The Corner

National Security & Defense

Ben Sasse Raises a Problem with the Iran Deal You May Not Have Known About

If Iran is suspected of not complying with the agreement that the Obama administration is trying to finalize this week in Vienna, should it have to demonstrate in a timely fashion that it is, in fact, following the deal, or should the U.S. have to prove to the parties to the agreement — Russia, China, Germany, France, Britain, and Iran itself — and then the U.N. Security Council that Iran is in fact violating it?

That’s an important question Senator Ben Sasse raises in a letter to President Obama that he released this week. The deal we’re going to get, he worries, will put the burden of proof on the U.S., not Iran.

The theoretical deal is essentially what’s called a “cash for access” agreement, not a mutual arms-control agreement — if Iran starts ramping up its nuclear program (cuts off the access), the only thing the U.S. can do is hold back the rewards that it’s giving Iran (cut off the cash). But if, as now looks likely, the U.S. hands over all the cash immediately, rather than unwinding sanctions over a long period of proven compliance, the only way to punish Iran for violations — without which the deal would just be a handshake – is to reimpose sanctions, ideally as a coalition of nations. (Even if sanctions are phased out, of course, this problem will arise a few years down the road.)

#related#That’s where Sasse’s point comes in: If the reimposition of international sanctions involves making a case for the violations to other world powers, and to the U.N., it’s almost certainly not going to happen, and certainly won’t happen quickly. Remember the U.S. going to the U.N. to make the case that Saddam Hussein was violating U.N. resolutions — should the U.S. really sign a deal where something like that is our only leverage?

Senator Sasse’s whole letter, which touches on other problems with the hypothetical Iran deal as well, is here.

Patrick Brennan — Patrick Brennan is a writer and policy analyst based in Washington, D.C. He was Director of Digital Content for Marco Rubio's presidential campaign, writing op-eds, policy content, and leading the ...

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