U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry resumes diplomatic talks in Geneva this week, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will visit Washington, D.C. to address Congress on the imminent dangers posed by Iran’s nuclear program.
Despite the flurry of activity, and assurances from the White House that “no deal is better than a bad deal,” there is no sign that anything but trouble — and a potentially very bad deal — lies ahead.
Reports indicate that negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 are heading toward an agreement that will give Iran the capability to produce not one nuclear weapon, but dozens. The emerging deal will reportedly allow Iran to maintain its nuclear-enrichment program — and then expand it to unlimited, industrial size in as few as 10 years. Rather than stopping proliferation, such an agreement would ensure massive nuclear proliferation across the Middle East, threaten global peace and embolden Iran as it emerges victorious from negotiations with the West.
The truth is, Iran is an unabashed terrorist regime that provides financial and operational support to the Assad killing machine, violent radical Islamist groups from Hezbollah and Hamas to al Qaida, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Indeed, the majority of terror attacks over the past 35 years have been linked to Iran, and more Americans were killed last year by Iranian-backed terrorists than by terrorists of the so-called Islamic State.
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An agreement on these terms would provide Iran with the eventual capacity to unleash nuclear terrorism. Even Ray Takeyh, who covered Iran on President Obama’s National Security Council and authored the president’s letters to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, has expressed his concern about the direction of talks.
Takeyh told a security conference last month that “If [Iran] can move to an industrial-size program after the expiration of the sunset clause, I don’t believe that there is an inspection modality that can essentially verify that incremental violations of the agreement are not taking place. And if you have high-velocity centrifuges operating at great speed and efficiency, then the possibility of having a parallel clandestine program becomes greater.”
While pocketing countless U.S. concessions on virtually every aspect of its program — enrichment, plutonium, ballistic missile delivery systems, past illicit nuclear weapons work, continued expansion of centrifuge research — Iran has played the West for a fool. Tehran has failed to grant unfettered access to inspect nuclear infrastructure and continues to stonewall the IAEA, the very organization that would be charged with monitoring any new nuclear agreement.
The only strategy that so far has met with success in dealing with the Islamic Republic of Iran is the implementation of harsh economic sanctions and coercive diplomacy aimed not simply at getting Iran to the table, but forcing Tehran to make a choice between its nuclear infrastructure and the fuel cycle on the one hand, and access to nuclear peaceful and economic relief on the other.
With two deadlines in nuclear talks missed and a year of fruitless diplomatic wheel-spinning behind us without any indication that the regime intends to reform, placing blind trust in Iran will give Tehran even more time to covertly advance on nuclear weapons. The only option the international community has is a full-court press of increased economic penalties.
Without such pressure, Iran will continue to pursue its strategy of delay and deceit, bringing the world closer to the brink of a nuclear nightmare.
If Iran goes nuclear, then terror goes nuclear. And the platform for Iran’s foreign policy would shift from conventional terrorism to nuclear terrorism and nuclear blackmail.
America and its P5+1 partners must publicly lay out the parameters for what an acceptable agreement would look like and apply renewed and robust economic pressure to reverse Iranian intransigence to achieve that result.
Specifically, the deal must require Iran to downgrade Arak from a heavy water reactor to a light water reactor; dismantle nuclear centrifuges and its underground military nuclear enrichment bunker; roll back its ballistic missile program; come clean about its past military nuclear work; and submit anytime, anywhere to unfettered inspection and verification visits by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
To reach a deal that falls short of any of these prerequisites places America and our allies in the direct line of fire, literally and metaphorically. Today’s Middle East is turbulent enough without the looming specter of an Iranian nuclear weapon.
Even a bad deal would spark a nuclear arms race. And unless the world presses Iran to dismantle its nuclear capacity through toughened sanctions and economic diplomacy, then the unthinkable could one day soon become reality.
Joshua S. Block is president and CEO of The Israel Project.