Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Fact-Check on Iran has an article up that fact-checks a number of claims about Iran that is worth a read.

"Over the last year and a half, since we began negotiations with them, that's probably the first year and a half in which Iran has not advanced its nuclear program in the last decade," Obama said in a December 2014 conversation with CNN’s Candy Crowley.

Obama’s comments were largely accurate, according to experts. The agreement signed in November 2013 has made it harder for Iran to produce weapons-grade nuclear material, we found. International observers report that Iran complied with the terms of the temporary agreement. The amount of enriched uranium is less, and the country’s facilities to produce weapons-grade material has been curtailed.

But that does not mean the country has completely stopped all activities that could produce nuclear weapons material in the future, experts told us. There is also concern about broader aspects of a nuclear weapons program, such as weapons design and missile development. We rated Obama’s claim Mostly True.

About a week later, Stephen Hayes of the conservative Weekly Standard magazine, said nearly the opposite -- that "We've caught Iran cheating on the interim (nuclear) deal."

Actually, we haven’t caught Iran cheating. The International Atomic Energy Agency has reported no violations with the Joint Plan of Action.That said, Iran has worked with a new kind of centrifuge that, while not a formal violation, contradicts the United States’ understanding of the deal. When confronted about it, Iran stopped its work. Also, there is some question about whether Iran is violating the agreement by exporting too much oil. That’s another murky issue; the exact terms that govern Iran's oil exports aren’t public. Overall, we rated Hayes’ claim Mostly False.

In the deal currently underway, there exists an odd paradox: Negotiators want to limit the number of centrifuges Iran can have -- but under these limitations, the country would have enough centrifuges needed for a weapon but too few for a nuclear power program.

Former CIA deputy director Michael Morell made the point on Charlie Rose in February. "If you are going to have a nuclear weapons program, 5,000 is pretty much the number you need," Morell said. "If you have a power program, you need a lot more. By limiting them to a small number of centrifuges, we are limiting them to the number you need for a weapon."

Experts agreed that Morell has his facts right. A power plant requires tons of fuel each year. A bomb requires about 25 kilograms of U-235 enriched to the 90 percent level. If an agreement limits Iran to about 5,000 centrifuges, that would be sufficient to produce enough bomb-grade material but would leave Iran well short of the capacity to generate fuel to power nuclear power plants. We rated the claim True.

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