Early Sunday morning, following four days of heavy negotiations between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the US, Russia, China, the United Kingdom, and France – plus Germany), an agreement was announced which was touted as lifting sanctions against Iran in exchange for a reduction in Iran’s efforts to build their nuclear capability.
The deal was praised as a breakthrough by Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif:
We believe that the current agreement, the current plan of action as we call it, in two distinct places, has a very clear reference to the fact that the Iranian [nuclear] enrichment program will continue and will be a part of any agreement, now and in the future.
While today’s announcement is just a first step, it achieves a great deal. For the first time in nearly a decade we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear program, and key parts of the program will be rolled back.
Iran has committed to halting certain levels of [uranium] enrichment, and neutralizing part of its stockpile. Iran cannot use its next-generation centrifuges which are used for enriching uranium.
The White House’s “fact sheet” on the agreement added that it placed supposedly meaningful limitations on Iran’s nuclear development program while giving the UN six months to hammer out a permanent agreement:
Today, the [group of five] and Iran reached a set of initial understandings that halts the progress of Iran’s nuclear program and rolls it back in key respects. These are the first meaningful limits that Iran has accepted on its nuclear program in close to a decade….
The concessions Iran has committed to make as part of this first step will also provide us with increased transparency and … monitoring of its nuclear program.
In the past, the concern has been expressed that Iran will use negotiations to buy to time to advance their program. [But] these first step measures will help prevent Iran from using the cover of negotiations to continue advancing its nuclear program…
And if Iran fails to keep its end of the bargain, Obama added that “we will turn off the relief and ratchet up the pressure [once again.]”
The entire agreement is dependent upon Iran’s keeping its commitment. Enthused the White House:
Without this phased agreement Iran could start spinning thousands of additional centrifuges. It could install and spin next-generation centrifuges that will [speed up its nuclear weapons program.] It could fuel and commission [its] Arak heavy water reactor.
It could grow its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to beyond the threshold for a bomb’s worth of uranium.
Iran can do none of these things under the conditions of this first step understanding.
Secretary of State John Kerry was confident about the agreement’s chances for success:
We have no illusions [about Iran]. We don’t do this on the basis of somebody’s statements to you. We do it on the basis of actions that can be verified.
[While] Iran has done little to deserve our trust, [this agreement] has the potential to serve as a valuable stepping stone to a final agreement that can serve the long-term security interests of the United States, Israel, the Middle East and the entire international community.
The menace of a nuclear-armed Iran needs to be eliminated once and for all.
The state most affected by the success or failure of this “historic deal” wasn’t even a party to the negotiations: Israel. Once he had a chance to review the agreement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was incensed:
What was achieved last night in Geneva was not historic; it is a historic mistake. Today, the world has become a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world has taken a significant step toward attaining the most dangerous weapon in the world.
The Iranian regime is committed to Israel’s destruction, and Israel has the right to defend itself, by itself. Israel won’t let Iran develop military nuclear capability.
Israel’s Economy Minister Naftali Bennett said this “bad deal definitely increases the need for action [by Israel.] If the deal gives Iran the ability to achieve a bomb … we won’t sit idly by.” Eldad Pardo of Jerusalem’s Hebrew University saw another stall that would lead to another stall, all the while allowing Iran to continue building its nuclear capability, despite the agreement: “[This] is a kind of temporary agreement that will lead to another temporary agreement….”
Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman noted that, at bottom, the agreement does little or nothing to prevent Iran from continuing its military nuclear development:
Iran has achieved a great diplomatic victory. [The agreement] does not require the dissolution of Iran’s nuclear program. It legitimizes Teheran’s ability to enrich. It is worse than the chemical weapons deal with Syria since there is not even a promise of removing uranium now in Iran.
Israel’s Finance Minister Yair Lapid was equally candid about the deal:
This bad deal gives Iran exactly what it wanted: a significant easing of the sanctions while retaining the most significant parts of its nuclear program.
Fred Fleitz, chief analyst at LIGNET.com, came to the same conclusion: the agreement doesn’t set back Iran’s nuclear development program but instead freezes it into place for at least another six months:
It freezes their ability to make at least three to five nuclear weapons, maybe more, out of the enriched uranium they [already] have… All they have to do is kick out the international inspectors, do a little re-piping of their centrifuge machines, and they’re off to the races.
The inspections granted by Iran don’t even cover the most notorious, and perhaps the most dangerous, of the sites: their Parchin military base. In 1997 Parchin conducted a series of tests of a rocket engine needed to carry a nuclear-tipped missile 800 miles, more than enough to reach Israel. In 2005 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was allowed access to some parts of the base as part of an Iranian public relations campaign to mollify concerns but from then until today those inspectors have been denied entry. Nothing in the present agreement refers to Parchin.
The closer members of the Congress looked at the agreement, the more unhappy they were with it. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) stated:
Iran has a history of obfuscation that demands verification of its activities…
We [may] look back on this interim deal as a remarkably clever Iranian move to dismantle the international sanctions … while maintaining its infrastructure…
House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) said:
Loosening sanctions and recognizing Iran’s enrichment program is a mistake, and will not stop Iran’s march toward nuclear capability.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Howard McKeon (R-Calif.) added:
Iran hasn’t given the world [any] reason to be anything but deeply skeptical of any agreement that leaves their capacity to build nuclear weapons intact. The president sees wisdom in placing trust … in a regime that has repeatedly violated international norms and put America’s security at risk.
Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) stated:
President Obama’s agreement with Iran is a serious mistake. The United States will ease sanctions on Iran making billions of dollars available to the Iranians while Iran does not have to dismantle any of their 19,000 centrifuges.
This agreement is a victory for Iran and a defeat for the United States and our allies in the Middle East, specifically Israel…
Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was equally appalled at the agreement:
This deal appears to provide the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism with billions of dollars in exchange for cosmetic concessions that neither fully freeze nor significantly roll back its nuclear infrastructure.
Furthermore, the deal ignores Iran’s continued sponsorship of terrorism, its testing of long-range ballistic missiles, and its abuse of human rights.
The agreement comes at a most convenient time for the Obama administration seeking a distraction from the failure of the Obamacare rollout. Escalating sanctions on Iran since 2006 have done little to slow down its efforts to build its nuclear weapons capability to enforce its determination to erase Israel from the face of the earth. Just last week, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, who endorsed the “historic deal”, called Israel “the rabid dog of the region” and promised that “the Zionist regime is doomed to destruction.”
The “historic deal” then, was suspect from the start. Endorsed by liberals, excoriated by conservatives, it not only secures Iran’s military program as it marches ahead to successful nuclear weapons capability, it also encourages other enemies of Israel to develop their own programs, knowing that the US is no longer the defender of Israel. As noted sadly by Israel’s Foreign Minister Lieberman:
The world is no longer listening to Israel.