WASHINGTON – Sometimes good thinkers manage to correctly summarize a complex issue highlighting its most critical feature.
Kissinger on Iran’s nuclear ambitions
Here is how former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger recently characterized the ongoing nuclear talks between Iran and other Powers (known as the “P5 + 1”, that is the 5 permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, plus Germany) led by the US. In his prepared statement delivered during his testimony on January 29 before the Senate Armed Services Committee, chaired by Senator John McCain, Kissinger stated the following:
“Nuclear talks with Iran began as an international effort, buttressed by six U.N. resolutions, to deny Iran the capability to develop a military nuclear option. They are now an essentially bilateral negotiation over the scope of that capability through an agreement that sets a hypothetical limit of one year on an assumed breakout. The impact of this approach will be to move from preventing proliferation to managing it”. (Italics in the original written testimony).
We are in a new era
The shift described by Kissinger may appear a nuance to the lay person. But it is in fact most dramatic.
Think about it. We started with the goal of preventing Iran from acquiring any nuclear weapons capability. But now the negotiations are about how close Iran will get to the nuclear weapons manufacturing threshold. And we know full well that, once we legalize via an international agreement Iran’s status as a nuclear threshold state, it will be relatively easy for Iran to break out, and become a full-blown nuclear state, when it chooses to do so.
Kissinger knows this. And so does everybody else, from Tehran to Jerusalem, to Cairo.
The goal of creating an international regime (centered on the Non Proliferation Treaty, or NPT, of 1968) that would prevent states from acquiring nuclear weapons was noble, but inherently difficult.
Making nuclear weapons is complicated; but not impossible. Remember that this is old technology. It was developed more than half a century ago. Many people understand it and master it these days.
President Obama is doing his best to delay Iran’s military nuclear program. But the agreement that most likely will emerge from these negotiations, as Kissinger stated, is about managing proliferation, and not about preventing it. Non proliferation as we understood it is essentially dead.
This is a very bad development. Most likely, it will create a new trend. Expect more states to follow Iran’s example.