That’s not going to be the only regretful argument for Barack Obama and John Kerry as they push this dangerous stand-down on Iran’s nuclear-weapons development. David Sanger and Michael Gordon report in the New York Times that their main argument for approving the deal — or not rejecting the deal, more accurately — has its own internal contradictions. In essence, Sanger and Gordon write, Obama and Kerry are arguing that we can trust Iran as a nuclear-weapons power in 15 years.
Needless to say, that argument is a tough sell even among Democrats:
Mr. Obama has been pressing the case that the sharp limits on how much nuclear fuel Iran can hold, how many centrifuges it can spin and what kind of technology it can acquire would make it extraordinarily difficult for Iran to race for the bomb over the next 15 years.
His problem is that most of the significant constraints on Tehran’s program lapse after 15 years — and, after that, Iran is free to produce uranium on an industrial scale.
“The chief reservation I have about the agreement is the fact that in 15 years they have a highly modern and internationally legitimized enrichment capability,” said Representative Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat who supports the accord. “And that is a bitter pill to swallow.”
This argument might make sense if people believe that this deal will undermine the mullahcracy and bring forth a popular government unlikely to pursue nuclear weapons. In fact, the White House has tried to make that argument, at least indirectly, by claiming this deal will bolster the supposed moderates in the handpicked government run by the mullahs. That is, of course, sheer nonsense. The deal will dump more than $100 billion dollars into the hands of the mullahs and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, the terrorist army that ensures that no challenge to the mullahcracy survives. The best opportunity for that kind of counter-revolution came in 2009, and Obama and the White House ended up validating Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s fixed election victory instead.
Thanks to the massive capital infusion, the deal does just what Sanger and Gordon says it does. This is actually worse than kicking the can down the road, since a continuation of the status quo would have resulted in a nuclear weapon sooner, but with an Iranian government dealing with significant amounts of unrest and poorly funded to deal with it. This deal gives them the best of both worlds — a nuclear weapon on a slightly longer timetable, plus lots of cash to either mollify a restive population or oppress them even further.
And that assumes the Iranians comply with the deal at all. An announcement this weekend makes that assumption look very shaky indeed:
Iran on Saturday unveiled a new surface-to-surface missile it said could strike targets with pin-point accuracy within a range of 500 km (310 miles) and it said military might was a precondition for peace and effective diplomacy.
The unveiling of the solid-fuel missile, named Fateh 313, came little more than a month after Iran and world powers reached a deal that requires Tehran to abide by new limits on its nuclear program in return for Western governments easing economic sanctions.
According to that deal, any transfer to Iran of ballistic missile technology during the next eight years will be subject to the approval of the United Nations Security Council, and the United States has promised to veto any such requests. An arms embargo on conventional weapons also stays, preventing their import and export for five years.
But Iran has said it will not follow parts of the nuclear deal that restricts its military capabilities, a stance reaffirmed by President Hassan Rohani on Saturday.
Well, that’s a confidence builder, isn’t it? It appears that this is yet another over-promise/under-deliver moment for the White House, along with the aforementioned regret over “anytime, anywhere” inspections:
But the issue that has garnered the most attention is a “24-day” rule for resolving disputes if Iran refuses to give inspectors access to a suspicious site — another measure that expires after 15 years. (After that, inspectors can still demand to enter sites, but under the existing rules, which do not set a deadline for compliance.) Critics say that is far different from “anywhere, anytime” access — a phrase Mr. Moniz and others in the administration used a few months ago, and have come to regret.
If Iran balks at an inspection, then a commission — which includes Iran — can decide on punitive steps, including a reimposition of economic sanctions. A majority vote of the commission suffices, so even if Iran, China and Russia objected, the sanctions could go into effect.
That is the theory. In practice, reimposing sanctions could be politically challenging. Iran has warned that if sanctions are reimposed it will no longer be bound by the accord. The I.A.E.A., perhaps fearing its inspectors would be kicked out, might hesitate to start the 24-day clock.
In other words, this deal got negotiated on the US side by people who were playing checkers, against Iranians playing three-dimensional chess. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, and one that practically everyone but the White House recognized as such from the moment the details were announced.
The UK reopened its embassy in Tehran this weekend. Sky News notes the new missile unveiled this weekend, and also that for all the talks about Iranian moderates, Iran is run by one man — Ali Khameini. “And Mr. Hammond won’t be seeing him.”