Technical Details Of Iran Nuclear Deal Show Evidence Of 'Compromise'
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
Count nuclear weapons expert Gary Samore as among the skeptics who doubted that Iran would agree to a nuclear deal.
GARY SAMORE: It looked to me like they were not going to be able to reach agreement on anything beyond a rather anodyne statement.
BLOCK: So he was surprised by how many details were laid out in yesterday's framework. Samore was President Obama's top adviser on nuclear issues during his first term, at a time when Iran refused to engage directly with the U.S. I asked him how confident he is in the inspections of Iran's nuclear facilities. Samore says what's in the framework looks pretty good.
SAMORE: The inspections that are included in the agreement, including a channel for monitoring Iran's procurement of equipment and materials from overseas and some kind of mechanism to be determined for challenge inspections, all of those mechanisms, I think, will strengthen our intelligence capabilities. But we should just keep in mind that you can't depend on inspections and monitoring alone. At the end of the day, U.S. and allied intelligence is going to be critical for verifying this agreement. We've done a very good job up to now, but you can never be certain that there won't be a lapse in the future. And we certainly know that there have been a number of times when U.S. intelligence has not detected foreign nuclear weapons program.
BLOCK: Is there any new technology now or on the horizon that would be helpful in detecting cheating, secret sites, anything like that?
SAMORE: I frankly think that the best way to detect cheating is through old-fashioned espionage. Yes, there are some technical measures, but there's no magic bullet, especially because centrifuge technology is fairly difficult to detect through technical means. So it's really going to depend much more on old-fashioned spying than technical fixes.
BLOCK: A question about Iran's uranium enrichment - according to the framework, Iran will have 5,000 centrifuges enriching uranium for 10 years, down from 19,000. Five-thousand still sounds like an awful lot. Why that number? Is that significant?
SAMORE: Well, it's certainly more than we started. Our original proposal was that they have just a few hundred centrifuges. And, of course, Iran's original position was that they wouldn't give up a single one of their 19,000. So the 5,000 enriching, 6,000 installed - that represents a compromise. And I think from Iran's standpoint, they want to preserve the ability in the future should they decide to pursue a much more expanded enrichment program, including a nuclear weapons option.
BLOCK: And in the meantime, what do - what does 5,000-some odd centrifuges allow Iran to do?
SAMORE: Well, I don't think it really poses a very serious nuclear proliferation threat because with those 5,000 centrifuges and a very small pile of low-enriched uranium, it would take them about a year to produce enough weapons-grade uranium from a single device. And this is at a facility which is very heavily monitored.
So I think it's extremely unlikely that they would try to break out at the declared facility. So I think what we're buying in this agreement is basically a delay in management of Iran's nuclear threat for 10 to 15 years. And, of course, at that point, nobody can anticipate what the situation would be, who will be in power in Iran, what U.S.-Iranian relations are like. Nobody can know that. So this agreement is basically a way to delay and manage the threat.
BLOCK: Gary Samore, thanks so much for talking with us.
SAMORE: Thanks, Melissa. It's good to talk to you.
BLOCK: Gary Samore is President Obama's former top adviser on nuclear issues. He's now executive director for research at Harvard's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.