The Option To The Iran Deal Is Far Worse (Rev 16)


Weighing the Iran nuclear deal: far from perfect, but the alternatives are worse

By THE TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD contact the reporter

The historic agreement reached after 20 months of negotiations between Iran, the U.S. and five other world powers holds out hope that for the next 10 or 15 years the ability of the Islamic Republic to develop a nuclear weapon will be significantly limited. It is far from a perfect deal, it promises less than many had hoped for, it has been oversold by its proponents — but at the end of the day, it must be supported because the alternatives are worse.

Next month, Congress will vote on a resolution to disapprove — and potentially derail — the agreement. We urge members of Congress to vote against the resolution and, if it passes anyway, to support President Obama when he vetoes it, as he almost certainly would do. After that, Congress should press the administration to make good on its promises to counter Iran’s dangerous meddling in the affairs of its neighbors and to respond decisively if Iran is found to have cheated on this agreement.

The basic structure of the deal is this: The United States and the other world powers have agreed to lift the sanctions that have crippled Iran’s economy in return for that country’s commitment to curtail its nuclear program. Yet the agreement has troubling flaws, especially when it comes to the rules governing inspections that might expose Iran’s past nuclear activities. We are not reassured by the CIA’s conclusion that Iran will spend the bulk of the $100 billion it could receive in sanctions relief on domestic projects. We fear that a substantial portion of that windfall will underwrite Iran’s sponsorship of militant groups like Hezbollah and Hamas at a moment when the region is already in turmoil, when Islamic State is gaining, Syria is at war with itself and the Arab Spring has crumbled.
And we’re troubled by the fact that an embargo on Iran’s import and export of conventional arms and ballistic missiles will be lifted after five and eight years, respectively.

So why do we support the agreement? The short answer is that, although it certainly represents a gamble, the deal makes it highly unlikely that Iran will develop a nuclear weapon during the next 10 or 15 years. Without it, there is no such assurance.

For years, the international community has sought to force Iran to credibly live up to its insistence that it will use nuclear power for peaceful purposes only. The concern wasn’t primarily that a nuclear-armed Iran would launch an attack on Israel — a suicidal scenario given Israel’s own unacknowledged nuclear weapons — but rather that it would destabilize the region, provide Iran with dramatically more influence and inspire a nuclear arms race. That threat was considered so serious that it united the U.S., its European allies, Russia and China in an international campaign to place meaningful limitations on Iran’s nuclear program.

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed to by Iran and the so-called P5+1 — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany — requires Iran to dismantle much of the nuclear infrastructure it has assembled, provides for intrusive inspection of known nuclear sites and includes a mechanism for the re-imposition of sanctions in the case of Iranian violations that even some critics of the deal have praised.

Under the agreement, Iran will give up most of its ability to enrich uranium and will place all but 6,000 of its 19,500 centrifuges in storage under the oversight of the International Atomic Energy Agency. It will ship out of the country most of its low-enriched uranium, and it will convert the Fordow enrichment facility into a research center. A heavy-water plant at Arak will be rebuilt to render it incapable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, and construction of additional heavy water reactors will be delayed.

Ideally, all of the provisions of the agreement would be permanent, but instead key restrictions will expire in 10 or 15 years. Critics who say those sunset provisions amount to “kicking the can down the road” have a point. But an Iran unrestrained by this agreement would be able to “break out” to a nuclear weapons capability sooner.

The weaknesses in the agreement are significant. For example, while the inspection regime for known nuclear sites is robust, the procedures for inspecting so-called undeclared sites is both protracted and cumbersome, and falls far short of the “any time, anywhere” inspections many had hoped for. If Iran objects to immediate inspection of such a site, the agreement provides for up to 14 days for negotiation. Some experts worry that Iran could exploit the delay to cover up evidence of violations.

