The Associated Press reports, “Iran could have the capabilities to build a nuclear bomb almost immediately after the first 13 years of the emerging nuclear deal, President Barack Obama acknowledged on Tuesday. House Speaker John Boehner reacted tersely, arguing that Obama had just confirmed what critics of the deal have long feared.” In other words, his claim that Iran’s pathway to a bomb is cut off is false — by his own admission and even assuming Iran abides by the deal. It’s a stunning blow to the president’s effort to make all critics seem disingenuous and hopelessly partisan:
Under the framework for a final deal, Iran would be kept at least a year away from a bomb for the first decade, Obama said, as he pressed ahead in his campaign to sell the deal to skeptics. Pushing back on criticism that the deal allows Iran to keep enriching uranium, Obama told NPR News that enrichment isn’t the prime concern because Iran will be capped for a decade at 300 kilograms — not enough to convert to a stockpile of weapons-grade material.
“What is a more relevant fear would be that in Year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero,” Obama said.
It is preposterous to assert we have a full-proof system for capping its enrichment in the first decade, but he makes it all the more difficult to sell the deal when he agrees with critics that Iran can just wait us out to get a bomb. As House Speaker John Boehner put it, “President Obama himself today confirmed exactly what critics of the deal have argued: his ‘deal’ would pave the way for a nuclear-armed Iran in the near future. The Iranian regime has consistently taken a long-view on its regional – indeed global – ambitions of exporting its revolution. After multiple evasions of international inspections to date, no one should believe that the proposed inspections and verification are bullet-proof. It is clear that this ‘deal’ is a direct threat to peace and security of the region and the world.” For those defending the deal over the past few days, the admission leaves them without cover or credibility.
The president’s revelation — which is not much of a revelation to those who have been paying attention — underscores how foolish it was for the president to declare “historic” a deal that is not close to agreement and which contains such a massive repudiation of his own policies.
Aaron David Miller explains what we have been presented with: “Iran will get major sanctions relief, an improved economy, and a better capacity to manage public expectations, and it will still be left with the capacity and know-how to build on an industrial grade nuclear infrastructure in the out years. And if research and development are not restricted, Iran will continue to improve on that technological capacity, all under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. Iran will continue to improve on that technological capacity, all under the cover of a civilian nuclear program. Nothing in this agreement necessarily will restrict or dissuade Iran from choosing at some point to weaponize or remain a screwdriver’s turn away from a weapon. The hope — and it is only that – is that over time, the incentives in Iran’s newfound political and economic status and the public’s benefit from them will constrain the mullahs.”
Given that reality, who wants to characterize this honestly as a “good deal”? Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) observed today, “To the detriment of international security–specifically regarding the security of the United States, Israel and other allies, as well as preventing a nuclear arms race in the Middle East–the Obama administration has always approached the goal of these negotiations as reaching the best deal that is acceptable to Iran, rather than what should be our national goal: ending Iran’s nuclear program.” He noted some of the framework’s major flaws: “Iran will continue to enrich uranium and retain more than 6,000 centrifuges, and continue the research and development of more advanced centrifuges. Under no terms should the administration suspend sanctions, nor should the United Nations remove sanctions until the Iranians reveal all aspects of the Possible Military Dimensions of its previous research.” He concludes:
The parameters of the interim deal, in essence, establish an internationally recognized, 10-year nuclear research and development program. Until we know more about Iran’s previous research, no nation can be sure of what Iran may have developed covertly already. The choice is not between recognizing Iran as a threshold nuclear state or going to war. Instead the administration should have made clear to the Iranians that additional sanctions and a credible military threat awaited further delay and intransigence.
Further, we cannot forget that Iran is pursuing a full-spectrum campaign to expand its sphere of influence in the greater Middle East. America and its allies will need to be vigilant in combating all of Iran’s other belligerent actions as it uses the funding that would be derived from sanctions relief to support proxy forces and advance its stockpile of missiles.
The president, in his haste to stave off further sanctions, decided to roll out prematurely a far-fetched scheme that at best serves as an inconvenience for a regime bent on nuclear breakout. Maybe he didn’t think people would read it or that he’d be asked about its specifics. In any case, by boasting of his “accomplishment,” he now has set up an easy target for critics who can use his own description of the deal to discredit it.