National Security

Good News: Peace in Our Time!

Obama says it's either his deal or war. That's a false choice.

Apr. 6, 2015
Neville Chamberlain was wrong too

On Thursday, Barack Obama announced his nuclear deal with Iran in a Rose Garden speech that gave new meaning to the phrase “putting lipstick on a pig.” The major assertion of his speech – “If fully implemented, this framework will prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon, making our nation, our allies and our world safer” – is categorically untrue. This deal will not prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, and it will not make anyone safer. Heck, even the French basically called it a surrender.

Obama praised the “tough and principled diplomacy” practiced by U.S. negotiators led by Secretary of State John Kerry over the last 18 months. Apparently, “tough and principled” meant tossing overboard one negotiating position after another until Iran finally agreed to something. As The Washington Post pointed out, Obama went from “Iran must end its nuclear program and abide by UN resolutions” in 2012 to enshrining Iran’s right to become a threshold nuclear state and ditching the UN resolutions in 2015, leaving Iran never more than a year from being able to field a weapon.

The community organizer in chief claimed this deal “will cut off every pathway Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.” Considering that this deal leaves every single Iranian nuclear facility and centrifuge intact and depends on Iranian honesty and goodwill to boot, we are not persuaded. At best – at the very best – this deal puts a speed bump on Iran’s road to a nuclear weapon.

Obama insisted the deal would stop Iran from using the Arak heavy water reactor to produce plutonium by replacing the reactor core with a light water design. The details of this modification remain to be worked out, and it will take years to accomplish – if Iran allows it to go forward at all. In the meantime, Iran is already demanding an immediate end to all sanctions. How to square these two widely divergent timelines? Obama didn’t elaborate. Look for this to provide one of the earliest collisions between his vision and reality.

Next, he claimed the deal will “shut down Iran’s path to a bomb using enriched uranium.” See our previous objection. Not a single Iranian facility is so much as shuttered, and not a single centrifuge is destroyed or shipped out of the country. Even the heavily fortified underground enrichment site at Fordow is merely converted to a “research center.” All reversible in short order at any time Iran chooses, and with Iran’s possession of a complete, industrial-scale nuclear fuel cycle now officially blessed by the United States and the UN.

Obama swore the deal provides the “most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency ever” and that “if Iran cheats, we will know.” We refer him to Iran’s 2003 signing of the Additional Protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty, which also provided the most robust and intrusive inspections ever – until Iran decided not to allow them. The new deal will put the Additional Protocol’s terms back in force, as well as requiring Iran to comply with inspections for “suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.” All dependent on the ability of the P5+1, including Iran’s friends China and Russia, to act as one and hold Iran’s feet to the fire on inspections.

And if you don’t like the deal, Obama says, ask yourself this question: “Do you really think that this verifiable deal … is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?” Either my way or war, he says.

Fortunately, members of the congressional leadership from both sides of the aisle are obviously not ready to accept Obama’s version of reality. Elliot Engel (D-NY), the senior Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, warned, “We now need to take a close look at the details to determine if the compromises made are worth the dismantling of years of pressure built on Iran.”

Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) declared, “The details deserve and must get a vote by the U.S. Congress. Until the full details are provided to Congress on June 30th, you can keep me in the ‘highly skeptical’ column.”

Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC) noted, “[Thursday’s] framework is far too vague for the U.S. to be immediately lifting sanctions. Without question, Tehran will consider [this] agreement, which allows it to keep its underground facilities intact, a huge victory.”

Also not ready to accept Obama’s version of reality is Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. In a statement on Friday, Netanyahu affirmed the obvious: Lifting sanctions on Iran “would greatly bolster Iran’s economy [and] give Iran … tremendous means to propel its aggression and terrorism throughout the Middle East.” He added that the deal to allow Iran to keep its nuclear program could “very well spark a nuclear arms race … and it would greatly increase the risks of terrible war.”

Speaking of that nuclear arms race, Saudi Arabia will somehow have to be convinced that Iran’s possession of a complete nuclear infrastructure does not threaten Riyadh. This will be a tough sell, because Saudi Arabia’s population is just as concentrated in a few major cities as is Israel’s, and Saudi Arabia does not have a missile defense system. Its only option for maintaining deterrent capability against a nuclear Iran would be to go nuclear itself. How these two mortal enemies might act once both have nuclear weapons is not pleasant to consider.

All that said, we are guardedly optimistic that this deal will be dragged down by its own weight. Its deficiencies are so numerous and obvious that only the legacy-seeking narcissist occupying the White House can say with a straight face that it’s a good deal for the United States. The technical details to be worked out in just three months are monumental. Congress is skeptical and resentful of being shut out of the process for so long, and they must go along to relieve sanctions – an unlikely proposition. Iran is sure to drag its feet, demand full sanctions relief up front, and generally follow its usual script of misbehavior, producing ample opportunities to blow up the deal.

But in the meantime, with every day that Iran is allowed to enjoy this deal’s protection for its nuclear program, the day Iran becomes a nuclear weapons state grows nearer. And that would be the real legacy of this deal’s principal architect: Barack Obama.

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