We’re also troubled by the fact the IAEA and Iran have reached a side agreement — whose official text hasn’t been released — that spells out conditions for inspections aimed at establishing whether Iran engaged in forbidden nuclear activities at a military installation at Parchin. News reports that the agreement allows Iran itself, rather than the IAEA, to collect evidence at the site are disturbing. As of now, the facts remain sketchy, but even the lack of transparency about the arrangements is unacceptable. The U.S. should press Iran and the IAEA to divulge the details of that agreement and another that deals with possible military dimensions of past nuclear research.

Some critics have suggested that the agreement’s imperfections could be remedied in new negotiations if Congress disapproved the deal and prevented Obama from waiving sanctions. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), an opponent of the deal, says the U.S. should “pursue the hard-trodden path of diplomacy once more, difficult as it may be.” But it is hard to imagine that an action by Congress to block the deal would impel the Iranians — or America’s negotiating partners — to return to the table to hammer out a better one. As Brent Scowcroft, who served as national security advisor in two Republican administrations, put it: “There is no credible alternative were Congress to prevent U.S. participation in the nuclear deal. If we walk away, we walk away alone.”

Congress should allow this deal to go forward, but it also should hold Obama to a promise he made in a letter he sent this month to Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.). Obama told Nadler that implementation of the nuclear agreement wouldn’t prevent the U.S. from dealing with “Iran’s destabilizing activities and support for terrorism” by continuing sanctions aimed at Iran’s non-nuclear activities. We hope that Obama and those who follow him will not grow complacent after this agreement is put in place.

Iran Deal Heading Towards The End (Rev 15:2)

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Expected Iranian nuclear deal worse than Israel feared

Israel has mounted what it terms an “uphill battle” against an agreement that might ease sanctions on the Iranians while leaving them with a nuclear infrastructure with bomb-making potential. Tehran says its nuclear program is peaceful.
This deal, as it appears to be emerging, bears out all of our fears, and even more than that,” Netanyahu told his cabinet in Jerusalem as the United States, five other world powers and Iran worked toward a March 31 deadline in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Noting advances made by Iranian-allied forces in Yemen and other Arab countries, Netanyahu accused the Islamic republic of trying to “conquer the entire Middle East” while moving toward nuclearization.
Netanyahu’s campaigning against the nuclear negotiations crested on March 3 with his speech to the US Congress at the invitation of its Republican speaker, John Boehner, that angered President Barack Obama and many fellow Democrats.
The right-wing prime minister, who won a fourth term in a March 17 election, said on Sunday he had spoken to senior US lawmakers from both parties “and heard from them about the steadfast, strong and continuous bipartisan support for Israel”.
Strategic Affairs Minister Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli official who has been spearheading efforts to lobby world powers against the Iran deal, voiced cautious hope that the negotiations would collapse as they have in the past.
“We may still have a chance. We are not alone. There are still great doubts in the United States as well as in France, even in England,” Steinitz told Israel Radio, referring to disputes with Iran over the scope of nuclear projects it might be allowed to retain.
But Steinitz said Israel, which is not a party to the talks and whose hardline demands have not been welcomed in Western capitals, was in an “uphill battle”.

If The GOP Has It Their Way, Iran Will Be Nuclear Ready By Next Year

The Danger of a Failed Iran Deal
March 08, 2015

In national security policy, you must always be careful what you wish for. Policies with short-term appeal often come with disagreeable longer-term consequences. And that may be exactly what is happening on Capitol Hill as politicians line up against a nuclear deal with Iran.

Today, there are many who are prepared to reject a negotiated nuclear agreement with Iran on the grounds that a return to coercive pressure and isolation will ensure the elimination of the entire Iranian nuclear capability and extend that “zero probability” of a nuclear weapon into the indefinite future. This is close to the position that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu laid out in his speech to Congress last week.

Certainly, turning back the clock and eliminating every aspect of nuclear know-how in Iran would be desirable. But proponents of an even more coercive policy should recognize that if they get their wish, they may create a security threat far greater than the limited threat they are now trying to prevent.

