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Iran enriches and will continue to enrich uranium under deal, U.S. acknowledges

November 25th, 2013
04:08 PM ET

By Mick Krever, CNN

The U.S. acknowledges that Iran is enriching and will continue to enrich uranium – whether under mutual agreement, as is the case under the interim agreement struck in Geneva this weekend, or in the future, under a permanent, comprehensive agreement.

Of course, if there is no comprehensive deal, Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said to CNN’s Christiane Amanpour, Iran will continue to enrich as it has for years, in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions and international sanction.

“As part of a final resolution,” Rhodes said under persistent questioning, “you could have a mutually agreed-upon state in which Iran’s program is much different than it is today – they’ve dismantled elements of that program, they’ve accepted constraints, limitations, verification measures, and have a very limited enrichment capacity on Iranian soil.”

The Obama Administration and its negotiating partners are hoping to finally curtail Iran’s nuclear program to being limited and entirely peaceful in exchange for a wholesale lifting on sanctions.

If such a deal is not struck, then Iran and the international community will “revert to a status quo,” Rhodes said, “in which Iran is in violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions outside their national obligations and is confronted with pressure.”

Enrichment is “not a right that we a conferring,” he said. “It is something that could be negotiated as a part of an end-state.”

Israel, for its part, has criticized the interim deal; Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it “a historic mistake,” and has called instead for increasing pressure on the Iranian regime.

Rhodes said that Israel had a “right to be sceptical” of the Iranian regime, but admitted that the U.S. and its ally had a “tactical difference” on how to approach the Iran nuclear issue.

“It is not our judgement that you just sanction Iran to the point to which they capitulate and essentially give up everything for nothing,” Rhodes said. “We believe that there has to be some diplomatic back and forth, which was why we were willing to provide – albeit limited – sanctions relief on this front-end of the deal.”

Sanctions did get Iran to the negotiating table, he said, but “ultimately you have to use those sanctions to get a diplomatic resolution.”

Those limited sanctions outlined in this deal will likely start to be lifted “within the coming weeks,” Rhodes told Amanpour.

That echoes a similar message given by French Foreign Minister Laurent to French radio, saying that the first sanctions would come off in December.

Rhodes emphasized that the U.S. will still enforce the vast majority of its sanctions, and that Iran would lose more revenue over the six months of this interim deal than it will gain from sanctions relief.

Fresh off the interim Iran deal, the United States is trying to secure a military deal with Afghanistan, where U.S. and NATO troops are set to withdraw next year.

Late last week they thought they had a deal, but then Afghan President suddenly refused to sign anything until after the presidential election next spring.

“What we’ve said to President Karzai,” Rhodes said, “is that we need to move to complete this, sign it, by the end of the year.”

“Because the United States needs time to plan for any post-2014 presence; we need to consult with NATO allies who might be a part of that effort. So we cannot wait, as he has suggested, after the Afghan election.”

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    The interim agreement itself places meaningful constraints on several dimensions of Iran's nuclear programme in exchange for providing Iran with a degree of financial relief from existing economic sanctions. The accord, better understood as a ceiling than a freeze, also establishes a level of inspections that is far more intrusive than what has existed. The net result will be to slow the pace of Iran's progress towards putting into place the many elements of a nuclear weapons capability, in the process increasing the time and warning the world would have between any Iranian decision to produce one or more nuclear weapons and when it would actually achieve that goal.

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