back.
The freeze would last six months, with the aim of giving international negotiators time to pursue the far more challenging task of drafting a comprehensive accord that would ratchet back much of Iran’s nuclear program and ensure that it could be used only for peaceful purposes.
“We have reached agreement,” Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s chief foreign policy official, posted on Twitter on Sunday morning.
According to the accord, Iran would agree to stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent. To make good on that pledge, Iran would dismantle the links between networks of centrifuges.
All of Iran’s stockpile of uranium that has been enriched to 20 percent, a short hop to weapons-grade fuel, would be diluted or converted into oxide so that it could not be readily used for military purposes.
No new centrifuges, neither old models nor newer more efficient ones, could be installed. Centrifuges that have been installed but which are not currently operating — Iran has more than 8,000 such centrifuges — could not be started up. No new enrichment facilities could be established. [Continue reading...]
The Associated Press reports: Trouble inside the Air Force’s nuclear missile force runs deeper and wider than officials have let on.
An unpublished study for the Air Force, obtained by The Associated Press, cites “burnout” among launch officers with their fingers on the triggers of 450 weapons of mass destruction. Also, evidence of broader behavioral issues across the intercontinental ballistic missile force, including sexual assaults and domestic violence.
The study, provided to the AP in draft form, says that court-martial rates in the nuclear missile force in 2011 and 2012 were more than twice as high as in the overall Air Force. Administrative punishments, such as written reprimands for rules violations and other misbehavior, also were higher in those years.
These indicators add a new dimension to an emerging picture of malaise and worse inside the ICBM force, an arm of the Air Force with a proud heritage but an uncertain future.
Concerned about heightened levels of misconduct, the Air Force directed RAND Corp., the federally funded research house, to conduct a three-month study of work conditions and attitudes among the men and women inside the ICBM force. It found a toxic mix of frustration and aggravation, heightened by a sense of being unappreciated, overworked, micromanaged and at constant risk of failure.
Remote and rarely seen, the ICBM force gets little public attention. The AP, however, this year has documented a string of missteps that call into question the management of a force that demands strict obedience to procedures. [Continue reading...]
Thomas Friedman writes: Never have I seen Israel and America’s core Arab allies working more in concert to stymie a major foreign policy initiative of a sitting U.S. president, and never have I seen more lawmakers — Democrats and Republicans — more willing to take Israel’s side against their own president’s. I’m certain this comes less from any careful consideration of the facts and more from a growing tendency by many American lawmakers to do whatever the Israel lobby asks them to do in order to garner Jewish votes and campaign donations.
That said, I don’t mind Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu of Israel and King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia going ballistic — in stereo — over this proposed deal. It gives Kerry more leverage. Kerry can tell the Iranians: “Look, our friends are craaaaaazzzy. And one of them has a big air force. You better sign quick.”
No, I don’t begrudge Israel and the Arabs their skepticism, but we still should not let them stop a deal. If you’re not skeptical about Iran, you’re not paying attention. Iran has lied and cheated its way to the precipice of building a bomb, and without tough economic sanctions — sanctions that President Obama engineered but which Netanyahu and the Arab states played a key role in driving — Iran would not be at the negotiating table.
It’s good to see Friedman again acknowledging the influence of the Israel lobby and not surprising that like so many others he repeats the trope that sanctions forced Iran to negotiate, but as Hossein Mousavian points out, the actual effect of sanctions has been the opposite of their intended effect:
Contrary to the claims of some US lawmakers and Israeli officials, sanctions only caused a dramatic rise in nuclear capability, as Tehran sought to show it would not respond to pressure. Before, Iran was enriching uranium to below 5 per cent at one site with 3,000 centrifuges and possessed a minute stockpile of enriched uranium. Today, it is enriching to 20 per cent at two sites with 19,000 centrifuges. It has a stockpile of 8,000kg of enriched uranium and more sophisticated centrifuges.
Scott McConnell writes: Faced with a contest between an arms-control intellectual—soberly pointing that a deal reducing Iran’s enrichment capacity and placing its remaining centrifuges under international inspection will do far more to ensure that Iran doesn’t build a nuclear weapon than continued sanctions and no deal at all—and a Nentayahuite screaming about Hitler and Munich and making racist comments about Iranians, the most attentive and educated slice of the population will favor diplomacy. But I suspect that more flamboyant arguments register more deeply with more of the American population. Obama risks having diplomats left high and dry without the backing of mass public opinion.
