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“Manufactured Crisis:” Obama Administration’s Response to Iran’s Increase in Low Enriched Uranium

Following the release of the latest IAEA report on May 29th disclosing a 20% increase in low enriched uranium (LEU), the Washington, D.C. based Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) analyzed the findings and in its report questioned why scrap was used to spike production. The IAEA report principal findings cited in an Algemeiner report were:

Contrary to the relevant resolutions of the Board of Governors and the Security Council, Iran has not suspended all of its enrichment related activities in the declared facilities.

The agency remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.

The New York Times published an article in response that reflected concerns over why Iran had continued LEU production, despite Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) agreements to the contrary.   The implication was that perhaps Iran had effectively been  ‘cheating’  using  it as a bargaining chip should no agreement be reached .  This would be a possible violation of the original November 2013 JPOA.  An Israeli diplomat commented in the Algemeiner report:

That’s exactly the problem with dropping the sanctions before Iran has proved any goodwill. The Americans are going to be doing business with Iran, and the Austrians, the Germans ,  the French and the whole world are going to do business with Iran.

That possibility was raised in a reporter’s question to Josh Earnest at yesterday’s White House Daily Press Briefing.  Ms. Marie Harf at the later State Department Daily Press Briefing expressed the view that the U.S. negotiating team “was perplexed” by the NYTimes report suggesting that nothing was awry and questioning whether it was a “manufactured crisis”. She alleged , the IAEA  had verified the LEU production under the JPOA, suggesting that Iran was in compliance.

Note these excerpted C-SPAN videos of exchanges with  journalists’ questions about  the Iran IAEA and NYTimes reports on LEU production at yesterday’s State Department and White House Daily Press Briefings.

Watch Marie Harf, State Department Spokesperson on “A Manufactured Crisis” over the NYTimes report on Iran LEU:

Watch Josh Earnest, White House Press Spokesman response to reporter’s question about Iran’s “Cheating” on LEU production:

The Daily TIP Report of The Israel Project summarized these latest concerning developments:

Iran has increased its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by one-fifth during the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPOA), according to a Monday report in The New York Times, despite repeated claims by the Obama administration that Iran has halted progress on its nuclear programThis raises concerns about the uranium stockpile in any future deal. In late March, during negotiations in Lausanne, Switzerland, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, Abbas Araqchi, said that the uranium would not be shipped abroad.  If Iran maintains a stockpile of low-enriched uranium or oxidized uranium (the latter can be reversed in the matter of a few weeks), it would have permanent access to multiple nuclear bombs’ worth of enriched uranium. A White House fact sheet released upon the signing of the JPOA in November 2013 stipulated that Iran would “[n]ot increase its stockpile of 3.5% low-enriched uranium, so that the amount is not greater at the end of [the agreement] than it is at the beginning.” According to the most recent report by the International Atomic Energy Agency cited by the Times, not only has Iran increased its stockpile, but it has sped up the pace of enrichment.

Furthermore, in a May analysis, the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) concluded that most of Iran’s near-20% enriched uranium is in the form of scrap rather than fuel assemblies. Moreover, Iran is currently conducting R&D on how to recover this highly-enriched uranium from scrap. ISIS wrote previously that the administration has failed to take into account the fact that both the near-20% enriched fuel and near-20% enriched scrap can be reconverted back into enriched uranium for use in a bomb, which would drastically reduce breakout time. In its most recent report, ISIS wrote, the use of near-20% enriched uranium “can significantly speed up breakout timelines to well below 12 months.”

The understandings announced in Lausanne on April 2 call for the reduction of Iran’s uranium stockpile, but do not specify the mechanism by which that would be done.

As we noted the IAEA report also expressed unease that its findings did not include any inspection of military sites, a matter of increasing concern given comments by French Foreign Minister Fabius in a WSJ interview. Fabius contended that without inspection of military sites like Parchin ,and unknown others that Iran’s Supreme Ruler has blocked, the P5+1 final agreement targeted for the end of this month would be “useless.” With Secretary of State Kerry flown back to Boston for  repair and treatment of a broken leg  sustained in a bike accident in Switzerland, whether the U.S. negotiating team can produce a  “tough verifiable” agreement with Iran. One  capable of surviving a 30 day review by Congress under INARA.

President Obama in his interview on Israel’s Channel 2 suggested that a tough verifiable inspection with snap back sanctions approved by Iran would prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear device in 10, 15 or even twenty years.  Moreover, he suggested  there was no military option that would completely deter Iran from achieving a nuclear weapon.  The Israeli body polity and many Americans including the national ‘paper of record’, the New York Times, are increasingly skeptical of the President’s blandishments about achieving a tough verifiable deal.  A Capitol Hill panel  was composed of former US Senators Evan Bayh, Joseph Lieberman, former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden, John Hannah and Ray Takeyh of the Iran Task Force of he Foundation for Defense of Democracies   discussed this on June 1st. They confirmed what Israeli Prime  Minister  Netanyahu and 47 GOP Senators had said in an address to Congress and a letter to Iran’s Supreme Ruler that the P5+1 process could result in  a “very bad deal”.  These latest revelations by the IAEA, NYTimes, ISIS and the  FDD Iran task Force suggest  that  a possible P5+1 agreement with Iran  may be slipping away from Obama’s grasp.

Watch the FDD Iran Task Force panel C-Span Video:

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review.