Reuters reports: “Six world powers have agreed on a way to restore U.N. sanctions on Iran if the country breaks the terms of a future nuclear deal, clearing a major obstacle to an accord ahead of a June 30 deadline, Western officials told Reuters.” How will this work? I hope you’re sitting down:
As part of the new agreement on sanctions snapback, suspected breaches by Iran would be taken up by a dispute-resolution panel, likely including the six powers and Iran, which would assess the allegations and come up with a non-binding opinion, the officials said.The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) would also continue regularly reporting on Iran’s nuclear program, which would provide the six powers and the Security Council with information on Tehran’s activities to enable them to assess compliance.If Iran was found to be in non-compliance with the terms of the deal, then U.N. sanctions would be restored.The officials did not say precisely how sanctions would be restored but Western powers have been adamant that it should take place without a Security Council vote, based on provisions to be included in a new U.N. Security Council resolution to be adopted after a deal is struck.
No, seriously — that’s the plan. We’re going to allow Iran to be part of the “dispute resolution” and then let Russia and China get a veto in the Security Council. An official with a pro-Israel organization dismisses the plan, saying, “It is preposterous to believe that a Rube Goldberg type mechanism can be erected to stop or punish Iran from violating a treaty. If Iran is allowed to retain a nuclear infrastructure, you can count on them to find a way to break out to a nuclear weapon.”
The plan, in fact, is a formula for paralysis. “Whatever scheme the Russians, Chinese and Iranians agree to, it is likely to neutralize the power of U.S. secondary sanctions and ‘multilateralize’ the snapback sanctions mechanism,” says Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. “In whatever diplomatic formula is implemented, we are likely to run into a wall of Russian and Chinese intransigence and lose the power of American economic coercion in response to Iranian cheating or challenging of the IAEA.” That essentially means that once lifted, sanctions won’t be reactivated in any meaningful time period. Dubowitz explains: “Without effective economic coercion to enforce the deal, Iran will be able to inch-out or sneakout to a bomb or wait patiently for 10-15 years when most of the restrictions on its program will sunset. At that point, after hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, Iran will have a powerful economy increasingly immunized against any future snapback scenario.”
But, you ask, how could the administration agree to such a formula, given that the president is so concerned about his name being on a deal that allows Iran to go nuclear? To be blunt, the point is now not to get a good deal, but any deal. Whatever problems occur downstream will be blamed on his successors. Michael Doran, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, observes, “President Obama has developed an elaborate fiction designed to blunt the criticism of those who say that he has traded temporary and reversible concessions by Iran for major permanent concession by the United States. The concept of ‘snap-back sanctions’ is at the center of this fictive policy, because it leaves the impression that the ground that the United States has ceded can be easily — no, automatically — regained if Iran cheats on its agreement.” This is why, he reminds us, many critics spotted “the impossibility of achieving a true snap-back mechanism” from the get-go.
Moreover, the pattern of willful blindness to Iranian infractions has already been established by this administration, says Michael Makovsky of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). “After cutting a deal with Iran those countries will have an incentive to overlook violations so as not admit to failure, at least while President Obama is in power,” he tells me. “He has insisted Iran has fulfilled the Joint Plan of Action of January 2014, even though that’s not true.”
So now, as Doran and others wonder, will anyone care? As a starting point, the Israelis and our Sunni allies will care. The latter have already figured out that the deal is a canard and have vowed to proceed with their own nuclear weapons programs. That should, one hopes, alert serious U.S. lawmakers who already have raised concerns over the very issues the president is trying to paper over. And those who want to be the next commander in chief should be forced to weigh in, thereby demonstrating whether they are serious about preventing the Iranians from going nuclear or are willing to accept the president’s fictions.
The administration will insist all is well since the Iranians have changed their outlook and, besides, there is no alternative. Both statements are false. The Iranians’ international aggression, chiseling on the Joint Plan of Action, refusal to come clean on past illicit activities and ongoing human rights abuses tell us that the regime is very much the same as it has always been. As for an alternative, Makovsky suggests, for example, that “the IAEA technocrats or perhaps the French government alone, which is the most serious about preventing a nuclear Iran, make the determination [about violations].”
But the real problem here is in letting Iran keep its infrastructure. Having done that, it is nearly impossible to devise a foolproof system for detecting violations and delivering consequences sufficient to deter further violations. The only viable solution if we are truly interested in preventing a nuclear-armed Iran is to reimpose sanctions, begin to check its activities in the region, make the threat of force credible and then start negotiations from scratch. Anything else will simply amount to putting a stamp of approval on a nuclear-armed revolutionary Islamic state.