Tuesday, March 31, 2015

What everyone gets wrong about Iran nuclear negotiations

Vox's Max Fisher talks with Nuclear Weapons expert Jeffrey Lewis about What everyone gets wrong about Iran nuclear negotiations. It's very useful.

"I'm way more worried about, like, the covert facility problem. I'm not as worried that they're going to use Natanz [or another known nuclear development site] to break out. I think if the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] wakes up one morning and is really feeling it, they're gonna dig another hole under a mountain someplace. So, to me, the value of the agreement is not just 'does it lengthen the breakout time' but does it make less likely they can build a secret facility."

"There is this question of dual use goods [that could be used for peaceful purposes or for a clandestine nuclear program] that they import; there is a whole bunch of stuff sanctions will come off of. And it would be good to have, like, a registry or database of those things, so we can at least check to see if they are importing, say, specialized ball bearings, and make sure those are not going to a facility under a mountain."

"It's easy to support automatic enforcement mechanisms [on nuclear treaty violations] until somebody points out that the South Koreans had a safeguard violation. And then [people inevitably say], "These things should be done on a case-by-case basis." So these treaties never really have an enforcement mechanism, which is, from a legal perspective, kind of weird and kind of a bummer but totally understandable in a world of states that jealously guard their sovereignty."

"I care about whether the IAEA can look at Iran's centrifuge workshops and can make sure that they're getting information about all of the different mining locations, so there's not another source of natural uranium that could be enriched some place else. So the agreement will have verification provisions. But our confidence in the agreement will also be based on an assessment of our intelligence capabilities. And give the intelligence community credit. I mean, they caught Iran with [secret nuclear sites at] Lavizan, Natanz, and Fordow."

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