A Very Bad Deal: Let Us Count the Ways
Upon the signing of an Agreed Framework with North Korea in 1994, President Bill Clinton addressed the American people and assured them, “This is a good deal for the United States.” He explained that “North Korea [would] freeze and then dismantle its nuclear program” and that “U.S. and international inspectors will carefully monitor to make sure it keeps its commitments.”
Well, we know how well that worked out. Eight years later, North Korea kicked out international inspectors, and in 2006, it tested its first nuclear weapon underground. Wendy Sherman, the State Department policy coordinator for North Korea at the time of the signing of the Agreed Framework, just happens to have been the lead U.S. negotiator in nuclear talks with Iran since late 2013.
But it would be a mistake to make too much of the North Koran precedent. The Iranian deal that the U.S. is poised to sign, as I write, is worse, much worse, in every way than that with North Korea. North Korea at least had to kick out inspectors to go nuclear. The P5+1 agreement with Iran now on the table is so porous that inspections would be nearly useless. After first insisting that inspections would be “robust and instrusive,” anywhere and anytime, the final agreement now speaks of “managed access,” which would allow the Iranians to indefinitely stall the process of dispute resolution long enough to get rid of telltale signs of cheating.
Not only did the U.S. officials, including the president and secretary of state, cave on the issue. They proceeded to defend Iran’s position on the grounds that the United States would also not allow inspectors into its military installations. Hello! If Iran were the United States, the P5 would not have spent the last twelve years trying to defang its nuclear program, for which it has no conceivable civilian need.
But one must step back from the details of what President Obama has wrought to truly appreciate the full magnitude of the catastrophe. When the United States joined the P5 negotiations with Iran, it was the world’s sole superpower, as even the Iranians say in their anti-America demonstrations. The disparity between the military and economic power of the United States and Iran was enormous. As a result of the sanctions regime, Iran’s economy was in shambles, with runaway inflation coupled with a severe economic slowdown. (That slowdown was reversed in 2014 by the first sanctions relief.)
The pending agreement almost suggests that Obama has sought to grant Iran parity, to turn it not only into a “successful regional power,” in the President’s words, but into a full-fledged threat to the United States. The agreement does little, if anything, to limit Iran’s ballistic missile program, which means that Iranian submarines will be able in the not-too-distant future be able to strike from just a few hundred miles off America’s coast.
Moreover, the United States has apparently caved as well on removal of the arms embargo on Iran. As a consequence, Iran will within five years be able to purchase all the goodies, both defensive and offensive, in bankrupt Russia’s arsenal. And it will have plenty of cash with which to do so, thanks to up to $100 billion in near-term sanctions relief.
With its new toys – e.g, cruise missiles – Iran will be a lot closer to being able to make good on its constant threats to close the Straits of Hormuz, through which 30% of the world’s oil supply passes. The U.S. Fifth Fleet will soon be incapable of insuring freedom of passage through the Straits.
President Obama has dramatically upped the danger to the United States, and set the stage for an aggressive Iran to become a regional hegemon, by pursuing an agreement with open desperation, as if the West were supplicants suing for peace. And he has continued to do so, even as the crowds in Teheran on last Friday’s Al-Quds day howled “Death to America,” in the presence of Iran’s “moderate” president Rouhani. In his speech, Rouhani blamed the Zionist entity and the Global Arrogance (i.e., America) for bankrolling the internecine conflicts roiling the Muslim world. A Teheran newspaper pined for the day when the U.S. “which currently terrorizes the world will one fine day cease to be visible on the map of the world.
As the signing loomed, Supreme Leader Khameini addressed the Iranian people to assure them that the battle against the Global Aggressor would never end: “The campaign against arrogance is one of the principles of the 1979 Islamic Revolution and the Holy Quran mandates the drive against arrogance.”
While the U.S. was serially capitulating to Iranian demands, the administration published a study that concluded that Iran’s support for international terrorist groups had not declined, and, in some respects, had even grown in the course of the negotiations.
Nor has Iran refrained from cheating on its commitments under the provisional agreement, as it continued to prevail at every stage in the negotiations. Despite administration claims that Iran has “frozen” enrichment under the provisional agreement, the Institute for Science and International Security estimates that it has enriched another four tons of low-enriched uranium, and has turned into oxide form (which cannot be easily weaponized) only about 5% of what was expected under the provisional agreement. And Germany’s domestic intelligence agency revealed last week that Iran has continued its efforts to procure technology for its ballistic missile and nuclear programs.
Nevertheless, the State Department continues to insist that Iran has met all its commitments under the provisional agreement. That willingness to whitewash violations and act as Iran’s lawyer bodes poorly for the efficacy of any inspection regime if a final agreement is signed.
ALL PRESIDENT OBAMA’S CAPITULATIONS are based on a whack-a-doodle theory that by rolling over and exposing our stomachs to the Iranians they will come to love us. The unremitting insults against America and assurances of perpetual enmity from Iran’s Supreme Leader should have put to rest that theory. But they didn’t.
Beyond the President himself, the chief exponent of this theory has been Deputy National Security Council advisor Ben Rhodes, whose academic expertise in national security consists of a MFA in creative writing. An agreement, he told the ubiquitous Jeffrey Goldberg, would make much more likely “an evolution in Iran’s behavior.” He points to the election of president Rouhani as an example of moderating trends in the Iranian population.
