The White House late Tuesday issued a statement declaring that the Obama administration is prepared to allow Iran to continue enriching uranium in the context of a comprehensive agreement over Tehran’s nuclear program, after a report on the issue published by the Washington Free Beacon generated questions from journalists seeking further clarification.
The Free Beacon reported:
“Over the next six months, we will explore, in practical terms, whether and how Iran might end up with a limited, tightly constrained, and intensively monitored civilian nuclear program, including domestic enrichment,” White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman Caitlin Hayden told the Washington Free Beacon.
“Any such program,” she said, “would be subject to strict and verifiable curbs on its capacity and stockpiles of enriched uranium for a significant number of years and tied to practical energy needs that will remain minimal for years to come.”
The White House clarified its openness to a limited Iranian enrichment program just days after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised to “forge ahead” with the country’s controversial nuclear program.
Critics have expressed concerns that such a stance, which has the U.S. functionally abandoning at least half a dozen United Nations Security Council resolutions demanding that the Islamic republic fully suspend its nuclear program, will undermine confidence in global nonproliferation norms.
The Wall Street Journal had over the weekend published analysis from experts and diplomats concerned about the implications of allowing Iran to continue enrichment:
Successive U.S. administrations have labored to deny the right to enrich uranium to other countries—including allies South Korea, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates—because of the risks of military use.
By now accepting Iran’s ability to enrich, the international powers that signed off on the deal risk opening the floodgates for other countries to demand the same right, said Arab diplomats and proliferation experts.
The United States had previously worked out arrangements with several allies – including South Korea, Jordan, and the United Arab Emirates – under which those countries would receive nuclear assistance only if they ceded enrichment capabilities.
The Journal quoted Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Washington-based Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, assessing that “Obama’s nuclear team thinks it can let Iran make nuclear fuel, but get others like Saudi Arabia and South Korea to forswear doing so” and predicting that “we’re all in for a rude awakening.”