Originally published by the Jerusalem Post.
It works out that US President Barack Obama’s signature diplomatic achievement, his nuclear deal with Iran, has nothing to do with preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power or even with placing restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities.
Just weeks after Obama led the international community in concluding the nuclear pact with Iran, the Iranian regime filed a complaint with the UN Security Council accusing the US of committing a material breach of the agreement.
The US action that precipitated the complaint was a statement by White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest claiming that if Iran violates the deal, “the military option would remain on the table.”
In making the statement, Earnest was responding to a hypothetical question regarding what the US would do if the Iranians breached the deal.
Earnest explained that not only would the US then consider attacking Iran’s nuclear installations militarily, but that its “military option would be enhanced because we’d been spending the intervening number of years gathering significantly more detail about Iran’s nuclear program.”
“So when it comes to the targeting decisions,” he continued, “our capabilities [would be] improved, based on the knowledge that has been gained in the intervening years through this inspections regime.”
The Iranians argued that Earnest’s statement was a material breach of the nuclear agreement because under Iran’s interpretation of the deal, UN inspectors are barred from sharing sensitive information they collect during the course of their site visits.
As Tower Magazine pointed out at the time, Earnest’s remarks gave the Iranians a justification for refusing to allow UN nuclear inspectors from entering their nuclear sites. Indeed, Earnest’s remarks gave Iran a rationale for vacating its signature on the agreement.
Like the US and the other parties to the agreement, the Iranians can vacate their signature if they feel their claims against other parties’ perceived breaches of their commitments are not properly addressed by the relevant UN agencies. According to Obama, if Iran walks away from the deal, it will take the mullocracy up to a year to develop nuclear weapons.
Whereas Iran can use the deal to advance its nuclear program and then walk away, the US cannot use the deal to prevent Iran either from advancing its nuclear program or from walking away from the deal.
Sunday Iran test-fired a new ballistic missile. According to Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan, unlike the Shihab intermediate-range surface-to-surface missiles that Iran already fields, the new Emad missile is precision guided. The Wall Street Journal reported that experts assess its range at 1,300 km.
The missile test is not a violation of the agreement. Last month US Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged in a letter to Senator Marco Rubio that the deal does not restrict Iran’s ballistic missile program. Rather, Kerry claimed, Iran’s ballistic missile program is restricted by the Security Council resolution passed July 20 which calls on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology,” for eight years.
In response to Iran’s missile test Sunday, State Department spokesman John Kirby said the US would take “appropriate actions” at the UN if the tests violated the resolution.
Unfortunately, Iran probably didn’t violate the resolution. Because whether the missile test was a violation or not is open to interpretation. Iran’s position is that the test is permitted because, it claims, it has nothing to do with its nuclear program. And because of the way Obama negotiated the nuclear deal and the Security Council resolution, Iran’s word is just as good as America’s on this score.
Moreover, even under the unlikely scenario that the administration determines that Iran’s missile test violated the Security Council resolution, such a conclusion will make no difference.
As Amir Taheri explained in The New York Post, America’s negotiating partners from the P5+1 view the nuclear deal as little more than a trade deal with Iran. Since they signed on in July, the Germans have expanded their trade with Iran 33 percent, making Germany Iran’s third largest trading partner.
Britain has lifted its restrictions on Iranian banks.
France has sent a 100-man delegation of salivating businessmen to Tehran.
China has penned an agreement to build Iran five nuclear reactors.
Russia has not only agreed to sell Iran the advanced S-300 air defense system and begun negotiating the sale of Sukhoi fighter jets, Russia has gone to war in coalition with Iran in Syria.
Other states, including India, Turkey, Austria and the UAE are all clamoring for deals in Iran. The question of whether or not Iran actually abides by the deal’s nuclear limitations is the furthest thing from anyone’s mind.
Given the circumstances, the idea that Obama’s much touted “snapback” sanctions will actually be implemented if and when Iran is caught cheating on the nuclear deal or the restrictions on its ballistic missile program is a joke.
Kerry admitted to Congress that the US has given assurances to the Russians and Chinese that in the event sanctions are re-imposed they will not jeopardize those nations’ trade with Iran.
So sanctions, which Obama himself insisted failed in the past to prevent Iran from advancing its nuclear program, cannot be reimposed, even if they are passed in the Security Council.
And they won’t be passed in the Security Council because no one on the Security Council is paying attention to whether or not Iran keeps its side of the agreement. And even if they did pay attention, and decide that Iran has breached the accord, Iran will simply walk away from the deal with little to no international response.
In his much cited article published last week about Obama’s ill-treatment of Israel during the course of his nuclear talks with Iran, ambassador Dennis Ross wrote that Obama’s commitment to preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons was never straightforward.
The issue of whether the administration would take all measures to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons or would merely seek to contain a nuclear Iran was never settled.
In a speech at a Washington synagogue last May, Obama insisted that he has a “personal stake” in ensuring the deal prevents Iran from developing nuclear weapons because “this deal will have my name on it.”
But as the deal’s substance and the behavior of the US’s negotiating partners makes clear, the purpose of the nuclear accord isn’t to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. It is to get Obama off the hook and place the deal’s opponents in the dock.
By giving Iran the right to walk away whenever it claims the US has breached the deal, Obama has ensured that Iran will walk away, and has given himself the means to blame the Republicans for the deal’s failure.
Just as the Iranians used Earnest’s statement as a reason for leaving the deal, so they should be expected to use any limitation the US places on implementing the deal as a means to vacate their signature and walk away.
Last week we learned that aspects of the US ’s commitments to Iran under the deal are illegal under US law. If the Republican Congress tries to force Obama to obey the law (that he himself signed), Obama will blame the Republicans when the Iranians respond by abandoning the deal. If the Republicans try to impose new sanctions on Iran because Iran breaches its commitments, then Iran can leave the deal.
And Obama will blame the Republicans.
What this means for Republicans is clear enough.
They must recognize the deal for what it really is – a political tool to weaken them, not Iran. Once they understand what is going on, they must refuse to fall into the trap Obama set for them. Republican mustn’t worry about whether or not Iran vacates its signature. It is the deal, not any action they may take, that ensures Iran will walk away.
Moreover, Republicans – and the deal’s Democratic opponents – must refuse to shoulder the blame when Iran acts as expected and walks away.
Obama negotiated a deal that guarantees Iran will become a nuclear power and prevents the US from taking steps, in the framework of the deal, to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Obama didn’t do this because he is a bad negotiator. He did this because his goal was never to prevent Iran from developing atomic bombs and delivery mechanisms. His goal was always to blame Republicans (and Israel) for what he had to power to prevent, but had no interest in preventing.