Iran’s Latest Bait and Switch

Watching the P5+1 talks, I’ve been thinking a lot about the final scene of the classic movie Some Like it Hot. Remember it? Jack Lemmon has spent much of the film dressed as a woman, and as a result, has inadvertently won the affections of a smitten Joe E. Brown. Trying to back out of this entanglement, Lemmon gives Brown reason after reason why they can’t be married. The trouble is, nothing Curtis says is able to put Brown off. Desperate, Curtis finally removes his wig and shouts, “I’m a man!” But Brown simply smiles and says, “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

America’s stance in the P5+1 talks has had more than a bit of the Joe E. Brown about it.

“I’m not a natural blonde,” says Lemmon, but Brown replies, “It doesn’t matter.” (“Khamenei calls ‘Death to America’ as Kerry hails progress on nuke deal” ran the Times of Israel headline.)

“I smoke. I smoke all the time,” Lemmon points out. “I don’t care,” says Brown. (“Iran isn’t providing needed access or information, the nuclear watchdog IAEA says,” warned the Washington Post headline, to no avail.)

When Lemmon says, “I can never have children,” Brown is unconcerned. “We can adopt some,” he says. (“IRGC Chief Says Jordan Is Next Target for Conquest,” ran a report only days ago, referring to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, with no impact on the negotiations.)

And then that wonderful final line. Lemmon pulls off his wig and shouts “I’m a man!” But Brown remains unmoved: “Well, nobody’s perfect.”

Has America’s “nobody’s perfect” moment arrived? In a scoop for the New York Times, we learned that Iran has pulled a heavy-handed, last-minute bait and switch. Having bargained up their centrifuge numbers to more than 6,000 with the promise that they’d ship out the enriched material—hey, why should we care how much uranium they enrich to 3.5 percent if it won’t be around to be enriched further?—they have now said … they won’t ship out the material.

“The export of stocks of enriched uranium is not in our program, and we do not intend sending them abroad,” said Jack Lemmon—sorry, Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister. “There is no question of sending the stocks abroad.”

While we do not know the details of the deal, and American may well push back, even at this late stage, the administration’s response so far has been a version of “well, nobody’s perfect.” The administration is briefing that the Iranians will turn the new uranium into uranium oxide, a form in which it can’t be enriched further. The trouble is, it can be enriched further because the chemical process can be reversed. U3O8 can be reconverted to bomb fuel in weeks. In other words, the Iranians may soon be making enough enriched uranium for multiple nuclear bombs then putting it all on the shelf.

And as the New York Times points out, “If Iran ever bars the inspectors from the country, as North Korea did a dozen years ago, the international community would have no assurance about the fate of the fuel.”

While we do not know exactly what the final deal will be, there is a looming danger: Iran may have more than 6,000 centrifuges, an ongoing and untouched research-and-development program to produce ever-faster and more advanced centrifuges, a weaponization program that the IAEA says it remains in the dark and very concerned about, a fortified reprocessing facility in the mountains of Fordow, a record of duplicity and concealment, genocidal intent toward Israel, and hegemonic aspirations in the region.

But hey, nobody’s perfect. 

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