The news came down that an Iran nuclear framework has been reached, and that it may lead to a historic final deal. Whether it is historically horrible or historically good we do not yet know yet, but from the president’s comments that the only alternative to this is “war,” we are leery. He insists — a sure sign of capitulation — that we simply cannot demand Iran give up its enrichment program (well, not since we signaled we have no intention to use force), and that if Congress does not go along, the U.S. will be blamed for a failure of diplomacy. All of this suggests that the president was not operating from a position of strength. Moreover, initial contradiction between the president and Secretary of State John Kerry on whether there is a sunset clause reminds us how little even our own side understands what the deal entails.
What we do know is essentially what has been leaked this week. Iran gets to keep thousands of centrifuges, gets to keep its underground facility at Fordow, does not have to dismantle the heavy water Arak reactor and gets sanctions relief (when we do not know). The deal envisions lifting of all sanctions at some point that will “snap back” if and when we find Iran cheating—that is if and when our government has the nerve to identify the cheating.
The result is indisputably an arrangement that is substantially more favorable to Iran than envisioned in the United Nations resolutions. At least part of the deal, according to a State Department fact sheet, sunsets after 15 years whereby we can anticipate a full-scale industrial nuclear weapons program. Most importantly, Iran can continue to do research on ever-faster centrifuges, inspections do not seem to be of the go-anywhere-anytime variety and the parties did not agree on disclosing Iran’s past military activities, which are essential if the inspectors are to know where to do their inspections. It is also not clear where the enriched material goes. Frankly, if a country wanted to sneak out to a nuclear breakout, this arrangement would allow it to do precisely that.
Israel sources suggest the deal to make a deal is “detached from wretched reality,” an apt phrase for a deal that gives so much leeway to an aggressive state sponsor of terrorism, and one that continues to declare the destruction of Israel to be “nonnegotiable.”
There is now more reason than ever for Congress to have a final say on the deal, and to produce a list of particulars as to what concerns must be satisfied before lawmakers will sign off on it. More importantly, as an executive agreement, the “nonbinding” deal may not outlast the presidency. The 2016 election therefore becomes largely a referendum on an Iran deal with many concessions few thought the administration would ever make. Hillary Clinton will need to decide whether to join hands with the administration or to state the obvious: This is a deal made from weakness, by a president without the will for further sanctions or able to sincerely use the threat of force. As things stand, we now see the prospect of a nuclear Iran — one with the international communities blessing.
We will have more when Right Turn returns.
UPDATE: In the hours since the president spoke, it appears this “agreement” is no agreement at all. The only document to be released is a State Department fact sheet; what is missing is any agreement to which Iran has agreed. Indeed the Iranians have already labeled the fact sheet as “spin” and insist they have gotten immediate and full sanctions relief. This is either an instance in which the Obama team was snookered or doesn’t understand what has been agreed to (John Kerry is not a trustworthy witness) or is actively deceiving the Congress and the public so as to stave off sanctions or other congressional action. Congress should immediately demand written evidence of what, if anything, the Iranians have agreed to.
As to the substance, to his credit, Jeb Bush is quick out of the gate with a forceful statement decrying the concessions. For the first time, he offers an emphatic statement that he will not abide by such a deal, “Nothing in the deal described by the administration this afternoon would justify lifting US and international sanctions, which were the product of many years of bipartisan effort. I cannot stand behind such a flawed agreement.” If this is further evidence of sharper and more forceful rhetoric, this is very welcome. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), House Speaker John Boehner and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) also have released comments enumerating some of the problems with the
agreement whatever we want to call it. Let’s hope Democrats don’t revert to their weak-on-defense mentality and instead join with Republicans in demanding clear answers and final say if there ever is real agreement with Iran. And Hillary Clinton? Crickets.
UPDATE II: Thursday evening Hillary Clinton released a statement cautiously supportive of the president’s Iran dealings, but with plenty of wiggle room. She called the non-deal “an important step” but cautioned “the devil is always in the details” and said that what she is after is a final agreement that will “cut off every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon.” As Iran runs rampant throughout the Middle East, she also blithely said we needed a “comprehensive strategy to check Iran’s ambitions.” (Perhaps not giving away the store would be a good place to begin drawing a line? Maybe not erasing a red line that leaves Iran’s junior partner in power in Syria?) So once again Clinton’s fear of breaking with the left-wing base renders her largely indistinguishable from the president. So much for her spinners’ claim that she will be more aggressive than the president on foreign policy or that her policy toward Israel would be any different. If she adheres to her supportive tones on an Iran deal, choosing not to find fault with a deal that Israel declares antithetical to its survival, that pro-Israel groups roundly criticize and that Arab allies deplore, the lines will clearly be drawn in 2016. Considering how many concessions the president has made and how obvious is Iran’s pathway to a bomb, Clinton hands the eventual GOP presidential nominee a significant advantage. One wonders how those Democrats who realize the potential deal is extraordinarily dangerous will manage to justify supporting her.