As the Obama administration celebrates what it claims is a great victory for its nuclear diplomacy with Iran, many Americans are scratching their heads and wondering how we got to this point given the many examples of Iranian bad faith and belligerent behavior since the nuclear deal was announced last July. For example...
· Because the IAEA declared that Iran met the requirements to roll back its nuclear program to what the nuclear deal calls “Implementation Day,” it will receive approximately $150 billion in sanctions relief even through Iran is still designated by the United States as a state sponsor of terror and was listed in a June 2015 State Department report as the world’s leading terrorist state.
· Over the last six months, Iran increased its support to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Hezbollah, its terrorist proxy.
· Iran is threatening Saudi Arabia by backing a Shiite insurgency in Yemen. Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states broke off diplomatic relations with Iran this month after the Saudi embassy and a consulate in Iran were ransacked.
· Iran tested ballistic missiles in October and November even though President Obama and Secretary Kerry said last July that under the deal Tehran would abide by U.N. Security Council resolutions for eight years calling on it to halt its missile program. (The Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Iran for the missile tests yesterday but Foundation for Defense and Democracy Executive Director Mark Dubowitz called them "symbolic and ineffective.")
· Iran fired rockets last month near a U.S. aircraft carrier. It also detained and humiliated 10 U.S. Navy sailors last week.
At the same time, few Americans understand that Iran keeps its nuclear infrastructure under the nuclear deal and will be allowed to expand it.
· Iran will continue enriching uranium under the nuclear deal with 5,000 uranium centrifuges and will be developing more advanced centrifuges while the deal is in effect. This will occur even though when Barack Obama became president, his administration supported the Bush administration’s effort to stop the spread of uranium enrichment technology and strengthened a nuclear technology sharing agreement with the UAE which required it to not to pursue this technology.
· Although Iran agreed to remove the core of a plutonium-producing heavy water-reactor, it will be rebuilt and redesigned with Chinese assistance. While the redesigned reactor will produce less plutonium, it also will help Iran to master this technology.
· Although President Obama and Secretary Kerry said Iran sent all of its enriched uranium out of the country, they failed to mention that this was a swap for an equivalent amount of uranium ore that can be converted into enriched uranium in a few months.
· President Obama said last July that the issue of Iran’s past nuclear weapons work would be addressed. The IAEA issued a report on this issue in December that said Iran failed to fully cooperate and provided some answers to investigators that were false. The report also said Iran engaged in nuclear weapons research until 2009. Despite this report, the United States voted with other IAEA members last month to close the IAEA’s file on this issue.
· Although nuclear deal has weak verification provisions, the Iranian parliament made them even weaker last October when it ratified an amended version of the deal containing new language on dismantling Israel’s nuclear weapons program, requiring that sanctions under the agreement be cancelled and not suspended, forbidding IAEA inspections of military installations, and barring IAEA interviews of Iranian military officers and scientists.
And then there is the issue of the “swap” of five American hostages for seven Iranian criminals held in U.S. prisons and the removal of 14 other Iranian criminal and terrorists from the INTERPOL wanted list. As objectionable as this sounds, President Obama and Secretary Kerry failed to mention that Oman paid Iran $500,000 ransom each for the release of the Americans and that several were brutally mistreated while incarcerated. At least two other innocent Americans plus a U.S. green card holder are still being by Iran.
Given these factors, how can the Obama administration claim Iran has complied with the nuclear agreement?
How can it justify providing over $150 billion in sanctions relief that Tehran is likely to spend on terrorism and destabilizing the Middle East?
How can the United States reward a state that used Americans as hostages to advance its policy goals?
How can Obama officials say this nuclear deal is a great diplomatic success?
The answer to these questions is this: because the Obama administration wanted a legacy nuclear agreement with Iran so badly they made any concession necessary to get one.
When Iranian officials refused to give up their uranium enrichment program, the U.S. said they could keep it.
When Iran balked on including restrictions on ballistic missile tests in the agreement, they were removed.
To get around Tehran’s refusal to answer questions about its past nuclear weapons work, this issue was moved into a secret side deal between the IAEA and Iran.
The Obama administration also took Iran’s sponsorship of terror and its meddling in the Middle East off the table. The deal drops U.N. and EU sanctions on Iranian terrorist individuals and entities. Even worse, the U.S. encouraged Iran to play a more active role in Iraq which is driving tensions between the Shiite government and Iraqi Sunnis.
The Iran nuclear agreement is national security fraud. It will not stop or slow Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
The deal’s weak verification provision will not detect Iranian cheating.
Seeing itself as the big winner in the nuclear deal, Iran probably will be emboldened to expand its efforts to destabilize its neighbors and sponsorship of terrorism using the estimated $150 billion in sanctions relief it won in the deal.
How did Iran reach the nuclear deal’s Implementation Day? Because the Obama administration rigged the game by setting the bar so low that Iranian compliance was assured.
That’s how desperate President Obama was to get his legacy nuclear deal with Iran.
That’s what led to a disastrous agreement that will may do enormous damage to international security for decades to come.
Fred Fleitz is senior vice president for policy and programs with the Center for Security Policy, a Washington, DC national security think tank. He held U.S. government national security positions for 25 years with the CIA, DIA, and the House Intelligence Committee staff. Fleitz also served as Chief of Staff to John R. Bolton when he was Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security in the George W. Bush administration. Fleitz specializes in the Iranian nuclear program, terrorism, and intelligence issues. He is the author of "Peacekeeping Fiascos of the 1990s: Causes, Solutions and U.S. Interests" (Praeger, May 30, 2002).