Politics & Policy

Signing On with the Mullahs: Morally Indefensible

The Iran deal gives them resources to keep pursuing a dangerous, unacceptable course.

The world’s major powers — the U.S., the other permanent members of the Security Council, and Germany (the so-called P5+1) — celebrated a dubious accomplishment this week: They have reached agreement with Iran on implementation of the interim, six-month nuclear deal they worked out with Iran in November, and the six-month term of the deal starts next week.

The November interim deal was awful, and the implementation agreement just announced is not an improvement; it is a sequel, and the deal remains terrible for the U.S., for every country in the Middle East, and for anyone who treasures peace.

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The U.S. and its partners said that Iran made “concessions” in the November interim agreement. These concessions are now to be implemented starting January 20, though the implementation date for some of them is still unclear. Whenever — if ever — they are implemented, they remain unimpressive: Iran will stop enriching uranium beyond 5 percent; it will install no additional centrifuges; it will convert its 100 pounds or so of 20 percent–enriched uranium (which is convertible into weapons-grade uranium more rapidly than uranium enriched to 5 percent) to something harder to convert into weapons-grade uranium.

Meanwhile, Iran has still not agreed to do any of the following:

‐ Cease its support of terrorist activities by Hezbollah and others.

The Obama administration and other advocates of the deal argue that Iran will allow International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors to visit Iran’s still-operating nuclear facilities. However, while Iran may have agreed to allow inspection of some of the facilities where its centrifuges are enriching uranium, Iran has reportedly excepted its Parchin military site (and other military sites), where nuclear weapons are being developed. Even if Iran had agreed to allow the military sites to be inspected, given its long history of preventing IAEA inspectors from doing their jobs and of flouting obligations regarding its nuclear program, the value of this promise should be discounted to zero.

Under the November agreement that the United States and its P5 +1 partners promoted as a first step toward Iran’s ultimate final and irreversible abandonment of its nuclear-weapons program, the United States promised to provide Iran with $7 billion in sanctions relief. Under the just-signed sequel, Iran is to be rewarded with the $7 billion in relief next week notwithstanding it likely has no intention of abandoning its pursuit of its nuclear program prior to the expiration of the six-month agreement. The money is far more likely to help Iran continue to covertly develop its nuclear-weapons program and support terrorism abroad than it is to induce Iran to agree to the kind of deal hoped for by the U.S and its P-5 +1 partners.

As the P-5 +1 were negotiating with Iran, Supreme Leader Khamenei declared that “Zionist officials cannot be called humans, they are like animals,” that “the Israeli regime is doomed to failure and annihilation,” that the “Zionist regime” is the “rabid dog of the region.” To assume, as the Obama administration seems to do, that leaders who make such public statements, who insist that they have the right to nuclear development, who enthusiastically support international terrorism, and who have cheated on their Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty obligations over and over again are about to turn a new leaf is sheer folly.

The deal the U.S. and its partners struck with Iran in November and are now to implement is a very bad one. In the context of Khamenei’s and other Iranian leaders’ vicious and aggressive statements, it is also morally indefensible. 

Now it’s up to Congress. Congress should quickly pass legislation requiring the immediate implementation of draconian sanctions at the very first sign that Iran either has breached any of the minimal promises it has made or will not definitively, irreversibly abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons.

— Jack David, a senior fellow of the Hudson Institute, served as deputy assistant secretary of defense for combating weapons of mass destruction and negotiations policy from 2004 to 2006.

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