Rhodes is no doubt right that the majority of the Iranian population thoroughly detests the mullahs. But Rouhani is not the proof. He is a thoroughly vetted and completely controlled creature of the regime. If the administration were really concerned about the views of the population, it should have supported the 2009 Green Revolution against the regime for election fraud. But the agreement on the table now will only strengthen the regime by allowing it to decrease economic discontent with its sanctions windfall, and makes regime change less, not more, likely.
Ultimately, what neither Rhodes nor his boss can wrap their heads around is that no everyone or every group is motivated by pleasure and profit. The 1979 Islamic Revolution established a theocracy in Iran, which defined its purpose from the beginning as cleansing the Middle East of America’s corrupting influence. Only those who deny that religion can be the most powerful motivating factor – as we learn from suicide bombers – could fool themselves into thinking that the mullahs will ever transform themselves into a more congenial group.
EVEN PRESIDENT HOPE AND CHANGE, however, would have a hard time selling the dream of future amity between the U.S. and Iran. Instead President Obama, ably assisted by his Secretary of State and the latter’s team, has told a series of whoppers besides which, “If you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor,” pales in comparison. Stephen Hayes of the Weekly Standard helpfully breaks down some of those whoppers.
In April, President Obama insisted in a Rose Garden statement that “American sanctions on Iran for its support of terrorism, its human rights abuses, its ballistic missile program will continue to be fully enforced.” Treasury Secretary Jack Lew made the same promise at the Jerusalem Post conference at which he was booed in June. In the final agreement, however, virtually all sanctions and the United Nations arms embargo are removed.
Secretary of State Kerry emphatically insisted in April that Iran would detail all military dimensions of its nuclear program: “They have to do it. It will be done. . . . It will be part of a final agreement. It has to be.” But in late June, Kerry said the P5+1 is no longer “fixated” on the past, about which it has “absolute” knowledge, and focused only on the future.
Details of past nuclear work, however, are very much about the future, for without a baseline of past work, it is impossible for nuclear inspectors to assess what the Iranians are up to now. The claim of absolute knowledge of Iran’s past program is total nonsense. Gen. Michael Hayden, former CIA Director under President Obama, said a June conference sponsored by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies that American intelligence alone “will be insufficient to build up enough confidence . . . that an agreement is being honored.” The United States has in every instance been caught by surprise by other countries going nuclear – e.g. the Soviet Union in its day, China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea.
As early as December 23, 2013, President Obama correctly noted that the Iranians had no need for an underground, fortified facility like Fordow in order to have a peaceful program. But under the agreement, the centrifuges in Fordow will all remain in place, and be capable of being quickly reconverted to enriching uranium, according to Olli Heinonen, former International Atomic Energy Agency deputy-director for safeguards.
National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor described the “clear” American position in April 2012 that Iran must fully suspended enrichment as required by multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions. Under the agreement, those Security Council resolutions will be history and Iran’s right to enrichment expressly recognized. The deal merely limits the number of centrifuges Iran can operate for a period of years.
Chief negotiator Wendy Sherman, testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that Iran’s ballistic missile program would have to be addressed as part of a comprehensive agreement. Now, she says, only ballistic missiles capable of carrying nuclear warheads are of concern.
Most important, as mentioned above, the anytime, anywhere inspection regime has been replaced by “managed access” that the Iranians will be able to manipulate with ease.
EACH OF THE ORIGINAL AMERICAN POSITIONS reflected the minimal requirements for a tenable deal. The fact that each has been totally reversed demonstrates what a great deal this is for Iran’s Supreme Leader.
A bi-partisan group of American diplomats, legislators, policymakers and experts — including former CIA Director David Petraeus, State Department nuclear proliferation expert Robert Einhorn, Dennis Ross, who oversaw Iran policy in Obama’s first term, and Gary Samore, Obama’s former chief advisor on nuclear policy — issued a statement on June 24 setting forth the minimum standards for an acceptable agreement. Those conditions tracked the initial American stance, and none of them were achieved.
They listed five conditions: anytime, anywhere inspections; full disclosure by Iran of previous weaponization efforts; sanctions relief must begin only after the IAEA certifies that Iran has fully complied with its commitments; the deal must last for decades; and Iran must fully dismantle its nuclear infrastructure.
Instead as Iran’s semi-official Fars agency reported, the final agreement met all of Supreme Leader Khameini’s requirements, including the full removal of the arms embargo and all economic, financial, and banking sanctions, and the removal of all previous UN Security Council Resolutions relating to Iran’s nuclear program.
Stephen Hayes points out that the Iranians gained a wish list of all their policy objectives: international legitimization of a rogue state, a massive shift of power to an aggressive state sponsor of terror, the strengthening of the mullahs hold on power, and fully sanctioned nuclear threshold status.
Somewhere along the way, according to former CIA director Hayden, the President’s mantra went from “no deal is better than a bad deal” to “any deal is better than no deal.” And that’s what we got “any deal.” Once again “process” took over, until the worst nightmare for American negotiators was that Iran might say no. So we made them an offer they couldn’t refuse – their entire wish list.