Also, the Islamic Republic is a theocracy: The most senior officials need to report face-to-face to their master. Jalili, an ill-tempered, narrow-minded, one-legged veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, lost face after a disastrous meeting in Geneva in October 2009, when he tentatively agreed to a nuclear-fuel swap, only to see the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, bat the deal down from Tehran. So no matter how well rehearsed, Jalili would need time for his boss to digest what was demanded and offered. In any case, as long as the Iranians were polite, we were going to have two meetings. And so there is another get-together scheduled for May 23 in Baghdad.
The odds are high, however, that the next session will lead to no diplomatic yellow-brick road. Round two could be a success, and lead to a round three, if Khamenei agreed to do five things: (1) Stop all uranium enrichment to 20 percent purity, which is near bomb-grade; (2) ship abroad the entire stockpile of 20 percent enriched uranium; (3) close the Fordow enrichment facility, which is buried under a mountain near the clerical city of Qom; (4) allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency immediate and unfettered access to any suspected nuclear site; and (5) permit the IAEA to install devices on centrifuges for monitoring uranium-enrichment levels. Khamenei is, to say the least, unlikely to agree to this.
It’s worth stressing that it is a serious mistake to allow Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards, who oversee terrorist operations and the nuclear program, any domestic enrichment capacity. This was the position of the Obama administration and our Western European allies. Now that consensus has apparently collapsed because Iranian agreement seems impossible. Khamenei’s determination to keep advancing uranium enrichment despite increasingly severe sanctions has paid off. Tehran has enough low-grade, 3.5 percent enriched uranium stockpiled to produce at least one, soon two, nuclear weapons.
Reuel Marc Gerecht is a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
The above article will be published in The Weekly Standard Magazine’s issue on April 30th, 2012 (Vol. 17, No. 31) and is available at weeklystandard.com.