15 July 2015

A disastrous nuclear deal with Iran


President Obama and European leaders have hailed this week’s nuclear deal as a momentous agreement that will prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear weapons power.  In contrast, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has denounced the deal as a “historic mistake.” Mr. Netanyahu’s concerns have been echoed by a growing chorus of US Members of Congress (on both sides of the political aisle) who have also condemned it. In the words of Senator Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a military veteran, “the deal announced by President Obama today is a grievous, dangerous mistake…  If this deal is approved, it will represent a historic defeat for the United States.”

The opponents of the Iran deal are right – this is a disastrous agreement that leaves Iran’s nuclear infrastructure largely in place, with only limited “managed” access to inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In effect the Iranian regime will be able to deny unfettered inspections of its nuclear facilities. Iran has never cooperated with good faith with the IAEA in the past – there is no reason to believe it will do so now. Concession after concession has been made by the E3/ EU+3 Group (the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China and the United States, with the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy), allowing Iran to maintain 6,000 centrifuges, with the rest of its 19,500 centrifuges kept in storage, but not destroyed.

Under the proposed arrangement, Iran would be in a position to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon within a year – the “breakout” time – if it chose to renege on the agreement. Even if Iran sticks to the deal, which is highly unlikely, the sunset restrictions on uranium enrichment will expire in a decade. In the meantime there are no restrictions put in place to limit Iran’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) or its conventional weapons capability. Nor are there any measures to constrain Iran’s role as a terrorist state. As for Iran’s vicious record as a human rights violator, not a word is mentioned. Indeed the deal is a slap in the face for Iran’s dissidents who have faced beatings and even death at the hands of the Iranian dictatorship, which has operated with impunity.

With the impending lifting of economic sanctions against Iran, which had been painstakingly put together by the UN Security Council over the course of many years despite Russian and Chinese resistance, Tehran will have potentially hundreds of billions of additional dollars to invest in its nuclear facilities, conventional weapons capability, and its state sponsored terror network, including Hamas and Hezbollah. It is an extraordinary windfall for a regime that continues to threaten to wipe an entire nation of people – the Israelis – off the map. There is little prospect of these sanctions being put back in place if Iran fails to comply with the deal.

There can be no doubt that the Iran nuclear deal will spark a dangerous arms race in the Middle East, with Iran’s Arab neighbours seeking to defend themselves in the event that Tehran becomes a nuclear weapons power. The prospect of a nuclear war in the Middle East will be dramatically raised as a result of this agreement. With good reason, America’s allies in the Gulf States have strongly opposed the deal, which makes their backyard a far more perilous place. Saudi Arabia in particular has been vociferous in its opposition.

For the United States, and Europe’s biggest powers, the Iran deal is a historic surrender to a brutal dictatorship that oppresses its own people while threatening the entire Middle East. The end result can only be an emboldened Iran that grows ever more aggressive as it seeks to establish regional dominance. For Israel, America’s closest friend and ally in the region, the deal threatens its own long-term survival. In the face of a genocidal tyranny that has vowed its destruction, the people of Israel are nervous for their own future.

The free world should not celebrate what amounts to the biggest act of appeasement in the face of evil since the 1930s. As the eminent American commentator Charles Krauthammer warned in an article in The Washington Post days ahead of the deal being struck, it would amount to “the worst agreement in U.S. diplomatic history.” Mr. Krauthammer’s words ring true today, as Iran’s rulers celebrate the outmaneuvering of a superpower led by a president who believes in leading from behind rather than projecting powerful American leadership on the world stage.

Nile Gardiner is the Director of the Margaret Thatcher Center for Freedom at the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.