Petraeus, four other former Obama advisers agree: This Iran deal stinks

The rush by the Obama administration to get any kind of deal it can from Iran has alarmed many observers — and as it turns out, former members of the Obama administration. Five key advisers to Barack Obama in the past have signed a Washington Institute public statement on the Iran deal, calling for much more robust conditions for any deal with Tehran. The letter came out late yesterday, just days before the June 30 deadline on the talks, and one of its signatories was Obama’s choice to lead the CIA, David Petraeus:

A group of influential U.S. foreign-policy strategists, including five former confidants of President Barack Obama, warned the White House Wednesday they would oppose a nuclear agreement with Iran if tough terms weren’t included in a final agreement.

Among the requirements identified by the former diplomats, military officers and lawmakers were intrusive snap inspections of Iran’s nuclear and military sites, a resolution of questions surrounding secretly developed nuclear-weapons technologies and a phased reduction of international sanctions on the Islamic Republic.

The group also called on the White House, in a public statement, to make clear to Iran the U.S. would use military force if Tehran moved to assemble the materials and technologies for a nuclear weapon. …

Among the signatories were some of Mr. Obama’s closest foreign-policy advisers from his first term, including Dennis Ross, a White House Middle East strategist; David Petraeus, the former head of the Central Intelligence Agency; and Gary Samore, once the National Security Council’s nonproliferation czar.

Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s top adviser on nuclear proliferation issues, Robert Einhorn, also signed the statement, as did retired Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 2007 to 2011.

Petraeus has to be glad on some level to have gotten free of the Obama White House when he did. Otherwise, he’d be expected to carry water for Obama and John Kerry on this agreement dealing seriously with the threat from Iran. Getting thrown under the Obama bus has its perks after all.

The five Obama advisers joined with a few former advisers to George W. Bush. James Jeffrey, Bush’s deputy national-security adviser as well as Obama’s ambassador to Iraq in 2010-12, and Stephen Hadley, a more well known national-security adviser in Bush’s second term, signed the open letter, as well as Robert Blackwill, another Bush nat-sec official. The WSJ doesn’t mention another Obama-era figure appears on the list of signatories, David Makovsky, an adviser to Obama’s special envoy to the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations over the last two years. The Iran question has some particular impact on this conflict, especially as it relates to Hamas and Gaza. Makovsky’s signature might have more impact than the WSJ’s oversight suggests, especially since Obama himself keeps tweaking Israel over its opposition to the nuclear deal with Iran.

The signatories try to frame this dissent as positively as possible, but their list of essential elements for a deal that are currently missing from the framework looks like a comprehensive rejection of the Obama/Kerry approach:

We are united in our view that to maximize its potential for deterring and dissuading Iran from building a nuclear weapon, the emerging nuclear agreement must – in addition to its existing provisions – provide the following:

  1. Monitoring and Verification: The inspectors of the International Atomic Energy Agency (the “IAEA”) charged with monitoring compliance with the agreement must have timely and effective access to any sites in Iran they need to visit in order to verify Iran’s compliance with the agreement. This must include military (including IRGC) and other sensitive facilities. Iran must not be able to deny or delay timely access to any site anywhere in the country that the inspectors need to visit in order to carry out their responsibilities.
  2. Possible Military Dimensions: The IAEA inspectors must be able, in a timely and effective manner, to take samples, to interview scientists and government officials, to inspect sites, and to review and copy documents as required for their investigation of Iran’s past and any ongoing nuclear weaponization activities (“Possible Military Dimensions” or “PMD”). This work needs to be accomplished before any significant sanctions relief.
  3. Advanced Centrifuges: The agreement must establish strict limits on advanced centrifuge R&D, testing, and deployment in the first ten years, and preclude the rapid technical upgrade and expansion of Iran’s enrichment capacity after the initial ten-year period. The goal is to push back Iran’s deployment of advanced centrifuges as long as possible, and ensure that any such deployment occurs at a measured, incremental pace consonant with a peaceful nuclear program.
  4. Sanctions Relief: Relief must be based on Iran’s performance of its obligations. Suspension or lifting of the most significant sanctions must not occur until the IAEA confirms that Iran has taken the key steps required to come into compliance with the agreement. Non-nuclear sanctions (such as for terrorism) must remain in effect and be vigorously enforced.
  5. Consequences of Violations: The agreement must include a timely and effective mechanism to re-impose sanctions automatically if Iran is found to be in violation of the agreement, including by denying or delaying IAEA access. In addition, the United States must itself articulate the serious consequences Iran will face in that event.

Most importantly, it is vital for the United States to affirm that it is U.S. policy to prevent Iran from producing sufficient fissile material for a nuclear weapon – or otherwise acquiring or building one – both during the agreement and after it expires. Precisely because Iran will be left as a nuclear threshold state (and has clearly preserved the option of becoming a nuclear weapon state), the United States must go on record now that it is committed to using all means necessary, including military force, to prevent this. The President should declare this to be U.S. policy and Congress should formally endorse it. In addition, Congressional review of any agreement should precede any formal action on the agreement in the United Nations.

The most amusing part of this argument is “in addition to existing provisions.” These should be all of the provisions. It’s almost impossible to imagine what interests the US and the West have outside of these parameters. What are we going to inspect, if not “military and other sensitive facilities”? How will verification work otherwise? Why would we lift sanctions without such verification?

This statement almost explicitly states that the Obama/Kerry direction in these talks are a path to surrender. It’s worth noting that while Petraeus was working in the Obama administration (as well as some of these other advisers), this list of objectives was explicitly endorsed by Obama. Now that they’ve left, Obama has jettisoned these principles in favor of getting any kind of deal he can before he leaves office. It’s shameful, and it’s dangerous.