The deal that the Obama Administration struck at the Geneva talks yesterday amounts to a flawed agreement that risks reducing sanctions pressure on Iran over next six months in return for easily reversible Iranian pledges, some of which Iran has given before but subsequently reneged on. The deal requires Iran to curb some, but not all, of its nuclear activities over the next six months in return for about $7 billion in sanctions relief.
Significantly, Iran is not required to comply with U.N. Security Council sanctions that require a total suspension of uranium enrichment. Instead, Iran is allowed to continue enriching uranium to 3.5 percent levels, ostensibly for its nuclear power reactor at Bushehr, despite the fact that Russia already has committed to fuel that facility.
Another problem is that the interim deal, which creates a six-month window for further negotiations, may hinder Washington’s ability to reach an acceptable final deal. The Obama Administration has been stung by strong criticism from Congress and from U.S. allies who fear that it has squandered its bargaining leverage by easing sanctions in return for marginal concessions from Iran that will not reduce the long-term threat of an Iranian nuclear breakout.
To force Tehran to make the necessary deeper concessions in a final deal, more—not fewer—sanctions are required. But Iran has warned that any further sanctions will prompt it to abandon the agreement. Despite that warning, a bipartisan coalition in Congress has announced that it will impose more sanctions.
The Administration claims that the easing of sanctions will be reversible if Iran defaults on its obligations, but as long as Iran keeps the talks alive, it will be difficult to re-impose the sanctions without being accused of sabotaging negotiations.
As columnist Charles Krauthammer has warned, there is concern that “A President desperate to change the subject and a Secretary of State desperate to make a name for himself” will succumb to “a sucker’s deal” with Iran.
The Administration has resisted bipartisan congressional efforts to impose new sanctions on Iran. White House spokesman Jay Carney has warned that additional pressure on Iran could derail diplomatic negotiations and put the U.S. on a “march to war.”
But as Heritage Foundation Senior Fellow Peter Brookes has noted: “On the contrary, not being tough enough on Iran—whether with new sanctions or at the Geneva talks—may actually propel the simmering crisis toward armed conflict despite intentions to do otherwise.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has claimed that the deal has recognized Iran’s “right” to uranium enrichment, although that language did not appear in the agreement. This sets the stage for Iran to back out of the deal in the future, claiming that the West reneged on its commitments.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu denounced the deal as a “historic mistake” and warned that Israel “has the right and duty to defend itself by itself.” This is a signal that Israel could take preventive action to protect itself against Iran’s nuclear threat in the future.
Britain’s Sunday Times reported that Israeli and Saudi officials secretly have met to discuss cooperation against Iran, with Saudi Arabia agreeing to allow Israeli warplanes to cross Saudi airspace to attack Iran’s nuclear sites.
Recently, one of Netanyahu’s closest associates, former national security adviser Yaakov Amidror, told the Financial Times that Israel had the military capability to set back Iran’s nuclear program “for a very long time” and that there was “no question” that Netanyahu would act unilaterally if necessary.
If such a preventive strike occurs, Iran likely would strike back against both Israel and the U.S. In plain English, this means war.
See: If Israel Attacks