The Obama administration, in advanced negotiations on nuclear-cooperation agreements with Jordan and Vietnam, has withdrawn a demand that these countries forgo their rights to produce nuclear fuel, senior U.S. officials said.
The policy shift, adopted after an extensive interagency review, drew criticism from some U.S. lawmakers, who charged that it could ease the spread of sensitive nuclear technologies. . . .
Lawmakers and nonproliferation experts also said they fear more lenient nuclear-cooperation agreements with Jordan and Vietnam could undercut the campaign to contain Iran’s nuclear program.
Both the Obama and George W. Bush administration have stressed to Tehran that it doesn’t need to enrich uranium domestically because it can buy nuclear fuel on international markets.
Remember, this entire exercise — to make the world free from nuclear weapons — is somewhat farcical given the efforts by Iran and North Korea to join the club of nuclear-armed nations. But now the Obama administration has made a mockery of its own fanciful policy.
Jamie Fly, executive director of the Foreign Policy Initiative, told me last night: “President Obama has frequently discussed his vision of a world without nuclear weapons and trumpeted his multilateral initiatives on nuclear security. Given this, the recklessness his administration is showing toward the transfer of civilian nuclear technology is astonishing and will lead us down the path to a world in which many more countries will have the ability to develop military nuclear programs if they so desire.”
Other conservative critics of the president’s national security policy were equally baffled by this move. Cliff May, president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, e-mails me: “President Obama has always appeared deeply and sincerely concerned with the threat of nuclear proliferation. It’s difficult for me to see how this change in policy is not detrimental to that cause.”
But like Russian “reset,” the administration is eager to make deals, to give the illusion of progress. And, you see, nations wouldn’t agree to stop producing nuclear fuel, so the administration had to do something. The solution? Give in. As the Journal report explained:
The Obama administration in 2009 signed a nuclear-cooperation agreement with the United Arab Emirates that bound the Arab country not to enrich uranium domestically or reprocess spent plutonium fuel, the two technologies that can be used to produce atomic weapons.
President Barack Obama cited the U.A.E. agreement as the “gold standard” for future nuclear-cooperation pacts. Washington has used the deal to press Iran over its nuclear program, arguing that Tehran should follow the Emirates and rely on the international market for nuclear fuel.
U.S. officials involved in the policy review said the Obama administration concluded that most countries wouldn’t be willing to follow the U.A.E. model, and that insisting on it would hurt American interests.
We look feckless, of course. And surely whatever credibility we had with the mullahs in Iran went down as a result of the administration’s abject desperation for paper agreements.
It is ironic that the community of think-tank analysts and current and former officials who have dedicated their life’s work to nuclear non-proliferation have now seen their efforts weakened (or destroyed, if Iran gets the bomb) not by some “war-mongering” conservative but from the most liberal president to occupy the Oval Office. Meanwhile, those centrifuges keep spinning in Iran.