In fact, more emotive arguments to defend an Iran deal are available and shouldn’t be left in the closet. Take the obvious one. It is political malpractice that the administration’s allies, including those in Congress, fail to question the role Israel’s nuclear arsenal has played in the development of the current crisis. What role do Israel’s nukes play in pushing other Middle East states to take massive risks to develop their own nuclear technology? M.J. Rosenberg recently reminded readers of John F. Kennedy’s long and ultimately futile effort to monitor Israel’s nuclear program, constructed with blatant deception and dishonesty by French engineers at Dimona. Kennedy and the diplomats of the era pointed out again and again that by introducing nukes into the region, Israel risked setting off a cascade of nuclear proliferation. JFK was, of course, correct. If you speak to average Americans, there is an implicit assumption that the golden rule is a fair guide to thought and action, and there is something rather odd about Israel, stuffed to to gills with nuclear rockets and submarines, insisting that no one else can ever have them. But no one on Capitol Hill raises this point. What do they fear would happen to them?
(It’s a rhetorical question; I know they would face AIPAC-generated opposition. But I’m not sure AIPAC would know what to do if 40 members of Congress suggested exploring a nuclear free Mideast).
Farah Stockman writes: When Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu demands that Iran’s plutonium reactor at Arak be completely dismantled because it has “no peaceful purpose,” he is speaking from experience. Israel had built a similar plant, and engaged in similar deception, at Dimona.
That’s what spooks Israeli policymakers: Iran’s nuclear playbook feels all too familiar.
“When Israel looks at Iran, they see Iran as if Iran is like Israel 50 years ago,” said Avner Cohen, professor at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and author of “Israel and the Bomb” and “The Worst Kept Secret.”
If you look at things that way, the Iranian bomb feels downright inevitable.
But Iran isn’t Israel, Cohen points out. There are plenty of reasons the Iranian program could turn out differently.
Israel had a much deeper reason to seek the bomb. Surrounded by hostile neighbors bent on its destruction, Israel felt that nuclear weapons were the key to the Jewish state’s very survival. Iran faces no such existential threat.
And, unlike Israel, Iran signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. Iran is therefore subject to far stricter inspections than Israel ever allowed at Dimona. If Iran does decide to try to start producing weapons-grade fuel, the world is likely to discover it in time to stop it.
And while Johnson’s administration pressed Israel to sign the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, he looked the other way when Israel refused. Drawing attention to Israel’s refusal would have doomed the treaty. Arab countries would have jumped ship. At the end of the day, Americans could live with an Israeli bomb, as long as Israelis didn’t advertise it by testing it. Iran can’t expect the same deal.
“I think Iranians know the world is not going to allow them” to have a nuclear weapon, Cohen said.
Instead, he said, Iran appears to be trying to keep its nuclear options open, inching as close to the ingredients for a bomb as the Nonproliferation Treaty allows, while refraining from actually building one. [Continue reading...]
Barbara Slavin reports: Although Iran and the international community failed to achieve a breakthrough in Geneva last week, Iran has slowed its nuclear program in what could be a goodwill gesture intended to show that it will abide by a nuclear agreement.
According to the latest quarterly report by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Iran has added only four rudimentary centrifuges to its main uranium enrichment plant at Natanz since August, for a total of 15,240 — of which about 10,000 are operating. In the previous reporting period of May to August, Iran put more than 1,800 new centrifuges into Natanz.
The Iranians continued to enrich uranium and now have a stockpile of more than 7,000 kilograms of uranium enriched to 5% U-235. But its stockpile of 20% uranium — perilously close to weapons grade — remains largely in a form difficult to further enrich, according to the IAEA. Iran added only 10 kilograms to its stockpile of greatest concern, for a total of 196 kilograms – still below the Israeli “red line” of 240 kilograms sufficient, if further processed, to make a nuclear weapon.
The report comes at an extremely sensitive time, with negotiations due to resume in Geneva next week between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1) on an agreement that would pause much of the Iranian program and roll back some of it in return for moderate sanctions relief. The Barack Obama administration is trying to convince the US Senate not to approve more sanctions while the negotiations continue; this IAEA report could help its case. [Continue reading...]
Christopher Dickey writes: Those who follow closely the machinations of the Quai d’Orsay (as the French foreign ministry is called) see French perversity as just one part of the picture, along with some fundamental shifts in the government’s attitudes toward the Middle East.
“Of course if you are a French politician, there is always some benefit when you pee on the shoes of the Americans,” says journalist Gilles Delafon, author of Reign of Contempt, an up-close look at French diplomacy under the presidency of Nicolas Sarkozy from 2007-2012. “There is also the fact that President Hollande is going to visit Israel this month.”
