Iran Unleashed

As most know, the government of Israel is inexorably opposed to the US/Iran nuclear deal. Those in Israel outside of government have a more nuanced view. Some security experts are cautiously optimistic; others less so. Instead of submitting the deal to Congress to ratify as a treaty, in which case the Senate must approve by 2/3 vote (impossible today), President Obama tried to circumvent Congressional action altogether by claiming the agreement was within the sole purview of the Executive Branch. After months of negotiation, a settlement was reached to allow Congress the right to block the essence of the agreement through a veto proof majority (2/3 vote). That’s where things stand now. The Congress has recessed for its traditional August break. The vote on the agreement will take place in September, likely leading to its defeat. The President then will veto the blocked agreement, and Congress will attempt to override the veto (2/3 vote of both bodies). It will be a close vote; at this point the veto likely will not be overridden.

In my view the agreement is not a terrible one but not a good one either. The two most troublesome parts are (1) the complex delayed inspection procedures allowing Iran to temporarily block almost any inspection, and (2) the lack of any connection between sanctions relief and support of terrorism. Iran has and will continue to lie about its nuclear program. From the beginning, the Administration promised that Iran was to be subject to anywhere/anytime inspections by international experts. That suddenly changed in the final draft. Assurances by the Administration that this is a slight deviation are incredulous. It’s a given Iran will do everything conceivable to obfuscate and complicate the inspection process.

In response to concerns raised by others regarding Iran’s nefarious activities around the world, the Administration claims the agreement was focused solely on Iran’s nuclear weapons program. But according to whom? The Administration could have insisted on anything it wanted. While the Western powers concentrated on dismantling Iran’s nuclear weapons’ systems, the Middle East has been wracked with Iranian interference in every major conflict – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen, and even attacks in other countries such as Bulgaria, France and Cyprus. In fact, without Iranian interference, ISIS probably would not even exist and Assad in Syria would be long gone. The question is why remove the effective sanctions regime when it’s a given Iran will use the tremendous infusion of funds to continue to destabilize the Middle East and the rest of the world.

The Administration argues this is the best agreement possible. But again, according to whom? The US with five other international powers were negotiating with a third rate power in the Middle East. This is nothing like the arms control deals between the US and the Soviet Union in the 1980’s. Both those countries were super powers, and negotiations were between equals. In this case, the US and allies could have insisted upon anything they wanted. If Iran wouldn’t agree, then Iran would be subject to a military response. As terrible and destructive as another war would be, if Iran genuinely believed it would be attacked by the US, it would have yielded more.

Adding insult to injury is President Obama’s public assignment of blame to Israel if the agreement is scuttled. Israel has nothing to do with the agreement.  If the President cannot get 1/3 of the Congress to support his highly invested international agreement, then it deserves defeat. Most foreign policy experts acknowledge that former President Bush’s push for the Iraq War was a major foreign policy blunder, possibly the worst in the modern era, and led to many of the difficulties in the region today. However, President Obama’s foreign policy has exacerbated the situation, made it far more volatile and now is unleashing a regime that continues to erode the world order. This agreement is a huge gamble: Iran gets everything it wants – international acceptance and sanctions relief and yields little – a nuclear weapons program, which it claims doesn’t exist. It is true that Iran’s nuclear program is significantly set back, and maybe that’s sufficient reason to support the agreement. But, in my view, it’s not a good agreement, and the Administration gave away the store.