Last week it was reported that the White House and Iran may be moving toward a deal over the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. The proposed phased agreement, lasting 10-15 years, would initially attempt to freeze the program. But during the last years of the agreement, Iran would be allowed to resume activities that would lead to a nuclear bomb. The deal’s “sunset clause” means that after the agreement has expired, this state sponsor of terror will become legally entitled to the same treatment in nuclear energy matters as Japan, say, or Germany, or any other non-nuclear-weapon state with a civil nuclear program.
For the sunset clause to kick in, of course, Iran must fulfill its obligations under the terms of the agreement. The problem, however, is that Iran could get away with pretty much anything it wanted because no one’s watching—or more specifically, no one would be allowed to watch. The International Atomic Energy Agency would be responsible for monitoring compliance, but just last week the U.N. agency reported that Tehran still refuses to allow inspections to address concerns regarding the possible military dimensions of the nuclear program. The IAEA, said the report, “remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”
According to the IAEA report, it is because Iran has not answered all the outfit’s questions that “the agency is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”
In other words, the deal under discussion is a very bad one even on the administration’s own terms. After first claiming that its goal was to halt the Iranians’ march toward a bomb, the White House lowered the bar and is now apparently content with slowing the program. At least that’s what the administration says, which is why it wants to lengthen the time it will take Iran to “break out” and make a bomb. But there is no way to know the time frame for a breakout without a rigorous inspections regime. But that is impossible to establish unless the Iranians satisfy concerns regarding the possible military dimensions of the program, and allow regular and unannounced inspections of all their facilities. That would include controversial sites like the military base at Parchin, which the regime has made off-limits to inspectors. Therefore, even under the best of circumstances, the proposed deal would leave Iran a screwdriver’s turn away from a nuclear weapon.
It’s finally beginning to dawn on people what a comprehensive agreement with Iran really means. The foreign policy establishment, Democratic and Republican, has long dreamed of a historic reconciliation with the clerical regime, which would include not only a deal over the nuclear program but also agreements on a broad range of other matters of vital interest to both parties. However, it’s becoming increasingly clear that very few have imagined what rapprochement would actually look like on the ground.
For example, even Flynt and Hillary Mann Leverett, purveyors of the myth that Iran was rebuffed when it reached out to strike a “grand bargain” with the Bush administration, and longtime advocates of such a bargain, have assumed that as part of a deal Iran would agree not to develop a nuclear weapon. But the Obama administration is paving the path to an Iranian bomb. In the Leveretts’ imagined deal, Iran stops supporting terrorism in exchange for recognition of its interests. But in fact, the White House is already recognizing those interests for nothing in exchange—reportedly sharing intelligence with Hezbollah and coordinating its campaign against the Islamic State with Iranian proxies in Syria and Iraq, while it accedes to Iranian expansionism, from Beirut and Damascus to Baghdad and Sanaa.
Elsewhere, the White House has virtually teamed up with Iran. Most notably in Tikrit, where Iran’s terrorist in chief, IRGC-Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, is, it appears, going to be overseeing the Iraqi forces—trained and equipped by the United States—in their campaign to wrest the Sunni city from the Islamic State. How is it possible that the same White House that thinks Israeli settlements are a source of Arab frustration and despair also thinks it’s a good idea to back Suleimani in a likely campaign of sectarian cleansing of a Sunni Arab region? Maybe the White House’s Middle East policy is a deranged plan to destroy the lives of thousands of Middle Easterners and ruin the American position in the region. Or maybe there is some method to the apparent madness.