The good, the bad, the secret: The nuclear deal with Iran

Reuters

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, China's Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, and France's Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius greet and shake hands with each other at the Palais des Nations in Geneva November 24, 2013. Iran and six world powers reached a breakthrough agreement early there to curb Tehran's nuclear program in exchange for limited sanctions relief.

Article Highlights

  • When word came that Kerry was returning to Geneva, there was little doubt a deal had been reached with Iran.

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  • Naturally, both Iran’s and Obama’s friends in Washington were equally quick to praise the “historic agreement”.

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  • I hear they’re talking about selling out Assad in favor of a new Syrian government.

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When word came that Secretary of State John Kerry was winging his way back to Geneva, there was little doubt a deal had been reached with Iran for some nuclear concessions in exchange for a modicum of sanctions relief. Reaction was predictable from most quarters, with those concerned about Iran’s bona fides slamming the de minimis requirements of the agreement — particularly a failure to secure Iran’s agreement to cease all enrichment, a key demand of all relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions. Naturally, both Iran’s and Obama’s friends in Washington were equally quick to praise the “historic agreement”.

The good in the dribs and drabs reported about this agreement are straightforward:
  • a halt of work at Arak, the heavy water reactor that provides Iran a second route to a bomb
  • A suspension of installation of new centrifuges
  • Intrusive new inspections
  • A cap on the stockpile of enriched uranium

 

The bad is in what is left out:
  • all enrichment
  • cooperation in revealing details of Iran’s military work at Parchin
  • Construction (though not installation) of new centrifuges
  • Reversal of nuclear progress
Chatting last week with a prominent nuclear expert in Washington (a Democrat), we talked about the problems with the then prospective deal. Ironically, we were in complete agreement:
  • Phased deals such as this buy more time for the would-be nuclear state to advance its program while giving key concessions on the sanctions front.
  • Sequenced agreements of this kind don’t work (viz: North Korea).
  • The administration was too desperate for a deal.
  • There will be no phase two.

 

In reality, Iran has given nothing of substance other than a “pause” in its program.  The administration has left the hard work to the IAEA, including Parchin and verification.  Any hint of suspicion that Iran will continue work at an as yet undisclosed secret site was missing.  In return, while the concessions to Iran on sanctions are in and of themselves not dramatic, the reversal in momentum for sanctions and the loss of the psychology of impenetrable sanctions is of immeasurable value to Tehran.  Dealmakers will be back, letters of credit will once again be available, and it will be the beginning of the end of international cooperation on sanctions.  Worse yet, the administration will be loath to call Iran for failing to measure up to the letter of the agreement for fear of collapse, with all the concomitant loss of reputation to the President.  The administration, having once been an advocate for an end to Iran’s nuclear program, will become an advocate for Iran.  Don’t believe it?  Look at last week’s outrageous comments by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei about Israel.  Where was Kerry?  Look at the administration’s opposition to new sanctions on the Hill.

In short, it is wrong to say Iran has given nothing; Iran has given something, but nothing that halts its progress towards a nuclear weapons capability.  It has simply pushed back a break-out date which was immaterial to Iran, which has little intention of immediate break-out in any case. In return, it has earned something far more valuable than the concessions it granted: an advocate for the current regime in the White House.

One last thing: AP is reporting secret talks have been going on between the White House and Iran for months now. We’ve heard this repeatedly.  What are they talking about?  In addition to the nuclear issue, I hear they’re talking about selling out Assad in favor of a new Syrian government that looks exactly like the current government, minus Assad.  Hezbollah?  Nothing.  Terrorism?  Nothing.  Watch out.

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