The Iran nuclear negotiations began with a noble goal: ensure the world that Iran’s nuclear activities are entirely peaceful and eliminate its capability to develop a nuclear weapon. Upon reviewing the proposed agreement, I am convinced that the President’s nuclear deal fails to deliver what we were promised. I unequivocally oppose this deal.
The United States and our allies entered these negotiations from a position of strength. The impact of strict international sanctions combined with low oil prices have taken a crippling toll on Iran’s economy, and the UN Security Council was united in the goal of preventing an Iranian nuclear bomb. Unfortunately, over the course of the negotiations, our policy devolved from one of prevention to one of containment of the Iranian nuclear program. President Obama failed to capitalize on our substantial leverage. Now he wants us to believe that the U.S. somehow needs a deal more than Iran.
The Iranian regime has consistently proven untrustworthy, and negotiators assured us they would demand “anytime, anywhere inspections.” Absurdly, the President’s definition of “anywhere” excludes military facilities, and his definition of “anytime” includes nearly one month’s advanced notice. This is hardly the intrusive inspection regime we were promised. Lax enforcement standards will only incentivize Iran to cheat.
Under this proposal, all nuclear related sanctions against Iran will be lifted, resulting in a cash infusion of, conservatively, more than $50 billion to the rogue state. Some of our negotiating partners are clearly eager to begin doing business in Iran. As difficult as it has been to hold the current sanctions regime together, it will be impossible once Russia and China are financially invested in Iran. At that point, the notion of imposing “snapback sanctions” becomes delusional. Tehran knows that its business partners will veto the imposition of sanctions for all but the most glaring offenses, and the restrictions will die by a thousand cuts as Iran moves closer to a nuclear bomb through incremental violations.
Iran remains a leading state sponsor of international terrorism, openly committed to the destruction of Israel. Nonetheless, the deal lifts the international arms embargo, which will allow the Iranian military to expand its stocks of conventional arms. This will unavoidably result in sophisticated weapons making their way to Hezbollah and Hamas. Even more frighteningly, it lifts the ban on intercontinental ballistic missile technology – the delivery system for a future nuclear bomb.
In exchange for these weapons and cash, the deal allows Iran to remain at the very precipice of developing a nuclear weapon. President Obama admitted in an April 7th interview that there is a “relevant fear” that in the out years of the agreement, Iran could “have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero.” The President may be prepared to concede that Iran should remain a nuclear threshold state. I am not.
This agreement sets a dangerous precedent for the Middle East, as other nations will understandably want “the Iran deal” for themselves. Prince Turki al-Faisal, Saudi Arabia’s former intelligence chief, stated that Saudi Arabia will seek to match whatever nuclear capabilities are permitted to Iran. The other regional powers clearly have a stake in keeping up with Iran’s nuclear program. If Iran is allowed to enrich uranium and harvest weapons-grade plutonium from spent fuel, how can the international community begrudge Saudi Arabia, Turkey, or Egypt from doing the same? Rather than the security of prevention, this agreement will give us the chaos of mass proliferation.
President Obama and Secretary Kerry are resorting to fear-mongering, pressing the false narrative that the alternative to this deal is war. The truth is that in an area of state instability and irrational non-state actors, this agreement increases the likelihood of conflict. The U.S. should press for enhanced sanctions to bolster our leverage and do everything within our considerable market-making power to drag Iran back to the negotiating table.
The President’s deal would reward Iran with a major infusion of cash and access to sophisticated conventional weapons in exchange for temporary and unenforceable restrictions on its nuclear capabilities. This will destabilize the region, lead to an arms race among the Gulf Arab states, and pose an existential threat to our friend and ally, Israel. Therefore, I must vote against it.
Note: This opinion piece ran in the Patriot-News. You can read it here.