The Obama Administration’s Hope and Red Lines for Iran

A president's deadly legacy.

US President Barack Obama hailed the recently concluded nuclear agreement in Vienna between the P5+1 world powers and Iran as a step towards a “more hopeful world.”

On July 14 CNN cited President Obama’s claim that, “This deal is not built on trust. It's built on verification.” This nuclear agreement, however, seems to be predicated more on this administration’s proclivity towards building on hope.  The Obama administration is hoping that an inspection regime by the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will accomplish under this agreement what the UN has failed to do for decades under the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) treaty.  Their ultimate hope is that this agreement will foster political change within Iran during the coming decade - postulating that Ayatollah Ali Khamenei may pass away and that a more vibrant Iranian economy will enable the “moderates” in Iran to gain power and change the nature of the regime.  According to the administration’s thinking, this nuclear agreement will provide a back wind for Iran’s “moderate” President Rouhani to overcome the “hardliners” of the regime, and that an economic boom would force the Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the bedrock of the Ayatollah’s support, to yield to the Iranian people’s demand for a relationship with the West, and thus end its hostility towards the US, particularly when US and Iranian interests, according to the Obama administration, converge on “defeating ISIL.”

There is one certainty from this nuclear agreement – we are on the verge of witnessing the most dangerous nuclear proliferation in the most unstable region in the world.  The BBC reported (11/6/2013) that former Israeli military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the (nuclear) bomb, “the Saudis will not wait for a month.  They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”  The Saudis will undoubtedly pay for Egypt to also acquire a bomb.

On numerous occasions President Obama declared that “Iran will never have a nuclear weapon,” yet, the provisions in the agreement allow the Iranians to produce as many bombs as they wish after a decade.  Moreover, Obama’s hope notwithstanding, Iran may very well cheat as it has in the past, and surreptitiously produce a bomb.  Rather than produce it in the facilities being monitored by the IAEA, they might build it in secret military facilities which have not been restricted by the terms of the agreement. The agreement provides a 24 day wait period for approval by the Iranian regime to allow inspections in suspected military sites.  What about the unsuspected military sites?  The revolutionary Islamist regime in Tehran has a vested interest in producing a bomb and they will undoubtedly house the nuclear scientists in those sites with the know-how to produce one…or more.  

In addition to its hopes, the Obama administration has drawn a number of red-lines, including the one it drew and reneged on the use of chemical weapons against the civilian population in Syria by its dictator Bashar Assad.  

Another red-line Obama touted was that “sanctions will not be lifted until compliance.”  The terms of the agreement provide for Iran to have immediate access to nearly $150 billion of its frozen assets and the go-ahead to sell its oil openly on the market.  Such an infusion of wealth will no doubt find its way to the coffers of Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy fighters in Lebanon and Syria, prop up Assad’s tottering regime, and provide generous aid to the Houtis in Yemen, Hamas in Gaza, and anti-government groups in the Arab Gulf states.

One provision in the nuclear agreement calls for “long term restriction on research and development,” a provision the Iranians supposedly conceded after a struggle by Khamenei to remove it.  How can the international community possibly restrict or monitor research and development in secret locations in this vast land? The scientific know-how is already available and the Obama administration admitted that Iran was only months away from a break-out point to the bomb. The nuclear deal “achieved” a push back to a one-year for a supposed break-out time…

“The nuclear plants will close and the nuclear program will end,” thus declared the Obama administration. The reality is that the agreement does not force the closing of all of Iran’s nuclear plants. In fact, it allows the Islamic Republic to continue nuclear-related research and development and pursuit of nuclear energy for “peaceful means.”  Iran will also retain its enrichment capacity at Natanz.  The Fordow nuclear facility will be converted into a nuclear physics and technology center that supposedly will not be permitted to enrich uranium but will retain centrifuges.  

US News and World Report (July 15, 2015) points to the fact while the Obama administration claimed that the Arak heavy water reactor will close, the final deal “allows Iran to redesign and rebuild a modernized heavy water research reactor in Arak. The administration also promised the suspension of uranium enrichment.  In the end, the deal does not quite suspend the enrichment. While it reduces Iran’s overall uranium capacity to 300 kg at 3.67% for 15 years, it will surely be free to bring back its full load of uranium afterwards. Also, according to US News, Iran is not required to close Russian designed, fabricated and licensed fuel assemblies for use in Russian supplied reactor in Iran, and the enriched uranium won’t be subject to the 300 kg limit.”

The nuclear agreement signed in Vienna last week, provides Iran with billions of dollars and a welcome mat to return to the family of nations.  The Ayatollah Khamenei and the IRGC are left without having any conditions imposed on them to end their worldwide terror sponsorship, abuse the human rights of the Iranian people, respect for territorial boundaries of their neighbors,  continued repression of minority Sunni’s (Kurds, Baluchis, and Arabs), and this windfall of cash will provide them with the means to continue its drive for hegemony in the region and beyond.  

This nuclear deal will not bring about a regime change.  President Rouhani’s victory is one for his home team leaders and will not translate into a more moderate, pro-western policy.  Rouhani is no more than an instrument in the hands of the Supreme Leader and his IRGC.  Given the Iranian regime’s ideological proclivities, it is inevitable that it will continue to seek the expulsion of US and Western interests from the region.  The regime will seek a nuclear weapon as soon as possible to prevent any possible Western action, especially after Obama leaves office.  

Future sanctions, if re-imposed by the UN or/and Western powers, will not be effective or as damaging as previous ones.  China, Russia, and a host of western companies are already knocking on Iran’s door, competing for contracts.

In the final analysis, President Obama, who received a Nobel Peace Prize (2009) for the value the Nobel Committee placed on his “efforts to promote nuclear disarmament,” will earn the legacy of being culpable for the most dangerous nuclear proliferation, in the most unstable region in the world.