The interim agreement arrived at by the United States and Iran is a most peculiar document. It is denominated a Joint Plan of Action. It formulates Iran’s purported concessions in the subjunctive and styles them as “voluntary measures.” (In exchange for the concessions of the other parties to the agreement, “Iran would undertake the following voluntary measures…”) I say that’s peculiar.
The White House has posted a “fact sheet” on the agreement. When it comes to any assertion made by the White House regarding the terms of the agreement, check it against the agreement. I would say trust but verify if trust were warranted. It isn’t.
Last week I benefited from briefings by David Albright and Emily Landau on the anticipated terms of the agreement. They are both more knowledgeable and less negative about the agreement than I am. Their post-agreement columns are accessible here (Albright) and here (Landau). I encourage interested readers to check them out.
And don’t forget this: they’re still ironing out the pesky technical details of the deal in its present form. The clock isn’t running yet.
I can say this much with some assurance. Comparisons to the Munich Agreement are not entirely fair. The interim agreement is a little longer than the Munich Agreement, but it is neither as clear nor as well written.
I am only an interested observer, not an expert. I may be mistaken in some of the particulars and ask you to test my theses against the text of the agreement, the White House fact sheet and your sense of reality. This is important. Take a look with your own eyes.
Herewith, as William F. Buckley used to say, a few observations:
1. The agreement is framed as an interim agreement, but it is renewable by mutual consent. There will be no going back until Iran chooses to go back. Live with it.
2. The agreement does not freeze or cap Iran’s nuclear program. Iran is to continue enrichment activities up to the 5 percent level. Its enrichment facilities remain unimpaired. Implications and/or statements to the contrary by the administration are false. The media’s failure to get this right is malpractice.
3. The agreement implicitly accepts Iran’s right to enrich uranium. Binding UN resolutions to the contrary notwithstanding, they will continue to enrich uranium under the agreement. The agreement also envisions a final agreement that “[i]nvolve[s] a mutually defined enrichment programme…for a period to be agreed upon.” The Iranians are right to celebrate the agreement; the Obama administration has to spin it.
4. The agreement extends Iran’s time to breakout by a month or two (anywhere from one month to “multiple months,” as a senior administration official explained to me). Technical expert David Albright — who expresses qualified support for the agreement — calculates the extension to “at least 1.9 to 2.2 months, up from at least 1 month to 1.6 months.” That is all.
5. The Iranian regime never disclosed its uranium enrichment facilities or heavy water reactor. Each was revealed by outsiders. The agreement addresses Iran’s known nuclear facilities with at least one exception. It makes no mention of Parchin, the military facility where Iran is believed by the IAEA to have conducted weaponization research and sought to conceal the evidence. As David Albright and Robert Avagyan wrote earlier this year: “The Parchin site remains of interest to the IAEA due to evidence of pre-2004 activities related to the development of nuclear weapons. Iran is alleged by the IAEA, the United States, and at least three European governments to have had a well-structured nuclear weapons program aimed at building a warhead small enough to fit on the Shahab 3 ballistic missile.” The agreement does not even warrant that Iran has no other dual-use or enrichment or nuclear facilities. Why?
6. The agreement is premised on the understanding that Iran’s nuclear program may have peaceful purposes: “The goal for these negotiations is to reach a long-term comprehensive solution that would ensure Iran’s nuclear programme will be exclusively peaceful.” This is a farcical pretense. It is inconceivable, for example, that Iran’s Arak heavy-water reactor has any other purpose than the provision of an alternate path to a nuclear weapon. To the extent that this is in fact an interim agreement, Iran gives up next to nothing on Arak (“for 6 months [Iran] will not commission the reactor or transfer fuel or heavy water to the reactor site and will not test additional fuel for the reactor or install remaining components”). To make concessions that are not concessions at all and in return secure the relaxation of the sanctions regime — this is “Iran’s tactic in a nutshell.”
7. Iran’s stockpile of enriched uranium is sufficient after further enrichment for approximately six nuclear weapons. The agreement does nothing with respect to the existing stockpile of enriched uranium other than provide for uranium enriched to 20 percent to be downgraded to 5 percent, from which it can be enriched further.
8. The relaxation of sanctions under the agreement is advertised as limited and reversible. The administration emphasizes the reversibility of the sanctions relief. The administration has opposed sanctions crafted by Congress every step of the way. As observers outside the administration have noted, as a practical reversal is of sanctions relief is highly unlikely. The relaxation is far more likely the preface to the unraveling of the sanctions regime regardless of the formalities.
9. Hard questions about the limited concessions made by Iran under the agreement elicit the response that “Iran wouldn’t agree” to more — and this was at a time when the sanctions carried their maximum bite. It also makes me wonder where the United States drew the line. Apparently not at a recognition of Iran’s right to uranium enrichment, which was expressly incorporated until France objected. Now it is only implicit.
10. The limited nature of the agreement combined with the relaxation of sanctions facilitates Iran’s development of nuclear weapons. Indeed, statements to the contrary notwithstanding, the Obama administration accepts Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.
There is more that can and should be said, though this might be enough for now with one additional note on the limited scope of the agreement. The agreement scrupulously avoids any hint of past and present terrorist activities conducted by Iran, American hostages held by Iran or Iran’s ongoing incitement to genocide — ongoing even as the negotiations reached fruition. The United States is getting into bed with Iran and the disgrace of the United States by the agreement runs deep.
UPDATE: Since writing this I have read “A bad agreement likely to get worse” by Mark Dubowitz and Orde Kittrie (I’m afraid it’s behind the Wall Street Journal’s subscription paywall). Dubowitz and Kittrie make several of the same points I do against a broader background of familiarity with the facts than my own. Clark Griffith considers the presence of American forces in the region here. Having read Dubowitz and Kittrie, I would just add that the agreement is a pathetic excuse for a sellout.