Sunday, July 19, 2015

Sense and Nonsense on the Iran Nuke Deal - P. David Hornik

by P. David Hornik

Is this a good deal—where you kick the can down the road a few years and let an even more armed and dangerous Iran emerge for “folks” to have to confront in the future?

Typical of the delusions being peddled about the Iran nuclear deal is this rundown by Charlotte Alfred, World News Fellow at The Huffington Post. She calls it a “historic accord” that “will roll back Iran’s nuclear work in exchange for the easing of economic sanctions.”

In other words, a triumph, a win-win endeavor. If only there were any truth to that. 

Beginning with “Restrictions on [Iran’s] Nuclear Work,” Alfred notes that Iran is supposed to reduce its working centrifuges from 19,000 to 5,060, cut back its stockpile of 3%-enriched uranium by 98 percent, and defang its Fordo enrichment site and Arak heavy-water reactor.

Sounds nice until you look into the details. As Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted (crowed is more like it) in reaction to the deal (quoted here): 

Our objective was to have the nuclear program and have sanctions lifted. At first they wanted us to have 100 centrifuges now we will have 6,000. They wanted restrictions of 25 years now its 8. First they said we could only have IR1 centrifuges, now we can have IR6, 7, and 8, advanced centrifuges. Heavy water plant at Arak had to be dismantled but now it will remain with heavy water under conditions. Fordo had to be closed now we will have 1000 centrifuges there.

In other words, all of the restrictions are partial—and apply only for a matter of years. The entire nuclear infrastructure remains in place. And meanwhile, as Rouhani proudly alludes to, the deal not only allows Iran to retain advanced centrifuges but to keep developing much more advanced ones that can eventually enrich much greater quantities of uranium.

Is this a good deal—where you kick the can down the road a few years and let an even more armed and dangerous Iran emerge for “folks” to have to confront in the future?

The deal’s next supposed achievement, in Alfred’s telling, is an increase in “breakout time”—the time in which Iran could produce a nuclear bomb—from two-to-three months to about a year. “[S]keptical lawmakers and Israeli officials,” she allows, 

will likely raise questions about what happens after the nuclear restrictions expire in 10 and 15 years. U.S. officials acknowledge that Iran could then expand its nuclear work and reduce its breakout time, but note that the program will continue to be monitored by the IAEA for longer than that.

Yes, and what about the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency has already been “monitoring” Iran’s nuclear program for years, and Iran has played every possible contemptuous game with them short of outright spitting in their faces—meanwhile enriching uranium, building reactors and ballistic missiles, and developing detonators and other weaponizing technologies as if the IAEA didn’t exist? 

It’s hardly reassuring to think that, 10 or 15 years from now when Iran has a totally free hand, the IAEA will be watching over it.

Alfred turns next to the issue of “Verification,” saying that “IAEA inspectors will have increased access to Iran’s uranium enrichment sites for 25 years” and that while “Iran’s supreme leader had balked at the idea of allowing the inspectors into military facilities,…[u]nder a compromise solution, the final deal outlines a dispute-resolution mechanism if Iran turns down IAEA requests for access.”

That’s the same dispute-resolution mechanism that’s already recognized as one of the deal’s most glaring weaknesses. To see why, one does not have to turn to a bitter Israeli or conservative critic of the deal; this account on CBS News will suffice:

[I]f [Iran and the inspectors] can’t come to an agreement to satisfy the inspectors within 14 days of the original request for access, the issue goes to a joint commission that consists of representatives from the P5+1 powers (the U.S., China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and Germany), Iran, and the European High Representative for Foreign Affairs. They have another seven days to reach an agreement that must be supported by at least five of the eight members. If they decide inspectors should get access, Iran has three days to provide it.
That means a total of 24 days could elapse between the time inspectors first request access to a suspicious site and the time they are allowed entry. The deal does not explicitly state what would happen if the Joint Committee deadlocks, four to four.

Obviously, you can hide or gloss over anything in 24 days. This galling absurdity is part of a “deal” reached by people entrusted with the security and future of civilization.

Turning next to “Arms Embargo, Missile Ban,” Alfred sums up:

The international arms embargo on Iran, which became a key sticking point in the final weeks of the negotiations, will be gradually rolled back. The U.N. ban on Iran trading in conventional weapons will be lifted after five years, followed by the ban on ballistic missile technology after eight years. Both of those timelines could be moved up if the IAEA concludes that the nuclear program is entirely peaceful….

Straightforward enough. Iran—which, much sooner than in five years, will already be rolling in hundreds of billions of dollars from sanctions relief, boosted oil sales, and lively commerce with all and sundry—will then be able to get all the conventional weapons and all the ballistic missile technology it wants. Israel, Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf States, Jordan, and Egypt all see this is as catastrophic. But these, after all, are merely Iran’s neighbors; what do they know, and why should anyone listen to them?

Aside from the points that Charlotte Alfred touches on and tries to spin into something positive, a great deal else is wrong with this deal—like the nuclear and conventional arms race it will spark in the region, the fact that its “snap-back mechanism” for ostensibly restoring sanctions is also absurd, the fact that it sets a precedent for nuclear proliferation by letting Iran off scot-free for all past infractions of the Non-Proliferation Treaty, UN Security Council resolutions, and so on, the fact that Iran could circumvent all of the deal’s restrictions by procuring technology and material from foreign sources—as it has already been doing for years; and much else as well. 

As the fight moves to Congress, it is now particularly up to some undecided Democratic senators to see if they can put America’s future and the world’s ahead of partisan political loyalty. If they can’t get themselves to do that, it’s likely to get bad.

P. David Hornik


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