By Jeremy Havardi, journalist and commentator
Barack Obama would like us all to believe that the world is much safer after the framework agreement with Iran. He has described it as an “historic understanding” based on “tough, principled diplomacy” which removes “every pathway that Iran could take to develop a nuclear weapon”. If Iran cheats, he has added, “the world will know”.
But if the deal is so watertight and robust, it’s hard to understand the torrent of criticism in its wake. The deal has been panned by a number of Democrats in Congress as well as by eminent experts from across the political spectrum. It’s equally puzzling that Israeli ministers are so jittery about a framework agreement that supposedly leaves them much safer.
Quite simply, this latest diplomatic initiative is anything but safe. It doesn’t stop Iran’s path to the bomb, so much as put it in abeyance for a period of time.
It’s not hard to see the problems in what has been proposed. For starters, Iran is not required to permanently give up its nuclear facilities or fissile products. None of its illicit sites, such as Fordow or Parchin, will be closed down, as they should be, and Iran will still be allowed to enrich uranium to 3.67 percent using several thousand centrifuges.
In essence, Iran’s nuclear infrastructure stays intact, a major departure from what is required. No wonder Iran’s Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, exulted after the proposals: “Our facilities will continue. We will continue enriching; we will continue research and development.”
Under the framework deal, the breakout time for a bomb is pushed back to a year owing to constraints on the enrichment and plutonium programmes, and this is certainly a welcome development. We are also assured that a strict verification regime is in place to detect violations and that sanctions can snap back when needed. But there are two major problems.
First, detecting every possible violation is a Herculean task, given Iran’s size and the number of its facilities. Given that Tehran may not agree to intrusive ‘anytime, anyplace’ inspections, this becomes doubly complicated.
Second, if violations are reported, it is not a straightforward matter to reimpose sanctions. One can expect lengthy debates in the Security Council on whether violations have occurred and how significant they are. There will likely be time-consuming demands for more evidence.
This discord can only be compounded by the lack of economic incentives to reimpose sanctions. Such measures require strong international co-operation and that is not Putin’s game. He will want Russian access to Iranian markets and enhanced trade, making him more likely to get tough with the West than with Tehran. Indeed, his willingness to sell Iran the advanced S-300 missile, announced this week, signals a very clear intent. Sanctions took a long time to agree and they cannot be ‘snapped back’ so quickly.
Even if Iran does comply with this deal, the limitations for uranium enrichment last 10 years, after which Iran could theoretically renew its nuclear activities using the results of the research and development it is allowed under this agreement. Perhaps Obama hopes that after a period of time, the regime will have moderated its aims and be willing to abide by the terms of the non-proliferation treaty. But after decades of Iranian evasion and deceit, involving violations of this treaty, such hopes appear naive.
Worse, in his desperation to sign a deal at any price, Obama has turned a blind eye to Iran’s current belligerence. The country is the world’s leading sponsor of terror, with its tentacles stretching across several neighbouring states.
It remains implacably opposed to Israel’s existence and its leaders speak approvingly of the country’s destruction. Ayatollah Khamenei’s hatred extends even further, with his chilling call for ‘Death to America’ issued only a month ago. When such incendiary rhetoric is routinely ignored, Iran is handed a handsome victory. Moreover, the regime senses Western weakness and lack of principle, leading to further demands.
If this deal is accepted, not only will Iran become a nuclear threshold state, but it will spark a regional arms race and embolden terrorists across the Middle East.
This is not so much peace and goodwill as “peace in our time”. And we all know how that worked out.