We don’t need a fortuneteller or crystal ball to predict the outcome of such a policy. We have more than three decades of experience to draw upon, based on the policies of eight successive American presidents and four presidents of Iran. Over that period of time, Iran has been subjected to a wide variety of sanctions and pressures. Originally these were mostly unilateral pressures from the U.S., but under the Obama administration they have become far more international and far-reaching, culminating in the crippling sanctions on Iran’s oil sales and its ability to access international financial markets.

Twice, Iran has come to the negotiating table. The first time was in 2003-05, when the Iranian negotiating team of Hassan Rohani and Javad Zarif — not yet president and foreign minister — made a proposal to cap Iran’s centrifuges at about 3,000. The United States was not a direct participant in those talks with several European states, but it is widely acknowledged that the George W. Bush administration vetoed the talks for essentially the same reason as opponents of the present negotiations. It was believed that the danger of permitting Iran to operate several thousand centrifuges was too great. Moreover, the coercive pressures available to the United States and the international community had scarcely been tried, and sanctions had not really begun to bite.
We all know what happened. With sanctions increasing almost by the day, and with increasing threats of a unilateral attack by Israel (which would probably draw in the U.S. and others), Iran steadily increased its nuclear program. By the time Rohani and Zarif returned to the field in 2013, Iran had about 20,000 centrifuges installed in two major sites — one of them deep underground — and a substantial stockpile of enriched uranium. Some of the uranium was enriched to nearly 20 percent, which is well on the way to weapons level.

That situation was so alarming that Netanyahu appeared before the United Nations General Assembly displaying a cartoon drawing that showed a bomb filling with 20 percent enriched uranium. He estimated that it would arrive at the red line — enough to produce a bomb’s worth of highly enriched uranium very quickly — by the following summer. Many close observers of Israel believed that an attack on Iran’s nuclear infrastructure was imminent.

Netanyahu, in various capacities, had been warning of an imminent Iranian nuclear weapon since at least 1992, when he told the Israeli Knesset that Iran could have a bomb in three to five years. He and others, in Israel and elsewhere, have made similar predictions almost annually for the past two decades.

It is easy to dismiss these predictions as fear-mongering about something that obviously never happened. But it is much more instructive to understand that what they were saying had a basis in fact: During this entire period, Iran was steadily increasing its capability to produce a nuclear bomb. The more interesting fact is that Tehran did not follow through. By virtually every estimate, Iran has had the capability to produce a nuclear weapon for at least a decade. The predictions were wrong, not about Iran’s ability but about its willingness to use that capability to produce a weapon. The entire U.S. intelligence community and most of our allies — apparently including Israel — have concluded with high confidence that Iran has not made a decision to build a bomb.

The second round of multilateral negotiations with Iran is approaching the finish line. The details have not been announced, but the outlines of an agreement seem to be emerging. Netanyahu’s cartoon bomb has been drained. It is now empty of 20 percent enriched uranium, and all indications point to the fact that Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium will be severely limited for the foreseeable future. Iran is the world’s most inspected state. It has apparently agreed to accept vigorous international inspection in perpetuity in return for an agreement that lifts the most onerous sanctions on its commerce. Iran has ceased development of its heavy water reactor at Arak, which produces plutonium — the shortest route to weapons-quality fissile material — and will modify it permanently. And the most severe restrictions ever imposed on a state will reportedly be accepted for a decade or more before Iran is gradually permitted to assume its position as a “normal” member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which explicitly prohibits Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.

On the other hand, if this agreement is rejected, as the Israeli prime minister and many in Congress are proposing, we go back to the early days of 2013: heavy sanctions, a rapidly increasing Iranian nuclear program and a looming threat of war. That is surely something no responsible statesman or politician would wish to see.

Gary Sick, a scholar at Columbia University, served on the National Security Council under Presidents Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and was the principal White House aide for Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the hostage crisis.