The Case Against the Iran Deal

(Atlantic) Michael Oren and Yossi Klein Halevi - Proponents of the Iran nuclear agreement say Iran is closer today to producing a bomb than it was in 2015. Only the deal's renewal, they insist, can prevent the nightmare of a nuclear Iran. Why, then, aren't Israelis and Arabs - those with the most to lose from Iranian nuclearization - also demanding a return to the JCPOA? The answer is simple: The JCPOA didn't diminish the Iranian nuclear threat; it magnified it. The JCPOA allowed Iran to retain its massive nuclear infrastructure, unnecessary for a civilian energy program but essential for a military nuclear program. The agreement did not shut down a single nuclear facility or destroy a single centrifuge. The ease and speed with which Iran has resumed producing large amounts of more highly enriched uranium illustrates the danger of leaving the regime with these capabilities. The deal allowed the regime to develop advanced centrifuges capable of spinning out more highly enriched uranium in far less time. Less than a decade from now, Iran will be legally able to produce and stockpile enough fissile material for dozens of bombs. Breakout time would be a matter of weeks. In a recording obtained by Israel and shared with the U.S. in 2008, nuclear weapons program head Gen. Mohsen Fakhrizadeh of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps explained that Iran's secret efforts had in fact continued after 2003 and that Iran intended to initially produce five nuclear warheads. Three years ago, Israel exposed Iran's secret nuclear archive, confirming that Iran's nuclear-weapons program did not stop in 2003 but was merely split into overt and covert channels. Fakhrizadeh stated that the goal was to maintain "special activities...under the title of Scientific Development" that "leave no identifiable traces." With its sunset clauses, the JCPOA merely postponed the outcome of Iran becoming a global nuclear power, while rewarding Iran extravagantly. The JCPOA infused the Iranian economy with tens of billions of dollars in immediate sanctions relief and trade deals and promised to provide hundreds of billions more. Yet rather than invest in its decaying infrastructure, the regime used portions of this windfall to expand its international terror network, enhance the offensive capabilities of Hamas and Hizbullah, and further assist the Syrian regime in massacring and uprooting its own people. Rather than buying Iran's moderation, the JCPOA helped fund its quest for regional hegemony. The Obama administration seemed to genuinely believe that Iran was capable of change. If it were treated respectfully and reintegrated into the international community, Iran would lose interest in a nuclear bomb long before the deal expired, choosing instead to become "a successful regional power," and would cease supporting terror. From the outset, the Obama administration was so wary of antagonizing Iran that it consistently overlooked the regime's outrages - including a 2011 plot to assassinate the Saudi and Israeli ambassadors in Washington (the Israeli ambassador at the time was Michael Oren, a co-author of this essay). Tragically, spokespeople for the new U.S. administration are proposing to return to the JCPOA and lift sanctions, and only afterward negotiate a longer, stronger deal. Such a course has no chance of success. Even a partial lifting of sanctions would forfeit any leverage that could compel the regime to negotiate a deal that genuinely removes the danger of a nuclear Iran. The deal's fervent supporters need to recognize that its fundamental assumptions - that Iran had abandoned its quest for a military nuclear option and would moderate its behavior - have been thoroughly disproved. Michael Oren is former Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Yossi Klein Halevi is a senior fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem.

2021-01-25 00:00:00

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