It's not hard to figure out why the Obama administration is lashing out at critics of the deal it signed with Iran last week. The White House has been pretending it’s a nuclear deal but knows that it really isn’t. Everyone from the president to the secretary of state and his negotiating team is selling it as a historic achievement. The White House, Obama said, “has achieved something that decades of animosity has not: a comprehensive long-term deal with Iran that will prevent it from obtaining a nuclear weapon.”
But nothing in the agreement will stop Iran from obtaining the bomb, regardless of what the administration argues. The inspection and verification regime stipulated by the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action cannot ensure that Iran is abiding by the terms of the agreement.
Iran will have at least 24 days’ advance before International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors can visit the regime’s nuclear facilities. Energy secretary Ernest Moniz says “it’s not so easy to clean up a nuclear site.” As a nuclear scientist, he’s presumably speaking as the administration expert. But this isn’t about specialized knowledge—it’s about common sense and recognizing Iran’s clear pattern of behavior. The Iranians hid entire nuclear facilities, like the uranium enrichment plant at Fordow, for years before anyone discovered them. Twenty-four days is ample time for the regime in Tehran to hide virtually anything—including a bomb. After all, according to White House assessments, without a deal the Iranians would be only two to three months from a nuclear breakout. But without a real inspection regime, there is no impediment to a breakout.
At one time, the White House promised that the agreement would secure anytime/anywhere inspections of Iranian nuclear facilities. Last week, undersecretary of state Wendy Sherman explained that she and her colleagues invoked this term of art only as “popular rhetoric.” That is, they didn’t mean it. They were lying. The administration uses lots of rhetoric because it knows that what it’s selling is not a bad deal—it’s not a deal at all.
The White House wants to do an end-run around Congress by first seeking approval from the U.N. Security Council. The purpose, explained Secretary of State Kerry, is to create a situation where congressional disapproval would make the United States “in noncompliance with this agreement and contrary to all of the other countries in the world.” The administration is taking sides against the representatives of the American people because it’s selling snake oil. It’s not a deal.
Obama attacked a reporter who asked a question about Americans held hostage by the clerical regime. And then the president hinted at dual loyalties when he contended that people should evaluate the agreement “not based on lobbying, but based on what’s in the national interests of the United States of America.” Obama suggests that Americans are incapable of assessing the deal on their own because he knows the document won’t withstand close scrutiny. It’s not a deal.
And it’s not just Benjamin Netanyahu who thinks the agreement is worthless. The reviews are coming in from the rest of the region as well. Saudi Arabia warned Iran against using the billions of dollars unlocked by the end of sanctions “to cause turmoil in the region.” Lebanon’s Druze leader Walid Jumblatt writes that the “deal was signed with the blood of hundreds of thousands of Syrians who were killed to pave the way for this agreement.”
Jumblatt has identified the issue precisely. The signing ceremony in Vienna last week was meant to formalize an arrangement between the Obama White House and Iran regarding the new order in the Middle East—an order to be managed by the clerical regime, in particular its hard men, its extremists, the Revolutionary Guard.
The negotiating process over the nuclear program was a two-year-long sideshow. Kerry played the role of the magician’s pretty assistant whose main job is to distract the audience. The real action was elsewhere—on the ground in the Middle East, from the battleground of the Syrian civil war to the Arab capitals that Iran boasts it controls. Even as the White House claimed there was a firewall separating the nuclear talks from other issues it might have with Tehran, the administration was busy either cooperating with or failing to impede Tehran’s ambitions in Beirut and Baghdad, Damascus and Sana. The talks bracketed the nuclear issue so that the administration could move on to the real issue—a pro-Iran regional realignment.