Jim's Blog

Necessary Conditions for an Iran Deal

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Washington, June 30, 2015 | comments

Decades ago, Henry Kissinger asked if Iran’s leaders wanted their country to be “a nation or a cause” — a normal “nation” which contributes to regional stability or a “cause” which sets the Middle East on fire. The mullahs in Tehran are soon to give answer to Kissinger’s question, although expectations are that Tuesday’s negotiations deadline will be missed.

Congressional sanctions brought Iran to the negotiating table after years of delay, obfuscation and outright lies. Congress will review any final agreement and vote on disapproving sanctions relief. I will only support an agreement which ensures Iran never gets nuclear weapons capability. No deal is better than a bad one.

Let’s remember that the United States is not exactly negotiating with Switzerland. The U.S. State Department recently reported that Iran is continuing to violate its obligations under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and a host of U.N. Security Council Resolutions. In a separate report, the State Department also concluded that “Iran’s state sponsorship of terrorism worldwide remains undiminished” including Hezbollah and Hamas who want to destroy Israel. Iranian proxies now effectively control the fate of four Arab states in the world’s most unstable region — Yemen, Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria — and are threatening Jordan.

A good deal must include the following components:

1. Sanctions lifted in stages contingent on Iranian behavior.  Combined with the credible threat of military force, comprehensive sanctions represent the main leverage to force Iranian compliance. A good deal would husband that leverage. Under no circumstances should Iran receive a “signing bonus” — an immediate infusion of billions of dollars — simply for signing an agreement.

Obama administration negotiators have pushed the canard of so-called “snap back sanctions” — lifted sanctions that would supposedly “snap back” into place should Iran violate the agreement’s terms. In reality, re-establishing dismantled sanctions faces obvious and insurmountable diplomatic and practical complications. A good deal should avoid relying on the snap-back-sanctions illusion.

2. Unlimited duration.  An agreement which terminates in 10 or 15 years is not acceptable. Iran’s theocratic regime is unlikely to change in a decade. Nor is Tehran’s pursuit of long-range ballistic missiles, support of Islamist terrorist organizations, and desire to wipe Israel off the map. A good deal should terminate only following a fundamental transformation in Iranian politics and military objectives.

3. Full disclosure of Iran’s past nuclear weapons research and development.  Iran has stonewalled repeated International Atomic Energy Agency efforts to clarify possible military dimensions, so-called PMDs — of its nuclear program. Setting “baseline” verification requires Iran come clean about PMDs. Inspectors cannot confidently detect violations without a baseline understanding of Iranian research and development and capabilities. Unfortunately, Secretary of State John Kerry recently signaled that the final agreement will not mandate Iran give a full and complete PMD accounting.

4. Dismantlement of excess nuclear infrastructure.  Iran has zero practical need for nuclear power, but the Obama administration is willing to let Tehran retain an indigenous nuclear power program. A good deal should permit Iran to retain nuclear infrastructure sufficient to power the Tehran Research Reactor — a small power plant already under heavy IAEA safeguards. Any nuclear equipment beyond the small number of older-generation centrifuges necessary to power that facility should be verifiably dismantled. Not put away into storage for inspection, but ground into dust. In addition, a good deal should ban research and development on advanced centrifuges to indigenously replace infrastructure. Iran can swap out parts and equipment on a “one-for-one” basis with the IAEA as its sole supplier.

5. Anytime, anywhere inspections.  A good deal will give IAEA inspectors no-notice access to declared and undeclared sites — including military and intelligence sites. Iran’s record of nuclear duplicity means nothing should be off-limits. Robust inspections are the cornerstone to verifying that Iran is not diverting its “civilian” nuclear program to a nuclear weapons capability.

I am not confident that President Obama’s agreement will include any of these conditions. Just last week, Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, demanded that all sanctions be lifted upon signing the deal. Furthermore, the supreme leader ruled out freezing nuclear enrichment, research and development on centrifuges, and inspector visits to military sites or interview with nuclear personnel.

Khamenei’s ludicrous demands are precisely why a good deal must include these five conditions — without dilution and without exception — until Iran decides to be a nation rather than a cause.

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