A presumptive deal between the United States and Iran to curb the Iranian nuclear program in exchange for an easing of sanctions is regarded in the White House as a breakthrough, cutting the Gordian knot between intractability and persistence. Yet before the acclamation begins a cautionary note is warranted.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently said, “I believe that adopting them [the deal proposals] is a mistake of historic proportions.” There is much to suggest that he is right.
For one thing, perhaps most notably, Iran retains the capability of making nuclear weapons. The deal - described as unfolding - merely freezes the most advanced aspects of its nuclear program, including the production of near-weapons-grade fuel. With uranium enriched at the twenty-percent level as is presently the case, Iran can probably produce six Hiroshima like atom bombs today. Moreover, it possesses the missiles to deliver them over a 1000 kilometer distance.
Second, Iranian leaders have been known to lie. The assurances offered in the past have disappeared like soap bubbles. After all, negotiations of one kind or another have been going on for decades. Prime Minister Rouhani, in his previous role, was the chief Iranian negotiator at a diplomatic table with American and European representatives. Despite his pleasant smile and moderate demeanor, he is a jihadist who is eager to promote Iran’s imperial agenda and that political position is enhanced by the possession of nuclear weapons.
Third, although this deal is the first phase in what is presumed to be a step-by-step process, verification procedures are obscure. It has been established from Intelligence sources that Iran has several projects deeply hidden underground on heavy-water nuclear production and centrifuges. Even if one or two are “frozen” to satisfy IAEA inspectors, how can one be sure other facilities aren’t operating at full tilt?
Fourth, the acceptance of an Iran with nuclear capability will lead inexorably to nuclear proliferation in the region. Saudi Arabia has recently completed an arrangement to buy nuclear weapons from Pakistan that are congruent with its present delivery capacity and in defiance of U.S. admonitions. This arrangement was precipitated by the American “rapprochement” with Iran.
Fifth, the acceptance of the U.S.-Iran deal means that Iran will be perceived as the “strong horse” in the Middle East. It is, in effect, precisely the perception Iran has been trying to cultivate with its neighbors.
Sixth, this deal is actually little more than a public relations bonanza for the president, even though it weakens U.S. ties to allies in Saudi Arabia and Israel. President Obama will hail this diplomatic “achievement” as a Chamberlain – like “peace in our time” deal. In fact, as was the case with Chamberlain’s concessions to Hitler, this deal probably brings us closer to the brink of war than was formerly the case.
At the risk of hyperbole, this “exchange” with Iran is part Munich and part Yalta. The concession designed to promote better relations with Iran is probably an illusion, a case of believing before seeing. Moreover, the concession catapults Iran into a Shia leadership position that threatens surrounding nations.
The Saudis believe that in the last phase, when sanctions are finally eliminated, Iran will still have nuclear capability. It will resemble the “Japanese solution,” a point at which there is sufficient fissile material to build several bombs, but the missiles are simply not yet weaponized. This may be an arrangement the U.S. is prepared to live with, but it is not one the Saudis can embrace.
Since this is the era of illusions, it is easy to predict what is likely to occur. President Obama, with great fanfare, will announce to the American people that this tension over nuclear weapons in Iran has been resolved. There will be a national sigh of relief. However, behind the curtain of illusion, the dogs of war are plotting. What they see is a U.S. devoid of military commitment and struggling to maintain a peace at any price.
Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org
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