As we remain on the final countdown to the full catastrophe taking place in Vienna, Omri Ceren helps us keep track of the details. In his second email update this morning, Omri draws attention to Andrew Bowen’s Daily Beast column Give the mullahs ballistic missiles?” (quoted below). Omri writes:
The last few hours have been a flurry of bilateral and trilateral meetings – Kerry/Zarif, Kerry/Zarif/Mogherini, Hammond/Lavrov, Lavrov/Zarif, etc – and a full P5+1/Iran meeting will probably take place this evening. That plenary is presumably supposed to serve as something of a final meeting: the negotiators will send the deal text back to the capitals, they’ll get pro forma approval, and in the morning there will be a formal announcement.
In the meantime, the new Iranian demand to lift the United Nations arms embargo is getting a lot of talk, and probably a bit more than it deserves. It’s not that the concession wouldn’t be devastating – it would light up the region in so many different ways that they’re difficult to catalogue – but it just doesn’t seem possible that the Americans can give ground on this. What’s the sales pitch to Congress going to be? “Not only are we giving Iran $150 billion to bolster its military, but we’re also lifting arms restrictions to make it easier for them to buy next-generation cruise missiles they’ll use against the U.S. military and our allies.”
But just for the sake of argument, because some pro-Iran voices have taken to publicly suggesting otherwise, yes of course lifting the arms embargo would detonate American national security:
Rather, the real threat from increased Iranian military might lies elsewhere. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)… does not hesitate to remind the world through its harassment of commercial shipping, military exercises, and frequent rhetoric that it can control or shut the Strait of Hormuz, through which 30 percent of the world’s petroleum supplies passes. Keeping the Strait open depends on the U.S. Navy being able to keep up with effective counter measures against improved Iranian cruise missiles… and so Tehran has invested in weapons such as cruise missiles, mines, submarines, and even swarming armed speedboats to specifically target U.S. naval vulnerabilities… Lifting the conventional arms embargo would allow Russia or China to sell Iran the latest generation cruise missiles and drones, which only increase Tehran’s ability to frustrate or harass America’s protectorate of this vital waterway… Moreover, Iranian ballistic missiles outfitted with Russian or Chinese quality precision-guidance munitions could be devastating for U.S. and GCC naval and air bases if there are further relaxations on Iran’s acquisition of missile technology.
The article is by Andrew Bowen, the Director of Middle East Studies at the Center for the National Interest. He goes on to list several other ways Iran would exploit lifting the arms embargo, including by providing advanced missiles to terror proxies to use against U.S. allies such as Israel and Jordan.
The demand is so delusional that some people are speculating the Iranians just brought it up to gain leverage. Whether that’s true or not, the stunt will make it more difficult for the Obama administration to justify the deal to Congress. If Kerry agrees to drop the arms embargo, it’s difficult to see Congress accepting the agreement. If Kerry gets the Iranians to give up on the the demand, Congress will want to know what he had to trade away to do it.