The Iran nuclear arrangement: more than a bad deal, a betrayal

Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post provides an “analysis” of the Iran nuclear deal. After raving at length about the “historic deal,” Tharoor turns to the case against it. He writes:

Critics of the deal, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Republican hawks in Washington, warn that, contrary to the Obama administration’s talking points, it gives Iran a ticket to becoming a nuclear superpower. These claims are somewhat undermined by the many tough provisions within the deal.

Case closed.

To be fair, I was just as conclusory yesterday when I wrote that “given the obvious flaws in the Obama administration’s nuclear deal, Iran will obtain nuclear weapons (barring outside military intervention) at roughly the time of its choosing with or without the deal.” It’s time now to explain why this is so.

Fred Fleitz, a senior vice president for policy and programs for the Center for Security Policy, offers the following explanation at NRO:

Under the deal, Iran will keep its entire nuclear infrastructure. . . .Iran is currently enriching uranium with about 9,000 centrifuges. About 6,000 will be kept operational; about 5,000 will continue to enrich. Another 10,000 — many non-operational — will be put in storage or unplugged. However, no centrifuges will be destroyed or removed from the country.

Iran also will continue to develop advanced uranium centrifuges while the agreement is in effect. However, unlike the interim agreement, which set the stage for the nuclear talks and barred Iran from testing advanced centrifuges with uranium (a provision Iran violated in mid 2014), the new agreement requires only that R&D of advanced centrifuges be tested “in a manner that does not accumulate enriched uranium.” This means Iran will be allowed to do more-intensive testing of advanced centrifuges than was permitted during the nuclear talks.

But isn’t Iran supposed to dilute its stockpile of enriched uranium under the agreement? Yes, but according to Fleitz, this process “could be reversed in a few months — possibly much faster if Iran uses advanced centrifuges.” Moreover:

Iran will receive natural uranium for any enriched uranium it “sells.” This will help preserve Iran’s enrichment capability and also solve a problem it has concerning access to natural uranium. (Iran has little natural uranium and its uranium mines are running out.)

As for plutonium:

Iran has agreed to replace the core of its Arak heavy-water reactor, which is under construction, so it will produce less plutonium, and to send the spent fuel rods of this reactor out of the country. However, it will be permitted to operate the Arak reactor, a significant reversal of pre-2013 U.S. policy that work on this reactor be halted permanently because it is a serious nuclear-proliferation threat.

Even if adhered to, then, Obama’s deal is unlikely meaningfully to shorten the time in which Iran can develop nuclear weapons. To make matters worse, the deal’s verification provisions undermine our ability to verify Iranian compliance:

Effectively verifying this agreement will be impossible, since the “24/7” inspections promised by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry in their speeches today apply only to Iran’s declared nuclear program and supply chain. The IAEA can “press” for inspections of military sites and other suspect nuclear sites, but the agreement does not provide for any penalty if Iran refuses to grant IAEA inspectors access.

To make matters even worse, Obama largely caved on Iran’s eleventh-hour demand to lift embargoes on conventional arms and ballistic missiles:

The conventional-arms embargo will stay in place for five years, and the ballistic-missile embargo will be in place for eight years but will be lifted sooner if the IAEA definitively clears Iran of any current work on nuclear weapons. The IAEA is very unlikely to find evidence of current nuclear-weapons work, as it won’t be allowed to inspect non-declared nuclear sites where this activity is taking place.

This means these embargoes could be lifted much sooner.

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Obama stated: “[T]he deal we’ll accept is — they end their nuclear program. It’s very straightforward.”

It’s very straightforward that Obama has agreed to a deal under which Iran doesn’t even purport to end its nuclear program. Obama lied to the American people.

Fleitz concludes:

This is more than a bad deal. President Obama has betrayed the American people by agreeing to the kind of agreement with an enemy of the United States that he said he would not agree to. It is vital that Congress hold the president to his original promises by rejecting this agreement on a strong bipartisan basis and send a signal to the world that if a Republican is elected president in 2016, this deal will be declared null and void on his or her first day in office.