By Jeremy HAVARDI, Author.
President Obama hailed last Sunday’s Geneva accord as a triumphant vindication of his soft-power strategy: “For the first time in nearly a decade we have halted the progress of the Iranian nuclear programme, and key parts of the programme will be rolled back,” he said.
Such rosy optimism seems rather premature. The deal looks more like an ‘historic mistake’ because it reduces pressure on Iran just as it stands on the threshold of becoming a nuclear weapon state.
This could yet be the most feckless diplomacy in a generation.
The deal appears promising. Iran has agreed to stop enriching uranium above five percent while neutralising its stockpile of 20 percent enriched material.
It also agrees not to install next-generation faster centrifuges and to halt progress on the plutonium track at Arak. It agrees to allow the IAEA intrusive monitoring and obtains modest sanctions relief in return.
But the bad outweighs the good.
While the IAEA is empowered to carry out daily inspections, experts have already cautioned there may be secret installations. Unless the agency can have unfettered access and make snap inspections, these clandestine facilities will escape the agency’s radar, undermining the agreement.
Crucially, Iran has 10,000 operational centrifuges and the right to enrich uranium to five percent, a major concession by the West. Yet the whole point of the sanctions programme, to say nothing of six UN Security Council resolutions, was to suspend enrichment altogether. The deal puts into question the authority of these resolutions, undermines international law and hobbles the non-proliferation treaty, which concedes no such right of enrichment to signatory nations.
Moreover, as Mark Wallace, a former representative for UN management and reform, warned after the deal: “By not agreeing to dismantle a single centrifuge, Iran has … retained the ability to break out and produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear weapon in as little as two months.”
Thus the Geneva accord leaves Iran as a ‘nuclear threshold’ state and upholds its right to enrich uranium. Far from rolling back Iran’s nuclear programme, the deal merely freezes it pending a further agreement. With the Iranian programme on the verge of nuclear break-out, the risk of a regional arms race remains palpable.
Suggestions have already emerged of how Saudi Arabia has struck a deal to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan and other countries could well follow Riyadh’s lead. The optimists argue a further deal could be reached in six months to dismantle the nuclear programme altogether.
Naturally this will rely on Iranian co-operation and unprecedented flexibility on the part of the autocratic Khamenei. But if Iran’s history of evasion and deceit are anything to go by, prospects for progress look dim and worse still if one surveys America’s futile effort to halt the North Korean bomb.
Here, too, a sinister regime continually duped hapless US administrations into providing economic concessions, to no avail. It is true the agreement allows sanctions to be re-imposed but this requires international co-operation and it is not clear this will come.
Worse, Obama will now be loath to upset his Iranian counterparts over other issues for fear of scuppering this half-baked deal and further shredding his credibility. This would explain his outrageous silence following Khamenei’s reported incendiary comment that Israel was the “unclean, rabid dog” of the Middle East, which was “doomed to failure and annihilation”.
When does an American president refuse to speak out in the face of such intense provocation? The answer: when that president is determined to appease a rogue state at all costs.
By ruling out force and insisting on diplomacy to resolve this crisis, Obama has given the ayatollah regime a level of legitimacy it could never have dreamt of.