Quotes of the day

The United States and five other world powers announced a landmark accord Sunday morning that would temporarily freeze Iran’s nuclear program and lay the foundation for a more sweeping agreement…

The United States did not accept Iran’s claim that it had a “right to enrich” under the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. But American officials signaled last week that they were open to a compromise in which the two sides would essentially agree to disagree on how the proliferation treaty should be interpreted, while Tehran continued to enrich

“At the end of six months, we may see another half step and six more months of negotiations — ad infinitum,” said Gary Samore, a senior aide on nonproliferation issues on the National Security Council in Mr. Obama’s first term. Mr. Samore is now president of United Against Nuclear Iran, a nonprofit group that advocates tough sanctions against Iran unless it does more to curtail its nuclear program.


The deal does not roll back the vast majority of the advances Iran has made in the past five years, which have drastically shortened what nuclear experts call its “dash time” to a bomb — the minimum time it would take to build a weapon if Iran’s supreme leader or military decided to pursue that path.

Lengthening that period, so that the United States and its allies would have time to react, is the ultimate goal of President Obama’s negotiating team. It is also a major source of friction between the White House and two allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, which have made no secret of their belief that they are being sold down the river…

At the beginning of Mr. Obama’s presidency, Iran had roughly 2,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium, barely enough for a bomb. It now has about 9,000 kilograms, by the estimates of the International Atomic Energy Agency. A few thousand centrifuges were spinning in 2009; today there are 18,000, including new models that are far more efficient and can produce bomb-grade uranium faster. A new heavy water reactor outside the city of Arak promises a new pathway to a bomb, using plutonium, if it goes online next year as Iran says it will.


Iran’s top officials on Sunday welcomed the initial agreement struck with world powers over its nuclear activities, hailing the deal as the beginning of a new era for the Islamic republic, both in its relations with other countries and for its sanctions-ravaged economy…

Addressing concerns over the language in the agreement between the six world powers and Iran regarding Tehran’s ability to continue work on its nuclear program, Rouhani said, “Let anyone make his own reading, but this right is clearly stated in the text of the agreement that Iran can continue its enrichment, and I announce to our people that our enrichment activities will continue as before.”…

One of the achievements of Sunday’s agreement, according to Rouhani, is that “the sanctions will be broken. The cracks in the sanctions started began last night, and in future those gaps will be grow.”


Despite the irate responses from the Prime Minister’s Office to the agreement signed in Geneva early Sunday between Iran and six world powers, the deal is not really a bad one. Even from an Israeli perspective, it is actually a reasonable deal. Maybe even a good one

But the most important part of this agreement is the inspection regime. Under the deal, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency will be given daily access to the Natanz and Fordo facilities, permitting inspectors to review surveillance camera footage. At the moment, inspectors visit just once every two weeks. This increased monitoring will reduce the risk of a nuclear breakout without the knowledge of the UN watchdog.

The Geneva agreement will also give the international community valuable information about the Iranian nuclear program that it did not have before. Iran has committed to give IAEA inspectors access to centrifuge assembly lines and uranium mines and mills, and to provide design information about the Arak reactor, after years of refusing to do so. Inspectors will also be given more frequent access to the reactor.


The Iranian nuclear deal struck Saturday night is a triumph. It contains nothing that any American, Israeli, or Arab skeptic could reasonably protest. Had George W. Bush negotiated this deal, Republicans would be hailing his diplomatic prowess, and rightly so…

Without going into a lot of technical detail (which can be read here), the point is this: The agreement makes it impossible for the Iranians to make any further progress toward making a nuclear weapon in the next six months—and, if the talks break down after that, and the Iranians decide at that point to start building a nuclear arsenal, it will take them much longer to do so.

In exchange for these restraints, the P5+1 nations agree to free up about $6 billion of Iran’s long-frozen foreign assets. This amounts to a very small percentage of the sanctions imposed on Iran’s energy and financial sectors. Meanwhile, all other sanctions will remain in place and continue to be vigorously enforced; the agreement doesn’t affect those sanctions at all. The U.S. Congress does have to agree not to impose additional sanctions in the next six months. If it imposes them anyway, they must know that this agreement—and the international coalition holding the sanctions in place—will collapse. Even this Congress is likely to hold off. If it does go ahead and passes a bill imposing new sanctions, Obama will certainly veto it.


By not agreeing to dismantle a single centrifuge, Iran has not rolled back its nuclear infrastructure and with the many centrifuges that it is currently operating, Iran retains the ability to breakout and produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon in as little as 2 months. At the same time, the carefully constructed sanctions architecture developed over decades has been significantly rolled back.

It is unrealistic to characterize sanctions as a spigot that can be turned off and back on. By rolling back sanctions now, the international community is significantly lessening the pressure on Iran’s economy and the best measure of that pressure is the value of the Iranian rial. Six months from now we believe that the Iranian rial will have regained significant lost value and there will be far less economic pressure on the Iranian economy. And accordingly there will be far less pressure for Iran to actually dismantle a material number of centrifuges, much less end its nuclear enrichment and plutonium programs for which it has no practical purpose except to produce a nuclear weapon. If Iran’s industrial-size nuclear program is not rolled back, Tehran will inherently maintain the breakout capacity to build such a weapon.


