It won’t be long, I suspect, until President Obama delivers this line to the Israelis: “I am sorry that they are finding themselves in this situation based on assurances they got from me.” That was his health care “apology,” but it’s an apt phrasing for Iranian policy as well as we sit on the precipice of a deal the Israelis, members of Congress and the Saudis have blasted.
The deal will include, according to news reports and knowledgeable onlookers, four points. Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies points to a news report in the Guardian listing the expected terms as follows:
• Iran would stop weapons-grade 20 percent uranium enrichment and turn its existing stockpile into oxide, a harmless material.
• Iran would be allowed to continue 3.5 percent enrichment needed for power stations, but it would limit the number of centrifuges being used. However, the deal would not include any demand to remove or disable any other centrifuges.
• While still being allowed to work on its plutonium reactor at Arak, Iran would agree not to activate it for the duration of the six months. The plutonium reactor could provide for another route to nuclear weapon capability.
• Iran would not use its IR-2 centrifuges that are more advanced and capable of enriching uranium three to five times faster than the older model.
In return, the report explained, we would give the Iranians” some relief from sanctions, possibly by releasing some Iranian funds frozen in overseas accounts” or “by relaxing restrictions on Iran’s petrochemical, motor and precious metals industries.”
There is a reason for Israeli prime minister denounced this as a “historic mistake.” Dubowitz explained, “This deal would allow Iran to keep in place its entire nuclear infrastructure and maintain a still-dangerous uranium breakout capacity with more than sufficient centrifuges to move, at a time of its choosing, to weaponize uranium. It does nothing to adequately address centrifuge manufacturing, which is the key element to Iran’s secret enrichment program. It will have bare minimum inspection and verification safeguards to keep Iran from cheating without a real enforcement mechanism when Iran cheats — beyond an already-gutted threat of U.S. military strikes.” He added that this will not touch the “plutonium nuclear pathway by permitting continued construction at Arak.” Moreover, “Every one of these concessions is easily reversible by Iran.”
Anticipating the White House spin, House majority leader Eric Cantor (R-Va.) put out a statement Friday that read:
Any agreement that does not require the full and complete halting of the Iranian nuclear program is worse than no deal at all. The interim agreement under consideration appears to abandon the repeated and binding demands of the IAEA and UN Security Council for the full cessation of Iran’s nuclear activities. All of Iran’s enrichment activities, its heavy water reactor at Arak, and its history of weaponization research are of profound concern and should be addressed.
Sanctions brought the Iranians to the table, but history tells us to be wary of their tactics. We should not race to accept a bad deal, but should keep up the pressure until the Iranians are willing to make significant concessions.
As we await for the other shoe to drop, it is worth noting that Secretary of State John Kerry once said a “bad deal is worse than no deal.” I expect he won’t be sorry at all that anyone relied on his assurances.