On the heels of this week’s IAEA talks in Vienna, the P5+1 are gearing up for follow-up meetings with Iran to discuss its nuclear program in Geneva next week.
The Associated Press quoted both Iran and the UN as describing the latest round of talks as “very productive”; there’ll be another meeting on November 11 in Tehran. The location was interpreted by AP as pointing “toward forward movement,” while the decision to issue a joint statement was “seen as a sign of progress.”
Maybe yes, maybe no.
A new report by the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), widely reported in the media during the past week, shows that Iran isn’t idle while sitting at the negotiating table. On the contrary, it continues to expand the number of IR-1 centrifuges installed at both its Fordow and Natanz plants, and had also begun to install more advanced IR-2m centrifuges at Natanz.
Meanwhile, a less-noticed analysis by former International Atomic Energy Agency official Olli Heinonen suggests that Iran had passed the “point of no return” in its nuclear program, having installed centrifuges meant to enrich uranium to a percentage even higher than 20%. Heinonen estimates that Tehran could soon radically reduce its so-called “breakout time.”
In a similar vein, the ISIS report warns that Iran’s nuclear weaponization process might not be detectable by the IAEA until Iran revealed the location of the relevant enrichment site. The report further predicts that “Iran could break out most quickly using a three-step process with its installed centrifuges and its LEU stockpiles” in less than two months (and could break out in less than three months “in a covert plant with a more realistic cascade organization”).
Sobering facts worth emphasis in coverage of imminent P5+1 and IAEA nuclear talks with Iran.