The upshot of all this is that Iran is getting billions of dollars for agreeing to negotiate more. If negotiations don’t yield a better deal, the Iranian nuclear program will not have been set back significantly.

What brought diplomacy with Iran this far is punishing sanctions, almost all of which have originated on Capitol Hill. The White House has more than once been opposed to or lukewarm on sanctions bills and then retroactively endorsed them when they passed the Senate unanimously. The Obama administration’s instincts with Iran, in other words, have always been to play the good cop — and a good cop can’t accomplish much without a bad cop.

Congress should continue to play bad cop, and when the Senate returns from recess, it should go ahead and pass the next round of sanctions that have already passed the House. More economic pressure, not less, is what will corner Iran into a meaningful permanent deal, the only way to prevent the dangerous emergence of a nuclear-armed theocracy without resorting to war.


Iran will go back on the nuclear agreement it just signed with the United States and other world powers if Congress imposes new sanctions, Iran’s foreign minister told NBC News after the deal was announced.

“If there are new sanctions, then there is no deal. It’s very clear. End of the deal. Because of the inability of one party to maintain their side of the bargain,” Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said during an exclusive interview with NBC News.


[W]hile the concessions to Iran on sanctions are in and of themselves not dramatic, the reversal in momentum for sanctions and the loss of the psychology of impenetrable sanctions is of immeasurable value to Tehran. Dealmakers will be back, letters of credit will once again be available, and it will be the beginning of the end of international cooperation on sanctions. Worse yet, the administration will be loath to call Iran for failing to measure up to the letter of the agreement for fear of collapse, with all the concomitant loss of reputation to the President. The administration, having once been an advocate for an end to Iran’s nuclear program, will become an advocate for Iran. Don’t believe it? Look at last week’s outrageous comments by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei about Israel. Where was Kerry? Look at the administration’s opposition to new sanctions on the Hill.

In short, it is wrong to say Iran has given nothing; Iran has given something, but nothing that halts its progress towards a nuclear weapons capability. It has simply pushed back a break-out date which was immaterial to Iran, which has little intention of immediate break-out in any case. In return, it has earned something far more valuable than the concessions it granted: an advocate for the current regime in the White House.


If Iran has the expertise and infrastructure to build nuclear weapons—even if it chooses not to do so—and at the same time it comes in from the cold, joining the community of nations (and the World Trade Organization) on equal terms with the ability to exploit fully its huge oil and gas reserves, then it becomes not only a regional player, but a regional superpower…

But the Obama administration has conceded a crucial point that the neocons of the George W. Bush administration and the hawks in Israel never wanted to admit: Iran’s leaders are not insane, and least of all Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and the current president, Hassan Rouhani, elected last summer…

The number one priority of the mullahs throughout their reign has been the preservation of their theocratic rule, and the Obama administration decided to deal with them on that basis. The White House has reassured them privately and publicly that “regime change” is not its goal, although that might be the result if the nuclear issue led to war. The mullahs have no reason to want that. And neither does Washington.


“It’s a bad agreement because of what it symbolizes,” [Yoel Guzansky] said. “It means Iran is getting an acceptance, a signature that it’s a legitimate country.” Even worse for Israel, he added, the agreement amounts to “acceptance of Iran as a nuclear threshold state.”…

Guzansky also said Israel’s main card — military action — appears to be out of the question right now.

“How can Israel, after the entire international community sat with Iran, shook hands with Iran and signed an agreement, operate independently?” he said. “It will be seen as someone who sabotages 10 years of trying to get Iran to the table and trying to get a deal.”


Presidents think in four- and eight-year increments; Iranians and Israelis for that matter think in longer terms. Iran should be happy that the threat of military force is receding; Israel is unhappy for the same reason. If Iran plays its cards smartly and doesn’t stick the nuclear issue in Obama’s face, Tehran hopes, the international community’s urgency in pressing ahead on sanctions will fade. Congress might hold the line, but the Russians, Chinese and many others won’t. And over time, the sanctions will diminish in effectiveness. But Iran, having mastered the process of how to make nukes, will always have this capacity and can move to operationalize it if chooses to do so…

Where you stand in life has a great deal to do with where you sit. Israel is a small power in a dangerous neighborhood; the United States is a behemoth with non-predatory neighbors to its north and south and fish to its east and west. And while it might have been too much to expect complete unanimity in the U.S. and Israeli positions on Iran, what you have now is the making of a diplomatic trainwreck, with the United States pressing ahead with diplomacy while the Israelis snipe from the sidelines…

Allies can disagree. But when America’s two longest and closest friends in the Middle East seem to have more in common with one another than with the United States, on a fundamental issue that frankly affects their security more than America’s, that’s a serious problem.





Via NRO.

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Jazz Shaw 5:01 PM on March 22, 2023