Indeed. The reasons French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius gave for dashing the high hopes for a deal with Iran in Geneva echoed in substance the bitter attacks on the negotiating process leveled earlier in the week by Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu. Hollande certainly will get a warmer reception by the Likud and its allies as a result.
Syria has been a complicating factor. It’s now well known that the Israelis and Saudis were appalled when President Obama first threatened to bomb the military installations of the Assad regime to punish it for using chemical weapons, then reversed course, pleaded for the approval of Congress and accepted a Russian-brokered diplomatic deal to eliminate Assad’s poison-gas arsenal.
But it was French President Hollande who really got left out on a limb. When no other country agreed to back Obama’s attack plan, Hollande committed himself not only to give political support, but also to participate in the operation. According to the French press, some French warplanes were already on their way to the skies over Syria when Hollande got word the attack had been called off.
Hollande has the lowest approval ratings of any president in modern French history, and that little humiliation at Obama’s hands did him no good at all.
But there is also a deeper current of hostility to Obama’s penchant for peacemaking. [Continue reading...]
UPI reports: Iran says it will permit the International Atomic Energy Agency to start inspecting a heavy-water reactor in Arak and a uranium mine, officials said.
An agreement to inspect the facilities was signed in Tehran Monday by Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization, and Yukiya Amano, director general of the IAEA, the semiofficial Fars News Agency reported.
Iranian officials said the agreement opened the way for inspections at the reactor and the Gachin uranium mine. It was described as “the Iranian government’s new approach” on the nuclear issue, the report said.
The New York Times reports: Marathon talks between major powers and Iran failed on Sunday to produce a deal to freeze its nuclear program, puncturing days of feverish anticipation and underscoring how hard it will be to forge a lasting solution to Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Emerging from a last-ditch bargaining session that began Saturday and stretched past midnight, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, and Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, said they had failed to overcome differences. They insisted they had made progress, however, and pledged to return to the table in 10 days to try again, albeit at a lower level.
“A lot of concrete progress has been made, but some differences remain,” Ms. Ashton said at a news conference early Sunday. She appeared alongside Mr. Zarif, who added, “I think it was natural that when we started dealing with the details, there would be differences.”
In the end, though, it was not only divisions between Iran and the major powers that prevented a deal, but fissures within the negotiating group. France objected strenuously that the proposed deal would do too little to curb Iran’s uranium enrichment or to stop the development of a nuclear reactor capable of producing plutonium.
“The Geneva meeting allowed us to advance, but we were not able to conclude because there are still some questions to be addressed,” the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, told reporters after the talks ended.
Neither Ms. Ashton nor Mr. Zarif criticized France, saying that it had played a constructive role. But the disappointment was palpable, and the decision to hold the next meeting at the level of political director, not foreign minister, suggested that the two sides were less confident of their ability to bridge the gaps in the next round. [Continue reading...]
Julian Borger adds: Privately, however, other diplomats at the talks were furious with the role of the French foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, whom they accused of breaking ranks by revealing details of the negotiations as soon as he arrived in Geneva on Saturday morning, and then breaking protocol again by declaring the results to the press before Ashton and Zarif had arrived at the final press conference.
Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani said on Sunday that its “rights to enrichment” of uranium were “red lines” that would not be crossed and that the Islamic Republic had acted rationally and tactfully during the negotiations, according to Iranian media reports quoted by Reuters.
“We have said to the negotating sides that we will not answer to any threat, sanction, humiliation or discrimination. The Islamic Republic has not and will not bow its head to threats from any authority,” he said during a speech at the National Assembly, Iran’s student news agency said.
French opposition was focused on a draft text agreement that laid out a short-term deal to slow down or stop elements of the Iranian nuclear programme in return for limited sanctions relief. The French complained that the text, which they said was mostly drafted by Iran and the US, had been presented as a fait accompli and they did not want to be stampeded into agreement.
Fabius told France Inter radio yesterday morning that Paris would not accept a “fools’ game”. “As I speak to you, I cannot say there is any certainty that we can conclude,” he said.
Iranian officials insisted that the draft had been written in close collaboration with western officials, and said France was single-handedly holding up progress by dividing the “P5+1″ negotiating group, comprising the US, UK, France, Germany, Russia and China.
Zarif would not comment on the French role directly but said: “Although the questions of the P5+1 should be addressed, a great deal of time is being spent on negotiations within the P5+1 group. This is normal because they are six nations with different views and their own national interests and they need to agree.” He said that when the P5+1 was ready to agree, “we are ready to find a solution”.
