President Obama’s team worked diligently to craft a nuclear agreement with Iran, and the president is right in saying that no deal is perfect. The question is whether the flaws in the current plan outweigh its strengths and make the world more, not less safe.
Reducing Iran’s nuclear stockpiles, adding more inspections, and stopping a large portion of the centrifuges is certainly progress.
But leaving all of Iran’s nuclear facilities in place, loading up the regime with as much as $150 billion to ramp up support for the Syrian dictator, Hezbollah and Hamas, while allowing Iran to rearm with conventional weapons and build up its anti-aircraft defenses to protect nuclear installations are only some of the areas of extreme concern.
In my view, there is one item that puts any other benefits in doubt.
It is indispensable that the international community be able to verify that Iran is abiding by the terms of the agreement.
Without the ability to inspect suspicious Iranian facilities on short notice, how does the world know that Iran is not cheating?
The White House keeps repeating a deceptive mantra, claiming the deal allows for 24/7 monitoring of nuclear facilities. The message they want everyone to hear is that the world will be able to constantly examine what Iran is doing.
But that is false. I urge you to read the text of the deal. Go to item number 75, which explains the process for the IAEA — U.N. nuclear experts — to inspect suspected breaches. It is, to put it mildly, a travesty.
If the IAEA has concerns about, for example, “undeclared nuclear materials or activities inconsistent with the JCPOA,” the name of the agreement, Iran has to be notified and shown the reasons for the concern. In other words, Iran will be provided the evidence, the intelligence that causes suspicions. This sets in motion 24 days of discussions and meetings. That is time Iran can use to relocate or cover up cheating.
At the end of the period, a Joint Commission of eight — representatives from Iran, Russia and China, the United States, Germany, France, United Kingdom and European Union — take a vote on how to resolve the concerns. A majority vote would presumably have the power to order Iran to open up to inspections.
In that vote, by the way, if Iran can convince say China, Russia, and one other member, perhaps the E.U. foreign affairs representative, not to vote with the rest of the group, Iran can avoid the inspection altogether.
When asked about this 24-day delay issue, Obama was dismissive. “This has been, I think, swirling,” he said, “the notion that this is insufficient in terms of inspections.” He again repeated the mantra that there will “24/7 inspections of declared nuclear facilities” with sophisticated monitoring.
Is the monitoring complete if Iran knows and has control of areas that remain out of bounds for inspectors for three weeks even after inspectors have reason for concern?
The administration has failed to answer this satisfactorily, probably because it cannot. On a CNN interview, Obama aid Ben Rhodes stuck with talking points, first repeating the 24/7 claim. When pressed on the issue he claimed, quite falsely, that “We never sought the capacity for anytime, anywhere” inspections.
This all adds up to a huge crack in the structure to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon.
We already know that Tehran risked it all to conduct an illegal program. We know Iran lied and violated its commitments under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The country endured painful sanctions rather than stop enriching uranium and dismantle its facilities.
We also know that Iran was able to build and conceal massive nuclear facilities for years, which were only discovered because dissidents — not Western intelligence or — revealed their existence to the world.
Obama is right that making a deal to prevent Iran from building a bomb is a worthwhile pursuit. But I am not yet convinced that this is the agreement that achieves that goal.
Handing the regime tens of billions of dollars; giving sanctions relief to one of the world’s top terrorist masterminds, the head of the Quds Force; opening the gates to more conventional weapons — it all allows Iran to prepare, to boost its strategic standing and bolster its position for the day when it makes the decision to dash for the bomb.
And in the interim, it would make the world more dangerous.
I am looking forward to hearing the administration in the weeks ahead explain how it believes this deal will prevent that from happening. I’d like to be persuaded.