In defense of its concordat with Iran, the Obama administration is peddling a growing list of misrepresentations: That Iran will be motivated to keep the agreement; that America can snapback sanctions; that the deal it will moderate or contain Iran’s aggressive ambitions; and that there was no better deal, and the alternative is war.
1. Iran will be motivated to keep the agreement.
False. Iran already may be plotting its escape from the agreement! Dr. Emily Landau of the Institute for National Security Studies points out that Iran has twice bolted in the past – in 2004 and again in 2005 – when it felt that the agreements it concluded with the EU-3 were no longer serving its interests.
Lo and behold, the JCPOA has an explicit defection clause, which allows Teheran to exit the deal without any deliberations or advance warning if it feels that any of the P5+1 countries is re-introducing any form or degree of sanction against Iran.
So, first Iran will pocket hundreds of billions of dollars in (almost-immediate and unconditional) sanctions relief, then sign hundreds of billions of dollars in investment and business partnership deals with the major French and German companies that are now in the gold rush to Iran. Then it can accuse Congress or the next US president of being nasty and use that as the pretext for its “nuclear snapback.”
2. In case of Iranian violations, America can “snapback” sanctions.
Just the opposite is true. The agreement intentionally embeds the US in a web of time-consuming and complex multilateral processes that place significant and perhaps insuperable obstacles to both a snapback of economic sanctions or resort to an American military strike. Prof. Jeffrey Harf of the University of Maryland has detailed how the deal places sky-high barriers in the way of American enforcement in the event of Iranian violations.
Claudia Rosett of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies has shown that the nitty-gritty of the so-called sanction snapback provisions actually provide disincentives for the US and its partners to confront Iran in the event that Iran does cheat (which it has a long record of doing, and has done even during the recent nuclear talks). Moreover, Iran is supposed to get Western help and technology for defense against nuclear sabotage! So the US is essentially deterring itself from ever acting against Iran, no matter what. Which apparently is exactly what President Obama was after.
3. The deal will moderate or contain Iran’s aggressive ambitions in the Middle East.
Not at all. The nuclear deal seems to be just the first act in a longer drama of American retreat, retrenchment and accommodation as Obama hands the keys to the Persian Gulf and beyond to his new Shia friends.
Obama says that he “hopes” that “we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative, to operate the way we expect nations in the international community to behave.” But, he adds, “We’re not counting on it. So this deal is not contingent on Iran changing its behavior.”
What a damning self-indictment! Is it believable that “conversations” are going to change or contain Iran? What is really needed, instead, says Prof. Walter Russell Mead of the New America Foundation, is a tough regional strategy to counter Iran’s rush for hegemony; an aggressive, anti-IRGC, anti-Assad, anti-Hezbollah policy.
But the White House never intended to contain Iran, says Dr. Michael Doran of the Hudson Institute. It has consistently displayed an aversion to countering Iran. America’s allies in the Middle East (and this list of allies supposedly still includes Israel) “have time and again begged the president to help them curtail Iranian influence in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and time and again Obama has refused.”
Maj. Gen. (res.) Yaakov Amidror of the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies expands on this in an-depth study published yesterday.
Under cover of this accord, Iran is likely to greatly strengthen its grip on the Middle East, he writes. It will solidify its control of Yemen, including developing the capacity to block the Bab al-Mandab strait and thus threaten global trade and the Suez Canal, Egypt’s lifeline. It will take complete control of Lebanon. With the help of other countries (perhaps even including the US) it will “save” the region by fighting ISIS, to become the true ruler of Iraq and of what would remain of Alawite Syria. Hezbollah will be given thousands of precise missiles, while enjoying Iranian backing and silent American approval.
Amidror: “There is little chance that America will follow through on its promise that after signing the agreement it will be more determined in its efforts to contain Iran. This claim is unrealistic and illogical, since once a rival state becomes a partner to an agreement, one does not increase efforts taken against it in other realms. It is the nature of agreements that cover a certain area of relations that they prevent pressure being applied in other areas, rather than increasing pressure. No-one in the West will now be interested in jeopardizing either the agreement or trade relations with Iran. It is therefore likely that, despite the messages of reassurance coming from Washington, Iran will become much stronger over the next 15 years, internally, regionally, economically, and militarily, with no opposition from the US.”
4. There was no better deal, and the alternative to this deal is war.
Both assertions are absolutely fallacious. More coercive diplomacy could have delivered a better deal. However, Obama refused to put maximum pressure on Iran. He was not willing to impose additional sanctions on Iran (as Prime Minister Netanyahu suggested and Congress wanted), or to threaten the use of military force. When you are in talks with a genocidal, terror-sponsoring regime and claim that you have no viable military option, you are not negotiating. You are begging.
Prof. Fred Kagan of the American Enterprise Institute points out that there is a historical precedent for tougher diplomacy that works. The US Senate refused to ratify SALT II, ending the SALT process, but war between the US and the Soviet Union did not ensue. Both Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan instead increased the pressure on the Soviet Union dramatically. The lesson is that walking away from bad deals does not inevitably lead either to war or to the end of negotiations.