Mark Urban writes: Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will, a variety of sources have told BBC Newsnight.
While the kingdom’s quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran’s atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic.
Earlier this year, a senior Nato decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.
Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.” [Continue reading...]
Barbara Slavin reports: As Iran, the United States and their negotiating partners prepare to meet again in Geneva this week, a potential compromise is taking shape that would allow Iran to keep all or most of its declared nuclear facilities, but under strict monitoring and other restrictions that would make it extremely difficult to build weapons. Even if such a deal was to be concluded, however, it’s not an outcome that would be easily accepted by Israel and its more hawkish allies on Capitol Hill.
Officials familiar with the negotiations suggest that the emerging compromise formula could satisfy the urgent non-proliferation concerns of the U.S. and the other permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany (the P5+1) group, while also allowing Iran to say that its right to a peaceful nuclear program had been respected.
Declared opponents of such a compromise — including Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – insist that Iran be required to dismantle most if not all its nuclear infrastructure, especially the underground uranium enrichment plant at Fordow and a heavy water reactor under construction at Arak which, when completed and brought online, would yield plutonium, another potential bomb fuel. However, even if Iran proves willing to accept new limits on its production of nuclear fuel and more intrusive monitoring of its facilities, it’s unlikely to agree to destroy infrastructure for whose construction it has paid such a heavy economic and diplomatic price. (Even if it did agree to their dismantling, Iran would retain the know-how to rebuild them.) Former and current U.S. officials – and even several Israeli security experts – have told this author that any realistic diplomatic solution would leave Iran with some enrichment capacity. [Continue reading...]
The Observer reports: Chilling new evidence that Britain and America came close to provoking the Soviet Union into launching a nuclear attack has emerged in former classified documents written at the height of the cold war.
Cabinet memos and briefing papers released under the Freedom of Information Act reveal that a major war games exercise, Operation Able Art, conducted in November 1983 by the US and its Nato allies was so realistic it made the Russians believe that a nuclear strike on its territory was a real possibility.
When intelligence filtered back to the Tory government on the Russians’ reaction to the exercise, the prime minister, Margaret Thatcher, ordered her officials to lobby the Americans to make sure that such a mistake could never happen again. Anti-nuclear proliferation campaigners have credited the move with changing how the UK and the US thought about their relationship with the Soviet Union and beginning a thaw in relations between east and west.
The papers were obtained by Peter Burt, director of the Nuclear Information Service (NIS), an organisation that campaigns against nuclear proliferation, who said that the documents showed just how risky the cold war became for both sides.
“These papers document a pivotal moment in modern history – the point at which an alarmed Thatcher government realised that the cold war had to be brought to an end and began the process of persuading its American allies likewise,” he said.
“The Cold War is sometimes described as a stable ‘balance of power’ between east and west, but the Able Archer story shows that it was in fact a shockingly dangerous period when the world came to the brink of a nuclear catastrophe on more than one occasion.”
Able Archer, which involved 40,000 US and Nato troops moving across western Europe, co-ordinated by encrypted communications systems, imagined a scenario in which Blue Forces (Nato) defended its allies after Orange Forces (Warsaw Pact countries) sent troops into Yugoslavia following political unrest. The Orange Forces had quickly followed this up with invasions of Finland, Norway and eventually Greece. As the conflict had intensified, a conventional war had escalated into one involving chemical and nuclear weapons.
Numerous UK air bases, including Greenham Common, Brize Norton and Mildenhall, were used in the exercise, much of which is still shrouded in secrecy. However, last month Paul Dibb, a former director of the Australian Joint Intelligence Organisation, suggested that the 1983 exercise posed a more substantial threat than the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. “Able Archer could have triggered the ultimate unintended catastrophe, and with prompt nuclear strike capacities on both the US and Soviet sides, orders of magnitude greater than in 1962,” he said. [Continue reading...]
Paul Pillar writes: There are popular fundamental misconceptions about Iran’s nuclear program: that the Iranian leadership has a fixed goal of acquiring a nuclear weapon, that if left alone Iran would build such a weapon and that this presumed ambition will be thwarted only if the rest of the world imposes enough costs and barriers. These misconceptions infuse much of the U.S. discourse on Iran, as reflected in frequent, erroneous references to Iran’s “nuclear weapons program.” These mistakes encourage a posture toward Iran that makes it more, not less, likely that Tehran will decide someday to build a bomb.
