In an interview which aired on Israel’s Channel 2 over the weekend, President Obama effectively ruled out military action against Iran and defended the ongoing P5 + 1 negotiations:
I can, I think, demonstrate, not based on any hope but on facts and evidence and analysis, that the best way to prevent Iran from having a nuclear weapon is a verifiable, tough agreement.
This supposedly “verifiable, tough agreement” would include a so-called “snap back” provision that would reinstate sanctions if Iran is found to be in violation of the agreement. Shortly after the framework was established in early April, President Obama declared in the Rose Garden, “If Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place.” Of course, President Obama is someone accustomed to snapping his fingers and getting things his way whether it concerns changing Obamacare, making recess appointments when Congress isn’t in recess, and unilaterally legalizing illegal immigrants.
But when it comes to international agreements, Obama isn’t the only one who can snap his fingers. During a joint press conference at the White House later in the month with Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, President Obama said, “How sanctions are lessened, how we snap back sanctions if there’s a violation, there are a lot of different mechanisms and ways to do that.” It now appears that the P5 + 1 has found a mechanism to reinstate sanctions against Iran only it won’t be a snap. According to Reuters:
As part of the new agreement on sanctions snap back, suspected breaches by Iran would be taken up by a dispute-resolution panel, likely including the six powers and Iran, which would assess the allegations and come up with a non-binding opinion, the officials said.
So let’s see if I’ve got this right. If Iran is believed to have violated a nuclear agreement, the matter will be taken up by a dispute-resolution panel that would include Iran. Now it’s bad enough that Russia and China would be involved with such a body given their long-standing aversion to sanctions against Iran. But that Iran would be involved in determining whether sanctions would be reinstated against it reeks of absurdity. It’s as absurd as electing Iran to the UN Women, the new UN body that promotes gender equality and the empowerment of women. But this is exactly what happened this past April.
Appearing before the House Foreign Affairs Committee last November, Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies testified to the dubiousness of snapping back sanctions:
The politics and economics of snapbacks are more complicated. Politically, at the U.S., EU, and UNSC levels, respectively, there would have to be agreement that there is sufficient evidence of Iranian non-compliance to warrant a decision to reinstate the sanctions. There are bound to be significant disputes on the evidence, differing assessments of the seriousness of infractions, fierce debates about the appropriate level of response, and concerns about Iranian retaliation. The snapback is equally challenging to implement given the economic realities that will follow a nuclear deal. International sanctions took years before a critical mass of international companies terminated their business ties with Tehran. Once loosened, with so many international companies positioning to get back into Iran, it will be difficult to persuade these companies to leave again, especially as Western companies, and their lobby groups, will argue that Chinese, Russian, Turkish, and other less cooperative countries are bound to backfill if they do.
The deadline for a nuclear deal with Iran is June 30. But as far as President Obama is concerned deadlines are meaningless. We saw with the framework that was supposed to be due on March 31, but talks continued beyond the deadline because President Obama wants a nuclear agreement with Iran come hell or high water even if that water helps Iran enrich uranium. President Obama will move heaven and earth to obtain a nuclear agreement with Iran if it takes him until his last hours in office. Obama will obtain this agreement with Iran at whatever the concession and whatever the cost.
President Obama wants a second Nobel Peace Prize so he can actually say that he accomplished something even if it results in a nuclear arms race in the Middle East. Not only would an any agreement with Iran not prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon, but it would increase the chances it would use such a weapon against Israel and even the United States. If that comes to pass, there will be no snap back.