There are two ways to stop Iran’s nuclear program. One is to end the program itself, the original goal of these negotiations. If you can’t get them to agree to that, your other option is to change the regime’s behavior, either by replacing it with one that’s more friendly (good luck with that) or by creating incentives for it to renounce expansionism. If you’ve resigned yourself to the reality of a nuclear Iran, obviously you need to do everything you can to make sure that Iran becomes a responsible international actor. Netanyahu’s point here is simple: Today’s deal … doesn’t do that at all. It commits the west to the idea of a nuclear Iran circa 2030 but does nothing to commit Tehran to more peaceful relations with the west and Israel. It’s the underpants-gnome theory of denuclearization:
Step one: Grant Iran the right to become a threshold-nuclear state in 10 years
Step two: ??????
Step three: Peaceful Iran!
Via Noah Pollak, western diplomats don’t even deny that some of today’s sanctions-relief windfall will end up on the battlefield in Syria or in some other bloody pursuit. Here’s America’s top diplomat gazing into the abyss and deciding, eh, it’s not a big deal:
SECRETARY KERRY: Iran has something like $900 billion of economic need right now. To be able to pump oil and restore their energy sector, they have about a $300 billion investment. To be able to do infrastructure, improve the lives of their people – there are all kinds of things Iran needs to do. They have banking challenges, they have payment problem challenges. So the notion that 100 billion – which is what it is, not hundreds of billions, but 100 billion – is going to make all the difference in the world is just – it’s not true.
First of all, what Iran is doing in Yemen right now does not depend on money. What Iran has done for years with Hizballah does not depend on money. What Iran is doing – and by the way, they’re fighting ISIL and helping Iraq in many ways, but that has not depended on money. So sure, something may go additionally somewhere. But if President Rouhani and his administration do not take care of the people of Iran, they will have an enormous problem. And our intelligence community analyzes that the amount that may be the differential that finds its way somewhere is not the difference in what is happening in the Middle East.
I know one guy who’s pretty excited about where that extra “something” might go. “We are confident that the Islamic Republic of Iran will support, with greater drive, just causes of nations” said Bashar Assad in a congratulatory telegram today to Iran’s supreme leader. In fact, the deal’s even worse than Bibi acknowledges in his brief comments here. At the barest minimum, if you’re not going to demand that Iran change its behavior, you’d want to make extra sure that the regime’s access to nuclear delivery systems is blocked for as long as possible. Today’s agreement does the opposite, lifting the UN embargo on ballistic missile technology to Iran in just eight years. It’s utterly mystifying. The only way to make sense of it, as I said in my earlier post, is if the White House has a secret step two in the works: “Reach a grand bargain with Iran’s regime.” Depending on the terms, that could conceivably, I guess, commit Iran to being less aggressive towards its neighbors. But ask yourself, what sort of carrots would a regime founded on “death to America” and wiping Israel off the map need to receive to make it worthwhile for them to give up that philosophy? You’d be asking them to change the foundations of the authority by which they rule. The ask would be exceptionally high, assuming they’d even consider it. You really want Obama making that deal after seeing what he got for this one?
Note Netanyahu’s pointed warning at the end: “Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran.” Hmmmm.