What 29 top US scientists don’t know

The recent letter of support sent to President Obama for his Iran deal secured last month – signed by 29 scientists, including Nobel laureates – was obviously well-timed to lend firmer scientific backing to what many regard as a severely flawed nuclear deal. This is an impressive group of individuals, with achievements that speak for themselves, and their opinions obviously matter. Yet, the very fact of their scientific achievements does not mean that their assessments of the deal are correct. Indeed, their collective judgment of the Iran deal must be assessed on its merits. And in this regard, unfortunately, more than anything else, the contents of the letter echo the well-known talking points of the Obama administration, and suffer from some of the same deficiencies.

If this highly respected group of scientists is not aware, for example, that the 24-day cap on Iran’s ability to delay an investigation into a facility suspected of supporting clandestine activities could actually be much longer than that, why would we attribute any more authority to this letter than to other sources making similar arguments to support the deal? If the group had scrutinized paragraphs 75-76 in the Access section – that are not about science, but rather politics – they would have seen that Iran’s ability to play for time regarding inspections of suspicious military facilities begins when the IAEA first submits its concerns, and waits for Iran’s clarification. The 24-day count begins only after that, if and when the IAEA makes a request for access; but the preliminary phase has no time limit.

And there are additional dangerous ambiguities in the deal. There are holes and loopholes and flaws that Iran can abuse for its purposes. So when one assesses the deal, the scientific aspects are certainly important, but that is not where the assessment ends. Rather, there is a need to consider the history of dealing with Iran, and the experience gained thereby. Iran has shown its determination not only to hold on to its vast nuclear infrastructure and breakout capability, but continues its highly aggressive attitude toward the US and the Middle East. Moreover, Iran has over the years perfected tactics of playing for time, and has made it very clear that it will not tolerate inspections at its military sites where suspicions are that it has worked on a military nuclear capability. If pressed on inspections in the coming years, Iran will most likely continue to evade and play for time, and the deal dangerously provides ample room for Iran to do so.

Indeed, Iran might very well be able to escape such inspections altogether. The ambiguous language in this regard – “implement the necessary means” – leaves us wondering whether Iran will ultimately be forced to admit inspectors into its facilities, or whether the language provides it a way out. And Iran’s emphatic rejection of such inspections gives no cause for complacency. So can one really say – as the scientists do – that the deal provides “effective challenge inspection for the suspected activities of greatest concern”? Hardly.

Full article: What 29 top US scientists don’t know (The Times of Israel)

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