(CNN) – TOlli Heinonen, the former deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency recently asserted that Iran having passed the “point of no return” in its nuclear weapons program could within two weeks have the ability to enrich enough missile-grade uranium to build a bomb.
Yet U.S.-led direct negotiations with Iran broke down in Geneva while the potential remains for the unraveling of sanctions. Israel wants Iran’s enrichment of uranium set back by 12 months along with the dismantling of numerous centrifuges. The U.S., however, is willing to set it back by five months. Israel fears the problem with the U.S. timeline is if Iran kicks out inspectors, Washington would not have sufficient time to gear up militarily.
At Geneva, Iran opposed suspending work on its plutonium-producing reactor at Arak and downgrade its stockpile of higher-enriched uranium. Israel notes that recently Iran has planned for 34 new nuclear sites to be constructed along the country’s Persian Gulf and Caspian coasts. Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the head of the Iranian parliament’s foreign affairs committee recently asserted that Iran will never agree to dismantle the Fordow uranium enrichment facility. Ilan Berman, the Vice President of the American Foreign Policy Center notes that this was a key concession that officials in the U.S. and Europe had expected Iran to make.
GCC countries such as Saudi Arabia and UAE have been able to push back against U.S.-led negotiations with Iran by allowing countries like France to curry favor with them. Thus it is possible that France scuttled the deal on offer in Geneva in order to win energy and military contracts in Saudi Arabia and the UAE at the U.S.’s expense. France has also increased defence ties with Israel. For these reasons there is little chance that Israel and Saudi Arabia will not lobby to derail P5+1 talks when they reconvene in November 20.
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Barak Seener is the CEO of Strategic Intelligentia and a former Middle East Fellow at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI). He is on Twitter at @BarakSeener.