Your editorial on the Iran deal (“The Iran Deal Buys Breathing Room,” April 7, 2015) contains many correct observations. However, it reaches the wrong and dangerous conclusion that we should do nothing to secure an objective and reasoned review of President Obama’s recent “framework” deal with Iran and should accept Iran’s likely march to nuclear weapons.
You admit that “it is impossible to know” whether the deal will “defang” Iran’s nuclear program. This shows the vital necessity of congressional review and consent to any final agreement and, therefore, the necessity of passing, unaltered, the bipartisan Corker-Menendez bill. The stakes are too high to grant Iran unfettered access to nuclear weapons after 10 years on the basis of mere hope that Iran’s religiously fanatical regime will voluntarily cease its longstanding militancy, fanaticism, and sponsorship of terrorism and become a responsible world actor.
You argue that nothing will “wipe clean the knowledge amassed by Iran’s scientists.” The argument is specious. It’s not merely knowledge that paves Iran’s nuclear path but its weapons grade uranium and existing infrastructure, which will remain intact, including its Fordow underground facility and existing centrifuges plus whatever advanced centrifuges it still develops.
Another correct observation notes the Administration’s “most regrettable misstep” in failing to support Iranian protesters in 2009 and the P5+1 “[retreat] on a number of positions.” The common strand is Obama’s determination as early as 2009 to reach an accommodation with Iran, apparently at all costs. That compulsion to make a deal, for whatever reason, impels the conclusion that Congress must evaluate and pass upon any final deal before we surrender our sanctions leverage. We need the collective wisdom of 100 Senators as a check and balance on any president.
You conclude that “it is time to accept the ten-year punt and lobby for the most stringent enforcement” and to “stop railing against [the deal’s] very premise.” However, a ten-year delay in Iran’s nuclear bombs, if indeed there will be, is small solace. Radical Islam takes a long-term view. Iran can easily wait, while meanwhile adding to Israel’s other neighbors that it now controls – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, probably Yemen and possibly Gaza, through Hamas.
You urge Israel to accept the “very premise.” The premise is Obama’s trust of and reliance upon Iran’s good faith and desire to become a world community member. That is a faulty premise. Iran is already publicly disagreeing with and backing off from key elements. There is no evidence of moderation by Iran. If Iran wants recognition in world affairs, its easiest route will be through its power as a nuclear-armed state, not through good behavior. Iran will not abandon its zeal for conquest, which is inherent in extreme Islamist fanaticism.
As an answer, you suggest “unprecedented inspection” and a “snapback” of sanctions. Both are good concepts but are unworkable or unattainable. Unprecedented inspections alone aren’t sufficient. We need “anytime, anywhere” inspections in light of Iran’s record of concealing its nuclear and weaponization programs. Sadly, this is another aspect on which the P5+1 “retreated.” This necessary level of access is now gone from the deal and cannot be reinstated unless Congress reviews and disapproves the final deal.
While you suggest “snapback” of sanctions, that cannot effectively be achieved. For the UN sanctions to “snap back,” the IAEA must first note a violation. Debate and hearings will ensue on whether there is a violation. A Security Council proceeding will follow, in which Russia or China could exercise veto power. Even American sanctions won’t snap back instantly, as legislation will be necessary, followed by conference committees’ deliberations, internal political debate, lobbying by trade interests, resistance by an Administration reluctant to acknowledge failure, and then implementation to bring along Europeans hungry to trade with Iran. Practically speaking, once sanctions are lifted, they are forever gone.
Under your scenario of ten years of “breathing room,” which you see as the principal benefit, Israelis may only have time to emigrate or otherwise put affairs in order. Your alternative to this doomsday horror is stringent enforcement. However, Obama will not and cannot achieve such stringent enforcement if left to his own devices. Again, therefore, Congress becomes all the more important if the Iran deal is ever to provide a modicum of protection beyond its slight postponement of nuclear war.
Mark Trencher, Vice President
(Promoting Responsibility in Middle East Reporting)