U.S. sources: Iran nuclear deal includes Arak halt, uranium freeze, tough inspections
Obama to brief Congressional leaders on Wednesday talks in Geneva as Netanyahu maintains criticism of 'exceedingly bad' Iran proposals.
The P5+1 proposal that will be discussed at Wednesday’s talks with Iran at Geneva includes a halt on any further construction at the Arak heavy water plant as well as a freeze on Iran’s current stockpiles of enriched uranium.
According to informed U.S. sources, the proposal also includes the imposition of an unprecedented inspection regime aimed at ensuring that Tehran keeps the commitments that it will undertake in the new nuclear deal. The sources claim that this rigid regime, which will include daily inspections in some cases, may prove to be “the bitterest pill” for Iran to swallow.
The new details of the proposal come as the Administration continues its efforts to persuade Congress to refrain from imposing new sanctions on Iran and thus jeopardizing the chances for an accord. Sources in Washington say that U.S. President Obama intends to invite the leaders of both houses of Congress to the White House early this week in order to present details of the emerging deal with Iran and to ask for Congress to hold off on any new steps.
According to the new information on the proposed accord, Tehran would undertake to freeze all major construction inside the Arak heavy water plant in western Iran, though it would be allowed to continue other infrastructure operations outside the disputed plant. Israel and Western countries suspect that the Arak reactor known as IR-40 could eventually produce enough plutonium for 1-2 nuclear bombs each year.
In addition to stopping all uranium enrichment to 19.75%, Iran would also undertake to freeze current levels of its stockpiles of enriched uranium as a whole.
This would mean that Tehran would have to hand over previously enriched uranium equal to the quantities of newly enriched uranium produced in Iranian reactors.
Although these demands are still a far cry from Israel’s demand that Iran stop all nuclear enrichment and destroy its centrifuges, they will be used in the Administration’s ongoing efforts to persuade Congress to refrain from legislating new sanctions that could jeopardize the ongoing talks.
Informed sources said over the weekend that prospects for a quick Administration-defying move on sanctions in the Senate have already decreased significantly after Republican Arizona Senator John McCain said he would be willing to hold off on new sanctions. Although he described Secretary of State John Kerry as “a human wrecking ball” in Middle East negotiations, McCain later told the BBC "I am skeptical of talks with Iran but willing to give the Obama administration a couple months."
The Administration has also been talking to Jewish leaders in an effort to counteract Prime Minister Netanyahu’s arguments against the proposed agreement. Appearing on CNN’s State of the Union Sunday show yesterday, Netanyahu said that the “exceedingly bad deal” currently under discussion would only increase Iranian motivation to secure a nuclear weapons, cause the sanctions regime to “crumble” and inevitably lead to a “point where your only option is a military option.”
Netanyahu said that has “received information” that “countries and investors and companies are already scrambling to get to Iran” in anticipation of an easing of sanctions. “Everybody's getting ready to the starting line, to rush to Iran to give - to be in part of that deal.”
But despite his criticism, Netanyahu went out of his way to try and defuse some of the tensions that have been steadily building up between Jerusalem and Washington in the wake of disagreements between the two capitals over the Iran negotiations. Both in his CNN interview and in his address to the Israeli cabinet on Sunday morning, Netanyahu emphasized the deep ties and friendship between Israel and the US. Announcing Kerry’s upcoming visit to Israel following the Geneva talks Netanyahu said: “John Kerry is an old friend of mine and a friend of Israel and he is making an effort to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians. I want to make clear that there can be disagreements even between the best of friends, especially on issues related to our fate and future.”
Informed sources told Haaretz that some American interlocutors have told Netanyahu that the harshness of his attacks against the Administration have not only damaged the ties with the White House, but could be used against him if talks with Iran ultimately collapse. Netanyahu, they said, could be the one who will ultimately be blamed.