An important report for the pro-Israel group JINSA co-authored by President Obama’s former senior adviser on Iran, Ambassador Dennis Ross, should be a wake-up call to those who have given the administration “room to negotiate” since the interim deal (the Joint Plan of Action or “JPA”) on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The authors find:
Evidence suggests the JPA has set back Iran’s breakout timing by nearly one month. However, that benefit is more than offset by provisions which: allow Iran to enrich uranium more rapidly than before the deal; steadily reduce the pressure on Tehran from sanctions; and fail to resolve international concerns about Iran’s weaponization activities. As a result, in our judgment the JPA is not making a comprehensive agreement on Iran’s nuclear program more likely to be achieved.
This is based on three key trends we observe thus far, all of which are permitted under the JPA. First, increased centrifuge efficiency could negate the ongoing neutralization of Iran’s most advanced uranium stockpile. As a result, Tehran’s overall progress toward nuclear weapons capability could be unchanged, or even advanced, during the interim period. Second, even as the JPA leaves Iran’s potential breakout timing unchanged, it is decreasing U.S. leverage for compelling Iran to conclude and adhere to an acceptable final deal. Specifically, we estimate increased oil exports resulting from the JPA’s unlacing of sanctions will yield Iran $9- 13 billion more in revenue between the deal’s announcement in November 2013 and the end of the six-month interim deal than if it had not been agreed. Third, despite some transparency improvements, Iran continues to deny the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) full access to suspected military dimensions of its nuclear program. As before the JPA, this leaves inspectors largely in the dark about the true extent of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
In other words, the JPA is allowing Iran to get closer to its goal while impeding the West’s ability to stop its illicit nuclear weapons program.
They note that the Iranian regime hasn’t changed its spots, as seen by its ongoing sponsorship of terrorism. (“It continues rejecting international law and global norms – including binding U.N. Security Council resolutions calling on it to suspend its nuclear program and comply with its non-proliferation obligations – as self-serving instruments of Western repression. This is part of the regime leadership’s conspiracy-laden worldview.”) The authors also caution that holding the Iranians to 20 percent enriched uranium is no real accomplishment, explaining that Iran unsurprisingly has “advanced in ways permitted under the JPA, most crucially an increased production rate of 3.5 percent enriched uranium. If Iran continues to boost this production rate, and/or increases the number of centrifuges operating at higher rates, it could cut its breakout timing to near the pre-JPA level — or lower — by the end of the six-month interim without violating the deal.” Most of the hard work of enriching is already accomplished, and, as the regime’s leaders have bragged, it can resume enrichment whenever it pleases.
This has gone on because we have failed to negotiate from a position of strength and diminished our own leverage: “The primary loss of U.S. leverage comes from Iran’s rejuvenated crude oil exports, which prior to sanctions were more than half the government’s budget (including the nuclear program). . . . Iran is accumulating windfall oil export revenue as a result.” They recommend we implement an intensified inspection regimen, insist Iran come into compliance with International Atomic Energy Agency demands and require Iran to abide by multiple United Nations resolutions. They warn, “Iran has yet to satisfy these requirements and the JPA does not appear to be moving it any closer to doing so. The interim deal calls for all parties – including all of the five permanent UNSC members which passed these resolutions — to address (but not resolve) Iran’s violations. Iranian leaders — both in and outside the Rouhani Administration — are unwilling to meet even this standard, demanding instead recognition of their declared ‘right’ to enrich uranium.”
We have not only given up leverage but also reduced our demands (from enforcing U.N. resolutions to merely addressing them). This is not the handiwork of an administration determined to rid Iran of its nuclear weapons program. What it has done, and what one can infer was its intent, is to cajole Iran to remain at the table without disrupting its nuclear program. To the contrary, Iran’s nuclear weapons program advances under the cover of the JPA. The lawmakers who insisted the Obama administration have room to negotiate were had, and their indulgence has enabled the administration to fritter away leverage. Both they and the administration should be held accountable for sacrificing U.S. national security.