A senior European Union official told Israeli officials this week that Israel is not privy to the details of the exchanges between Iran and the Western countries regarding its nuclear program. “You do not understand the extent to which you are not in the picture. You do not know how much you do not know and what is happening in Iran,” he said.
Accordingly, a number of senior Israeli officials backed the European official’s statements by saying that the release of the draft of an agreement with Iran caught Israel by surprise.
However, a senior official in the U.S. administration told Haaretz Thursday that from the minute the talks began on a deal over the uranium enrichment program of Iran, Israel was updated on every detail by the United States, and was given detailed reports on the talks with the Iranians and the ongoing dialogue on a nearly daily basis.
The Prime Minister’s Bureau refused to comment.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak spoke out Thursday against the draft agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, under which most of its enriched uranium will be exported abroad for processing into a form usable in its research reactor.
“Iran received legitimization for enriching uranium for civilian purposes on its soil, contrary to the understanding that those negotiating with it have about its real plans – obtaining nuclear [weapons] capability,” Barak said.
He acknowledged that the deal, if signed, would significantly reduce Iran’s stock of enriched uranium, but said what is needed is a complete halt to its enrichment program.
“The talks [with Iran] must be of short, limited duration,” he added. “The principle we are recommending to all the players is not, under any circumstances, to remove any option from the table.”
Iran is slated to sign the agreement Friday, along with the United States, France, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency. And while the Iranians might try to wrest some last-minute concessions from their interlocutors, most analysts expect that they will ultimately sign, despite objections from some Iranian parliamentarians who say it infringes on the country’s sovereignty.
Many details of the agreement have not yet been published, but the bits released to the public call for Iran to transfer about 1,200 kilograms of low-enriched uranium – about 75 percent of its known stock – to Russia. There, it will be enriched to a level of 20 percent and then transferred to France, where it will be processed into nuclear fuel and returned to Tehran for use in its research reactor, which makes medical isotopes. The entire process will take about 18 months.
This would leave Iran with only some 300 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, which is enough to make only about 6 kilograms of bomb-grade uranium. Since a nuclear weapon requires 25 to 30 kilograms of high-enriched uranium, that means Iran would lack the means to produce a bomb in the next year or so whatever its intentions.
Nevertheless, the deal completely ignores repeated UN Security Council resolutions demanding that Tehran stop enrichment. Instead, it effectively legitimizes Iranian enrichment and allows it to continue.