There are two truths about any contract that are true here; a contract must be good for both parties and if a contract must be read and quoted throughout the life of the contract than it is not worth signing because a contract is an agreement rather than a rules of war. President Obama is triangulating the US, Israel and even Iran into a deal that is seemingly unassailable not because there are not plenty of things terribly wrong with it but because the negotiations themselves have destroyed our most important tool against Iranian expansionism – sanctions. We are trading an Iran declaring it is a nuclear power by virtue of it exploding a nuclear bomb in its soil by freeing up its economy so that it can improve its middle class, improve its weapons systems and export terror. A good contract is a reference point for a dispute with both sides sometimes violating the letter but not the spirit of an agreement. This contract will be the work of two antagonists attempting to milk the most out its terms at each other’s expense and so we may have a contract but no agreement. Cold War agreements at least had MAD as a mutual interest but that is missing here. Tehran wants trade and a nuclear tipped missile, Washington wants an Iran that is an ally of the US if not a friend to fight ISIS, politically restrained by trade with rivals such as the US and Turkey but relatively defanged.
Will the deal prevent Iran from getting the bomb? No, nothing can prevent a nation from creating a nuclear device if it wishes to have one, especially not a country as large and sophisticated as Iran. North Korea was able to do it and they can’t feed themselves.
Will the deal at least delay Iran from getting the bomb? Maybe, it’s a big country and they could find facilities to develop a nuke but they have given up on centrifuges so they would have to purchase plutonium which is possible depending on whether Russian shipments are inspected. Iran has announced the purchase of two new power plants and one has to presume more in the future, we may have a lot of busy inspectors and a lot of trails to follow just to make sure Iran is not producing a nuclear weapon. However, just having a bomb is one thing but delivering it on a missile that can go a long distance is further away, the Iranians have a Shahab 3 but they plan for a Shahab 5 which will be much larger. So while the bomb may seem delayed the missile is not only not delayed but will be easier to produce quickly thanks to the lifting of sanctions. So have we delayed a bomb for longer than they were prepared to wait for the right missile to carry it, probably we have failed. The reality of Iranian missile development makes a sham of the nuclear agreement more than any other point of failure.
Will ending the sanctions bring Iran back into the brotherhood of nations? They have a “Supreme Leader” and “Supreme Leader” is a euphemism for a Pol Pot, Hitler, Jim Jones and supporting such leaders is like going on a date with Bill Cosby but bringing our own ludes, handing them to him when the drinks arrive, covering our eyes and playfully counting to ten. Iran like Cosby may be able to put on a fine show of being decent family guy when doing so brings in a lot of money but Iran is going to keep exporting terror and destabilizing nations because that’s what they believe their purpose in life is and by “they” I just mean the Ayatollah who is the only opinion that matters in Iran because he is the “Supreme Leader.” So, no.
Are our allies on board with the agreement? Yes but there signs of a lack of enthusiasm. Jacques Audibert, a senior advisor to President Hollande, suggests Congress turning down the deal will put the US in a stronger negotiating position down the road by contradicting the idea that sanctions will implode because we don’t allow bank transaction with non-compliant groups is too great a risk and claims that Iran would come back to the negotiating table weaker than before. This is an amazing statement and at minimum suggests deep ambivalence of the current deal by an important European ally, perhaps the EU. With no obvious interest in fighting the agreement beyond security, cold feet in Paris is both surprising and worth considering. Nonetheless, I think we would lose China, Russia and possibly India on the sanctions and they might see enough incentive to find ways around the dollar for practical as much as long term political reasons.
Should we support the Iran deal? Specific problems include the fact sanctions disappear but current terrorist activities are not only not diminished but will increase under this agreement, Iran’s ability to purchase and export weapons systems to terrorist organizations will increase, Iran’s missile development program is not only not diminished but will increase under this agreement, Iran’s ability to create a nuke is diminished but could easily go underground for years. If found, Iran has 24 days to clean up a clandestine site and the slowing down of the nuclear development may not actually slow down the deployment of a nuclear warhead to deliver the nuke with. I have been vacillating greatly on supporting the agreement. My support is for two basic reasons; sanctions were not preventing Iran from expanding its influence or from exporting terrorism for which we relied on sanctions rather than containment to effect positively. Delaying breakout time is good for the US and our allies even if it does not affect nuclear missile production which seems to my eyes to be several years away, although an intelligence analyst would know far better. Supporting the agreement because we have already lost everything we have to lose makes sense unless we believe a single French Presidential advisor, we will have lost the international support for sanctions and they are not coming with a snap or even a loud whistle. We can impose unilateral sanctions but that still leaves Iran far better off than before negotiations. The reason to support a deal comes with a necessary understanding, the US must now directly or by supporting its allies confront Iran’s proxies and drive them out of existence in a containment policy for Iran. We have to make this change regardless if we sign, so we might as well sign since the damage to us is already done. We need to make our congressmen aware that an aggressive containment policy is required until either Iran frees itself or it renounces terror outside its borders. The fact is sanctions were not preventing Iran from destabilizing the region but the problem is the agreement does not replace the sanctions with anything and that is what we must demand of congress and the president. We need to have consequences for Iran exporting terror and consequences for Iran violating the nuclear agreement in place.
One of the unspoken causes of the second part of the Iraq war initiated by George W. Bush was the fraying of the sanctions regime. Russia and France were even found to have been attempting to secure oil deals with Iraq in a post sanctions environment so a nuclear agreement may really put off a hot war with a nation far stronger than Iraq if only due to the number of willing bodies that could be thrown at US forces inside Iran. We won the war but lost the peace and the support of many of our allies on the UN. President Obama has offered us a genuine alternative to Iraq but is an alternative to Iraq relevant and as it a good alternative? An Iran that exports more terror and instability is not good and is worse than or at least as bad as an Iran that breaks up and finds itself in a state of civil war.
Losing the opportunity to have international inspectors inside Iran alongside the cost to US prestige and trust if we don’t approve the deal could leave us in the position of needing to attack Iran immediately, possibly with nuclear weapons as we would not have the support of any of our allies. The damage to us happened in the negotiations, there’s no point in treating the nuclear agreement as something valuable except as leverage to make the price of signing an aggressive containment strategy against Iran which pushes it out of Middle Eastern side of the Persian Gulf and the Levant. The sanctions were the result of our unwillingness to directly confront Iran and its proxies now that the sanctions are effectively gone we must move to contain Iran. The eventual nuclear break out will hopefully mean less if Iran is contained within its borders and has no ability to export terror or if we are lucky the regime will finally implode before they can build a nuclear tipped missile. Let’s call our congressmen and let them know the minimum price of the agreement is aggressive containment and the price of an Iranian breach is an attack on their facilities and destroying their ability to produce weapons systems but even so congressional approval should not be political, Congress should be certain this is a good deal. I have been vacillating but I can’t support the deal for a few reasons; the US has no post signing stance on Iran to guide us as sanctions disappear, Iran shows no good will toward the agreement which means in practice they are against making it unworkable and I am ultimately uncertain this agreement on its best day is good for the US other than very real benefit of bolstering the prestige and credibility of the administration that negotiated it. While the negotiations have laid bare our short comings in depending on sanctions to deter Iran, the agreement does not appear to leave the US in a stronger position to deal with Iran other than to possibly delay its nuclear breakout to a point in time where it can load nuclear weapons onto missiles, so I cannot support this agreement in its current form.
Originally published in the Jerusalem Post in the Middle East by Midwest blog.
Originally published in the Jerusalem Post in the Middle East by Midwest blog.