Iran deal announced, gets over $100 billion in sanctioned assets

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani declared that his nation’s “prayers have come true.” The rest of us have to wonder if our worst nightmares may soon be fulfilled. The P5+1 group and Iran announced that they have reached a deal in which Iran will have all sanctions lifted in exchange for a 10-year pause in their pursuit of nuclear weapons, an agreement that will give them almost immediate access to over $100 billion in frozen assets abroad:

Iran reached a landmark nuclear agreement with the U.S. and five other world powers, a long-sought foreign policy goal of the Obama administration that sets the White House on course for months of political strife with dissenters in Congress and in allied Middle Eastern nations.

The accord, which comes after a decade of diplomatic efforts that frequently appeared on the verge of collapse, aims to prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons in exchange for sanctions relief.

Not only will Iran get access to its frozen assets, it can now start selling its oil openly on the market. That will ramp up its economy — but also put a lot of fresh cash into the hands of the same government that funds terrorism around the region. Is the deal so airtight that its prevention of nuclear proliferation is worth that tradeoff? Even that equation depends on what Iran has to do to have its prayers answered, and how well those moves can be verified:

Iran must take an array of specific steps. It must disable two-thirds of its centrifuge machines used to enrich uranium, which can be used as fuel for nuclear energy or nuclear weapons. It must slash its stockpile of enriched uranium and redesign its nuclear reactor in the city of Arak so that it produces less plutonium, which can also be used in a weapon.

Oil-rich Iran has always insisted its nuclear program is for entirely peaceful purposes, such as producing electricity and medical isotopes.

After years of stalling, Iran also must disclose information on its past nuclear activities, which many Western officials believe was aimed at gaining nuclear weapons know-how. Iran must provisionally implement an agreement giving United Nations inspectors much broader access to sites inside the country and eventually get parliamentary approval for that agreement.

Provisionally implement? And what kind of inspections will Iran allow? Unless inspectors are allowed to go anywhere at any time, including military facilities, the inspection regime will be worthless. Let’s not forget that Iran has a long history of hiding its activities from IAEA inspectors, and throwing them out when they got too close to the actual work being done on nuclear weapons.

Omri Ceren, who has been watching these negotiations closely, e-mails that the US retreated from their inspection regime demands:

[P]olitically the coverage will be dominated by the concessions made over the last two weeks – and those were more or less already known as of last night. Reuters confirmed that the administration has collapsed on anytime-anywhere inspections in the broad sense, and more specifically the deal will allow Iran to have a voice in which Iranian sites get inspected. Lawmakers understand the importance of anytime-anywhere inspections: it was the administration, after all, that for many months told Congress that anytime-anywhere inspections were an achievable goal that would make up for concessions elsewhere on centrifuges, facilities, and so on. Meanwhile voters, for understandable reasons, overwhelmingly believe Congress should reject any deal where Iran has a role in overseeing itself.

The Free Beacon’s Adam Kredo reports that the US caved on a number of points, but especially on inspections:

Sanctions also will be lifted on Iran, including those on the country’s banks and financial sectors, which have long supported Iran’s nuclear program as well as its sponsorship of international terror groups.

In one of the more controversial concessions made by the Obama administration, a United Nations’ embargo on arms also will be lifted within around five years as part of the deal, according to multiple reports. A similar embargo on the construction of ballistic missiles, which could carry a nuclear payload, also will expire in around eight years under the deal.

Initial readings of the deal also indicate that Iran will be given the right to veto so-called “anywhere, anytime” inspections of Iranian nuclear sites. This concession has caused concern that Tehran will be able to continue obfuscating its nuclear work and potentially continue in secret along the pathway to a bomb.

Iran also will be permitted for a time to keep its military sites off limits to inspectors, who have long been unable to confirm the past dimensions and scope of Iran’s nuclear weapons work.

With these concessions, Iran may well be able to keep plugging away on nuclear weapons right under the noses of the P5+1. Estimates put Iran around a year away from manufacturing a workable weapon. If IAEA inspectors can’t access military sites even for a brief time, then it won’t take too much effort to complete the process and end up with a nuclear device. The first time we’ll find out about it will be when the Iranians test the device … either in Iran, or in Tel Aviv. Of course, they may wait until Year Eight to put it on a ballistic missile, but that assumes (a) they need a ballistic missile to hit Tel Aviv, and (b) they wait eight years to build a missile. What’s to stop them, without military-site inspections?

The anytime-anywhere inspections were supposed to be non-negotiable. Even the Obama administration knew that; they had told Congress at the beginning of the process that this would be a deal-breaker for the US. Instead, Barack Obama and John Kerry tossed it aside to get their piece of paper. The only possible way to view this is the beginning of a long retreat by the US from the region, and don’t think for a moment that our allies don’t recognize it.