The agreement reached late Saturday night between Iran and the United States — and the rest of the United Nations’ “P5+1” gang — will enhance Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons whenever it decides to do so. It makes war in the Middle East nearly a certainty, rather than protecting us against it.
For Obama — and while he is president, for us — there is no responsibility so great that it cannot be sacrificed to political expediency, no duty so grave that it cannot be ignored.
America has an obligation to itself, and to allies such as Israel, to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear arms. Four American presidents — George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — have recognized this duty by stating firmly an American policy that Iran is not to be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons. The first three of those presidents share the distinction of having done nothing to enforce that policy. The fourth has assured his place in history by surrendering the policy to Iran’s ambitions.
The details of the agreement — which we’ll get to in a minute — give Iran major relief from sanctions that were imposed by UN resolution and by American law, including some sanctions that were imposed when Iran was designated a state sponsor of terrorism in 1984. To understand how far the agreement goes, it’s important to know the context in which it was made.
The Middle East is in Obama-produced turmoil. Egypt, which replaced U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak with Mohammed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and then replaced them with the military regime of General al-Sisi, is falling apart. Al-Sisi’s military, which operates and controls a majority share of the Egyptian economy, believes — according to several sources — that it can outlast Obama’s regime to better times under a new American president. But Egypt is suffering widespread food shortages and is ripe for the al-Qaida insurgency now brewing inside the nation. Al-Sisi has less time than he thinks before Egypt erupts in uncontrollable violence.
Syria is effectively partitioned into sections: one dominated by the Assad regime (and its Iranian and Russian allies), a Kurdish region (apparently dominated by the quasi-terrorist PKK group), and territory controlled by the Syrian opposition forces, comprised mainly of jihadists funded by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf States. That partitioning may be formalized next year though the fighting will not abate.
Inevitably Iraq, after the withdrawal of American troops, has become a client state of Iran, an autocracy of Sunni-Shiite violence. It won’t be long before Afghanistan falls to the Taliban.
Saudi Arabia has given up on the United States, as has Israel. The Jerusalem Post reported Wednesday that Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said it was time for his country to look beyond the United States as its principal ally.
In short, the false bloom of democracy in the “Arab spring” has given way to an Iranian winter.
The agreement reached Saturday night is the subject of much glowing news coverage both here and abroad, including in the Iranian press. President Obama said on Saturday night that the agreement contains "…substantial limitations which will help prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Simply put, they cut off Iran’s most likely paths to a bomb."
More accurately, Obama could have said, “If Iran likes its path to the bomb, it can keep following its path to the bomb.”
Iranian president Hassan Rouhani was equally effusive, telling reporters that, “World powers have recognized the nuclear rights of Iran. The confirmation from the great powers is of huge value.“
Unfortunately, Rouhani is closer to the truth. Oddly enough, the agreement is published in full almost nowhere. The version I saw is from the most questionable source this side of Pravda, the Iranian news agency IRNA. (The Iranian-reported version is largely confirmed by various Western news reports).
According to that version, Iran has received the biggest concession possible. For years, Iran has claimed a “right” to enrich uranium and insisted that recognition of such an imaginary right be included in any negotiated agreement. And so it is. Twice in the agreement’s preamble, Iran’s “rights” to a nuclear program are proclaimed. The first claims that the agreement ensures that Iran’s nuclear program will be for peaceful purposes, and the second says its “comprehensive solution would enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes…”
Now that it has been enshrined in a document that America agreed to, this phony “right” will be impossible to deny in future negotiations. Thus the principal source of danger, the Iranian capability of enriching uranium for the production of nuclear weapons, is not ended.
The agreement lasts for six months, the length of time the parties give themselves to reach a final agreement. Remember, please, the October report from the Institute for Science and International Security that projected Iran was within a month of having the ability to produce nuclear weapons.
One intended effect of this temporary agreement is to prevent any Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities for at least that long. If Israel attacks Iran during those six months it will become an outlaw nation susceptible to Iranian war and indefensible by the signatories to the agreement.
In those six months, Iran gives up very little. It is permitted to retain 50 percent of its stock of uranium enriched to 20 percent, which is a sufficient enrichment level to produce rudimentary nuclear weapons. Iran promises to not enrich more uranium — for six months — to higher levels than 5 percent.
Nothing requires Iran to reduce its capacity for enriching uranium. Iran isn’t required by the agreement to disassemble the more than 19,000 centrifuges it already has. It promises to not advance further its Natanz uranium enrichment plant, or the one at Fordow, or activate its heavy-water plutonium plant at Arak in the next six months. To obtain nuclear weapons, it need not do any of those things.
In diplomatic weasel words, the agreement allows Iran to, for example, “continue its safeguarded [research and development] practices, including its current enrichment R&D practices, which are not designed for accumulation of the enriched uranium.” Whether or not they are designed for that purpose, they have that function. Also weasel worded are the inspection practices imposed which are comprised of “daily IAEA inspector access when inspectors are not present” and such. Huh? Inspections without inspectors doesn’t satisfy the Gipper’s axiom “trust but verify.”
For this, America and the rest of the “P5+1” gang give up most sanctions against Iranian oil shipments, immediately free Iranian financial assets of about $6 to $9 billion, and even allow Iran to import spare parts for aircraft.
We fell for an agreement very much like this in the last years of the Clinton administration when North Korea promised to not build nuclear weapons in return for a relaxation of strangling American sanctions. North Korea used the time the agreement allowed to build its nukes and soon tested them underground.
Iran is of the same ilk but Obama is oblivious to its lies. The report Obama relied on to begin the negotiations — that Khomenei had issued a religious fatwa prohibiting the production of nuclear weapons — was blatantly false.
We should recall the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency report from November 2011 that recounted Iran’s long string of lies about its nuclear weapons development.
That report concluded that, among lies Iran has told the world, are:
• Since the 1980s, Iran has been conducting clandestine uranium enrichment, including the separation of plutonium;
• Iran has been acquiring "nuclear weapons development information and documentation from a clandestine nuclear supply network;"
• Iran has been working "on the development of an indigenous design of a nuclear weapon including the testing of components;" and
• The IAEA — since 2005 — has been aware that "Iran had been engaged in activities involving on a so-called green salt project, high explosives testing and the re-engineering of a missile re-entry vehicle to accommodate a new payload."
We know from other open sources that Iran has been testing triggering devices for nuclear weapons.
Only Obama could believe that a nation with that record of lies can be believed when it negotiates away any aspect of its ability to produce nuclear weapons.
As Winston Churchill wrote in The Gathering Storm, the “unwisdom” of the European powers in the 1930s enabled the rise of Hitler and the rearming of Germany, bringing about the most destructive war in human history. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was correct and much too mild in saying that this new agreement was a historic mistake. Obama is guilty of “unwisdom” of the same historical scale Churchill described.
America has been deluding itself for more than 20 years, pretending that a peaceful resolution to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons was possible. It is not. Now, with the Obama agreement, that delusion has given way to the most dangerous reversal of policy in our nation’s history.