The Iran - Russia nuclear pact

Iran has rejected  an EU proposal offered on August 6th, a proposed pact that the US and the West hoped would at least place some controls on the mullahs' bid to develop special nuclear material (SNM).  The deal essentially provided E—3 (France, Germany, and Great Britain) support to Iran's nuclear energy program, while Iran would refrain from either enriching uranium or extracting plutonium from spent nuclear reactor fuel.

Speaking on the deal, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamid Reza Asefi said that the Iranian government would send its official rejection late this past Saturday or Sunday.  Asefi said,

"The European proposals are unacceptable ... the package is against the spirit of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and against the provisions of the Paris agreement," he said on state radio. "The proposals do not meet Iran's minimum expectations."

At face value, it would seem that another episode of EU—Iran Keystone Cops has come to a close with an all—too—familiar result.  Iran continues to thumb its collective national nose at the West, while Europe scrambles to cobble together another deal in the hopes of regaining some credibility on the world stage.  But upon further examination, this failure of the EU proposal is another indicator of the development of an alliance between Iran and Russia, one that also includes development of SNM.

From the EU's perspective, this deal was probably the best that could be expected for the West.  Iran would develop commercial power reactors, while the E—3 would recover and account for the spent fuel.  And, Russia would get billions of rubles for refurbishing the nuke plant at Bushehr.  There was also a significant economic benefit for certain members of the EU.  Nuclear fuel reprocessing for commercial reactor fuel ended in the US in the late 70s.  However, outside of Russia, there are a limited number of reprocessing facilities.  These plants happen to be in Belgium, France, Germany, and the UK.

So, Iran's rejection of the offer not only means the loss of billions of Euros for potential reprocessing contracts, it also leaves Russia as the only country in a position to provide reprocessing services.  Of course, this is just fine with Iran, and naturally satisfies their 'minimum expectations.'  The reason is simple.  Russia has no intentions of providing strict controls over the spent fuel.

Over two months ago, AT readers learned that the spent fuel from the Bushehr reactor will remain in Iran for 10 years when there is no technical reason to do so.  The industry standard is normally a minimum of about five months.  The Russians have always maintained that the spent fuel would be shipped back to Russia for safekeeping and reprocessing in Russian facilities.  Ten years in a cooling pond next to an Iranian nuclear facility leaves plenty of time for the spent fuel to mysteriously disappear in between the IAEA's yearly inspections and under IAEA 'seal.'  For this reason, the EU's offers to provide nuclear fuel, then track, recover, and reprocess the spent material were bound to be rejected.  Iran and Russia would much prefer to keep it 'in the family.' 

We are witnessing a level of technical and economic cooperation heretofore unseen between an extremist Islamic regime and a nominal ally in the War on Terror.  Russia is now the only willing nuclear supplier and technical advisor available to support the mullahs' plans to become a nuclear power.

What is most disturbing is that the US also backed the EU deal.  Specifically, the US praised the mechanisms in the agreement about controlling the spent fuel from Iranian reactors.  State Department spokesman Tom Casey said that the administration's concerns over the possible diversion of spent fuel to extract weapons—grade plutonium had largely been alleviated by the EU agreement.  And what was this model protocol?  According to the SecState, the EU method is the same as the Russian protocol to monitor spent fuel!  The Swiss Info report says,

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has increasingly pointed to a power plant deal between Russia and Iran as an example of how to limit the risk from a civilian program because Moscow controls the fuel.

In reality, the Russian method of 'limiting risk' of unauthorized spent fuel diversion is not the non—proliferation model that the State Department should be touting.

Last week, several contributors to The American Thinker tracked  the obvious shortcomings of the latest National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) concerning Iran's future nuclear capability.  It appears the State Department intelligence apparatus deserves the same criticism.  It could be that the SecState may be playing a sly geo—political game beyond the public's view.  If not, its intelligence office may be another agency that is deliberately misleading its boss.  The US cannot afford another intelligence failure now that Mother Russia has aligned itself with the world's premier sponsor of terror who is also on the verge of becoming a nuclear power.

Douglas Hanson is National Security Correspondent for The American Thinker.