Public U.S. intelligence assessments are that Iran has not made any such decision and might never do so. Iranians have been interested in the option of a nuclear weapon, and some of their nuclear activities have helped to preserve that option. Whether they ever exercise the option depends primarily on the state of their relationship with the rest of the world, particularly the United States. As they sit down for their next round of talks with Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, the United States and its negotiating partners have an opportunity to forge a relationship with an Iran that remains a non-nuclear-weapons state — not so much because of technical barriers they might raise, but because the relationship would be one in which the Iranians would not want a nuclear weapon. [Continue reading...]
Al Monitor reports: Following the conclusion of the first nuclear talks between Iran and the P5+1 since the election of President Hassan Rouhani, buzz over the exact details of what transpired in Geneva is aplenty.
The exact contents of the Iranian proposal, formulated in a Powerpoint presentation titled, “Closing an Unnecessary Crisis, and Opening a New Horizon,” are unclear. However, reports have surfaced with purported details of the Iranian position.
Amid the reports, officials in Tehran involved in the nuclear negotiations remain adamant in their insistence that their proposal will remain under wraps pending an agreement.
In an interview with Al-Monitor, Iranian Foreign Minister and chief nuclear negotiator Mohammad Javad Zarif, referring to the reports about alleged details of the Iranian proposal, categorically denied their authenticity. “These are speculations that have little in common with reality,” he told Al-Monitor, maintaining his posture that “our refusal to unveil details of the proposal is a sign of our sincerity and seriousness.”
Asked about the anonymity of the source who claimed to have knowledge about the details of the Iranian proposal, Zarif said, “None of the officials involved in the nuclear negotiations speak off the record. We only speak on the record.” [Continue reading...]
Fred Kaplan writes: Readers glancing away from the debt ceiling showdown may have noticed the hopeful headlines on some other unlikely negotiations in Geneva over the fate of Iran’s nuclear program. Two points are missing from most of the stories about these talks. First, the chances for a truly historic breakthrough are pretty good — which, at this stage in talks of such magnitude, is astonishing. Second, the Iranians’ main demands—at least what we know of them — are pretty reasonable.
Toward the end of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s ground-shaking trip to New York last month, it was announced that his foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, would meet Tuesday and Wednesday in Geneva with delegates from the P5+1 states — the five nuclear powers (the United States, Russia, China, France, and Britain) plus Germany — with the goal of finishing an accord within a year.
Many saw this timetable as way too ambitious, and given how talks of this sort typically proceed, it was. But these talks—the first round anyway — turned out to be far from typical. Rather than recite boilerplate principles and opening gambits, Zarif presented an hourlong PowerPoint briefing — in English, so there would be no misunderstandings — laying out a path for negotiations and a description of a possible settlement, replete with technical detail.
Not only that, but after the first day of meetings, the U.S. and Iranian delegations broke away for an hourlong bilateral session, which American officials described as “useful” in clearing up ambiguities. After the second day, another meeting was set for Nov. 7–8. Some said it would be at the “ministerial” level, which, if true, would mean Secretary of State John Kerry would head the American delegation. A U.S. secretary of state doesn’t usually become so visibly involved until much closer to the end of a negotiation, suggesting that maybe we’re closer to the end than anyone could have imagined.
This is remarkably fast work for any set of nations negotiating any issue — much less for nations that haven’t had diplomatic relations in 34 years, and on an issue that ranks among the globe’s most perilous and contentious. [Continue reading...]
Barbara Slavin adds: Iran has put forward a new proposal to resolve the nuclear crisis that includes a freeze on production of 20% enriched uranium, a pledge to convert its stockpile to fuel rods and an agreement to relinquish spent fuel for a still-to-be completed heavy water reactor, according to an Iranian source who has proven reliable in the past.
The offers, combined with increased scrutiny by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), are meant to provide confidence that Iran could not quickly break out of its nuclear obligations and make nuclear weapons.
The Iranian, who asked not to be identified because the negotiations that resumed Tuesday, Oct. 16, in Geneva are supposed to be confidential, said the proposal presented by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif included two stages, each to last a maximum six months.
In the first stage, the source said, Iran would stop producing 20% enriched uranium and “try to convert the stock” it has amassed to fuel rods for the Tehran Research Reactor, an old American-origin facility that produces medical isotopes.
Iran has already converted or set aside the bulk of the more than 370 kilograms [815 pounds] of uranium it has enriched to 20% — which is easy to further enrich to weapons grade — but it isn’t clear whether Iranians have the know-how to produce workable fuel rods. [Continue reading...]