by David M. Weinberg
This failure to hold Iran to account impacted the entire negotiating process, allowing Iran to assert that it was innocent, well-intentioned and unfairly persecuted, and should not be constrained. And now the P5+1 is parroting this falsity as part of a formal agreement.
The list of fundamental falsehoods that undergird the P5+1 accord with Iran keeps on growing. It is frustrating and infuriating.
First, there is the lie (or knowing self-deception) that introduces the 159-page agreement, stating that Iran's nuclear program has never been and will not be a weapons program.
"Iran envisions that this JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] will allow it to move forward with an exclusively peaceful, indigenous nuclear program," says the opening text.
This is hogwash, and P5+1 leaders must know this.
Nevertheless, they are accepting this at face value, without a word about the long Iranian record of deception. Iran built entire secret facilities in violation of its international obligations. This failure to hold Iran to account impacted the entire negotiating process, allowing Iran to assert that it was innocent, well-intentioned and unfairly persecuted, and should not be constrained. And now the P5+1 is parroting this falsity as part of a formal agreement.
A second source of frustration is that the agreement says nothing about Iran's terrorist activities, human rights violations or role in regional weapons proliferation, all of which were drivers of Western embargoes in the first place. Iran makes no commitment to change its terrorist or oppressive ways, but the international community promises to eliminate those sanctions anyway.
U.S. President Barack Obama has even invented a fancy term -- "decoupling" -- to justify this. Decoupling means that Iran can get nuclear sanctions relief without having to scale back its hegemonic and subversive muckraking around the region. It means that the nuclear agreement can exist in a virtual vacuum, without reference to Iranian behavior in any other field or arena, as if Iran was Iceland.
Third is the "bet" that Obama explicitly says he is taking, that lifting sanctions will cause Iran to moderate its behavior in both nuclear and nonnuclear matters. To Israelis, this seems incredulous and outrageous, if not idiotic. The rhetoric and actions of Iran's leaders provide little evidence to support this notion and much evidence to the contrary. The likelihood is that this agreement will lead to a significant expansion in the capabilities of the Iranian military, including the Republican Guard and the Quds Force (both of which are to be removed, astoundingly, from the list of sanctioned groups in Iran).
Obama acknowledges that he can't be sure his outreach to the ayatollahs is going to work.
"My hope is that, building on this deal, we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative, to operate the way we expect nations in the international community to behave," he said. "But we're not counting on it. So this deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior."
From an Israeli perspective, these words constitute a damning self-indictment. Obama is emboldening and facilitating Iran's drive for regional hegemony, not "incentivizing" it towards moderation.
Fourth is the amount of money Iran will get from the deal: $100 billion or more in the immediate future, as a signing bonus. There is little mystery as to what Iran will do with a lot of this cash. Tehran has recently concluded an agreement giving Syria's Bashar Assad a $1 billion line of credit. It has promulgated a five-year economic plan calling for a significant expansion of ballistic missile and cyber warfare programs and an increase in Iran's defense capabilities. Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has explicitly threatened to develop naval power to challenge Israel in the Mediterranean Sea and to destroy Israel's gas rigs.
Fifth is the complete collapse of the Americans in insisting on a truly verifiable deal. "Anywhere, anytime" access was the minimum prerequisite for a verifiable deal. Obama has abandoned this. The P5+1 agreement with the ayatollahs allows Iran to keep its nuclear facilities without truly intrusive international supervision of what goes on deep inside them.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu put it this way: "Iran can easily cheat on the deal because inspections are not instantaneous, anywhere, anytime. In fact, you don't have inspections within 24 hours; you have 24 days before you can inspect any site that you find suspicious in Iran. Twenty-four days. Can you imagine giving a drug dealer 24 days' notice before you check the premises? That's a lot of time to flush a lot of meth down the toilet."
Sixth, Israel sees this deal dramatically changing the regional balance of power, instilling even greater uncertainty in regional politics. The American decision to accept Iran as a nuclear threshold state, and Obama's statements in favor of a "responsible Iranian role" in the region and its future as "a very successful regional power," accompanied by an inflated American threat perception of Islamic State, signal a significant change in American Middle East policy. America could wind up being hostage to this deal, with Iran dictating terms for America's broader Middle East policy.
Seventh is the terrible terms of the agreement itself. The deal leaves Tehran as a nuclear threshold state even if it adheres to the terms, able to continue its nuclear research and retain its facilities while it waits for U.N. supervision to end. Worse still, the deal also lifts sanctions on Iran's conventional weapons' trade in five years, and ballistic missiles in eight. Missiles are the most effective way of delivering a nuclear weapon. The U.S. appears to have caved on this point at the last minute, after ultimatums from Tehran.
Eighth, Obama is compounding the failures of this accord by peddling an insidious and false narrative about Israel, namely, that Israel was opposed to any diplomatic solution, and that Netanyahu did not offer any better alternatives to this (bad) deal.
Both assertions are absolutely false. More coercive diplomacy could have delivered a better deal. However, Obama refused to put maximum pressure on Iran. He was not willing to impose additional sanctions on Iran (as Netanyahu suggested and Congress wanted), or to threaten the use of military force.
Instead, he gave waivers to countries like Japan to import Iranian oil. He was reluctant to impose sanctions on global financial institutions that did business with Iran. He could have gone much further to blacklist parts of Iran's economy run by the Revolutionary Guard Corps, etc.
Most grievous of all, Obama told the Iranians as far back as two years ago (in then-secret communications), and then announced publicly, that military force was not an option. When you are in talks with a genocidal, terror-sponsoring regime and claim that you have no viable military option, you are not negotiating. You are begging.
Now, Obama is risibly dismissing critics of the deal as "overheated and dishonest," and saying that were only two choices: his (bad) deal, or war. That's simply a false choice. Secretary of State John Kerry adds insult to injury, and caricatures himself, by saying that it is "fantasy" to believe that a better diplomatic deal was possible.
Finally, there is a sense in Israel of sad deja vu. Keep in mind that just a few years ago Netanyahu was accused of being the naysayer and party-pooper about the "Arab Spring," when the whole world was celebrating the "democracy revolution" in Tahrir Square. Israel was left out in the cold, feeling very alone.
We all now know how than panned out. Israel was right. Netanyahu was right. The Arab world is in an anti-democratic and pro-Islamic meltdown, not in a happy dash to democracy. So perhaps Israel's warnings about Iran and skepticism about this deal should be given a bit more credibility and credence.
It's lonely in Israel today. Alas, that seems to be an inevitable, frequent situation, and it comes at a price. But on the Iran issue, the price of Israeli silence or retreat would be even higher.
David M. Weinberg
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