Iran, which last week began a new round of nuclear talks with the United States and five other world powers, says it will never agree to give up its right to make uranium fuel for peaceful nuclear energy.
“Iran must not have a nuclear weapons capability, which means that they shouldn’t have centrifuges for enrichment,” Netanyahu told reporters after a private meeting with Kerry in Rome. “ . . . I think a partial deal that leaves Iran with these capabilities is a bad deal.”
Administration officials say any agreement with Iran must include a combination of strict curbs on its nuclear activities and aggressive monitoring to ensure that Iran cannot use its nuclear facilities to make weapons. A report released Wednesday by independent nuclear experts said Iran’s ability to achieve a nuclear weapons “breakout” could be significantly impeded by imposing restrictions limiting the size of its uranium stockpile and the number and type of centrifuges it operates.
Still, Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf monarchies have joined Israelis in expressing growing dismay over U.S. suggestions that Iran could be allowed to
retain a limited capability to enrich uranium as part of a comprehensive agreement ending the
decade-old nuclear dispute.
Kerry’s visit with Netanyahu on Wednesday was seen in part as an effort to reassure Israelis that a deal with Iran would not come at the expense of security for Israel or other U.S. allies in the region.
Kerry said the administration would “pursue a diplomatic initiative, but with eyes wide open,” insisting that Iran would have to prove its peaceful intent in order to receive any relief from economic sanctions that have sent Iran’s economy into a deep recession. “We are adamant that words are no substitute for actions,” Kerry said. “We will need to know that actions are being taken which make it crystal clear — undeniably clear, fail-safe to the world — that whatever program is pursued is indeed a peaceful program.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney on Wednesday acknowledged disagreements with the Saudis over the administration’s policies in both Syria and Iran. “We work those out in a candid and forthright way as we maintain the basic foundation of this very important relationship,” he said.
At the crux of the disagreement over Iran is whether a deal can be struck that allows Tehran to enrich uranium for non-weapons purposes under controlled conditions that make it hard, if not impossible, to cheat.
To Israelis officials and many foreign-policy conservatives in Congress, the only fail-safe solution would be to require complete dismantlement of Iran’s uranium-enrichment program, which has grown since 2003 to include two enrichment plants containing tens of thousands of fast-spinning centrifuges to make nuclear fuel. Iran’s current, 11-ton stockpile — the result of decades of investment amounting to much as $200 billion, according to some estimates — consists of low-enriched uranium of the type used in nuclear power plants and medical research reactors. With additional processing to enrich it to weapons grade, the uranium could provide Iran with enough fuel for roughly 15 nuclear bombs.