While President Obama is touting his great victory with an eleventh hour hollow deal framework coming out of months of negotiating, Iranian leader Mohammad Javad Zarif is the real winner. Iran got everything they wanted and the U.S. gave up all of their leverage. The US entered the negotiations with Iran in an incredibly strong position. They had Iran under a barrel due to unprecedented sanctions which had been authorized by six U.N. Security Resolutions. The Union Security Council had evidence that Zarif was not adhering to the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Yet the U.S. squandered this leverage. We now have a toothless framework where Iran gets their wish of having sanctions lifted as soon as possible, and the U.S. leaves with nothing but empty promises.
Iran has reportedly agreed to reduce its stockpile of low-enriched uranium by 98% and significantly curtail its number of installed centrifuges. The reduction in centrifuges will bring the centrifuges which are currently at 19,000 down to 6,104, with only 5,060 permitted to enrich uranium. Iran has reportedly agreed to reduce its 10,000 kilograms of low-enriched uranium to 300 kilograms for 15 years. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the U.N. nuclear watchdog, will also have access to Iran’s “declared facilities” so that they can monitor the use of nuclear capability.
While President Obama is celebrating this deal, the celebration appears tepid. There is a fake quality to his camera appearances where he told the world “This deal is not based on trust. It is based on unprecedented verification. … If Iran cheats, the world will know.” Well, the one thing Iran has demonstrated is a propensity to ‘”cheat” on past agreements. So we will know when they cheat. However, the point is that they will cheat. Just five months ago Iran was feeding uranium into centrifuges, an act which violates the conditions of the current framework. Last April, Iran exceeded the amount of oil that it was allowed to export under its current sanctions. Our naiveté in agreeing to a framework where we give up all of our poker chips will make the cheating an inevitable consequence.
We need to look beyond the Administration’s talking points to see the deal for what it is. It is a great coup for Iran and a capitulation for the US. Despite all the concessions that Iran is supposed to make under the deal, they still have a lot of latitude. Iran may be required to limit its future uranium enrichment activities, but they are still not required to ship its uranium stockpile out of the country as the US and Europe had previously demanded. Secondly, while they will limiting their distribution of centrifuges, they will still be able to continue research in advanced centrifuge technology. Also, Iran while Iran has agreed to not create any additional nuclear facilities, they are still keeping Fordow open. The negotiators had previously requested that Fordow be closed.
Most importantly, all the US is really walking away with this deal is a paper promise that Iran will adhere to the conditions. But past evidence has shown that they are not to be trusted. The US is walking away with no further assurances that Iran will live up to the deal than we had when the negations started. And who is to blame for this? The buck stops with President Obama who decided to go it alone and ignore congress while negotiating with the nuclear deal. He is responsible for Zarif’s victory parade celebrating the lifting of sanctions and the ongoing uranium enrichment.
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