Most critics of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA ), or the Iran nuclear deal, thought the costs outweighed the benefits. Supporters of the deal thought the benefits outweighed the costs. But today, after a year of experience, we can conclude both sides were wrong – because there aren’t any benefits.
Consider the arguments made during the debate over the agreement. In every single case – with one possible exception we will get to later – the arguments have already been disproved.
On July 14, 2015, President Barack Obama said: “Because of this deal, we will, for the first time, be in a position to verify all of [Iran’s] commitments.
That means this deal is not built on trust; it is built on verification.” The next day, he said the deal offered “unprecedented, around-the-clock monitoring of Iran’s key nuclear facilities and the most comprehensive and intrusive inspection” ever.
But this year’s two quarterly reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) included less information on Iran’s nuclear program.
How is this possible? “In the previous reports, the bases were the previous UN Security Council resolutions,” IAEA head Yukio Amano said in March. “But now they are terminated. They are gone.”
Yes, and so is our access to information.
Second, access to Parchin, the Iranian nuclear military site.
A year ago, we were all promised by Obama that the IAEA “has also reached an agreement with Iran to get access that it needs to complete its investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear research.”
This is simply false, and the IAEA deal with Iran allowed that serial violator to “self-inspect,” a cruel joke.
In fact, some uranium particles were found at Parchin during an IAEA visit there, obviously requiring additional visits to investigate their source – which could only be a previous nuclear weapons program. But the IAEA deal with Iran does not permit any more visits to Parchin. Case closed, Iran wins.
Third, ballistic missiles.
Secretary of State John Kerry testified a year ago that the new deal would keep “the exact same” language barring Iran from developing nuclear missiles. This turned out to be baloney. The deal, and the new UN Security Council resolution, 2231, “calls upon” Iran not to develop ballistic missiles rather than prohibiting it. Either Kerry did not know what he was negotiating or he was simply fooled by the Iranians.
Fourth, sanctions and the Iranian economy.
We were all told that non-nuclear sanctions would remain and even be strengthened. But this year, Kerry has been traveling the world urging investment in Iran! He has been a one-man chamber of commerce for the Islamic Republic. And the Obama administration has opposed all efforts in Congress to increase sanctions on Iran for its human rights violations and support of terrorism.
Fifth, the JCPOA was a victory for “moderates,” we were told, and Iran’s actual conduct would begin to change.
It has changed, all right, but much for the worse. In May, Iran’s Guardians Council approved a 90 percent increase in military spending for next year. When this year the United States gave Iran $1.7 billion to settle a legal claim over accounts frozen in the US in 1979, Tehran immediately gave the entire amount to its military.
Look at Iran’s actual conduct in the past year after this “victory of the moderates”: • It continues to threaten the United States and Israel with destruction, so the violent rhetoric has not changed at all.
• It has launched cyber attacks on the US.
• It took Americans hostages and used them to secure the release and/ or pardon of sanctions violators; it still holds several Americans in prison.
• It captured and mistreated US sailors in the gulf, then violated international law by using videos of them for propaganda.
• Its support for terrorist groups such as Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah has risen, as has its support for the Assad regime in Syria and the Houthi rebels in Yemen.
Reports tell of increasing Iranian subversion in Bahrain as well.
So it’s obvious that the nuclear deal has made everything worse, by enriching Iran greatly without moderating its conduct at all; by getting us less rather than more information about the Iranian nuclear program; and, perhaps worst of all, by legitimizing that program.
The story about how the JCPOA would help “moderates” in Tehran produce a new Iran was not only wrong, it was false and known to be false by those who sold it. Consider the now-famous May 5 New York Times interview with Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes, written by David Samuels.
Samuels concluded that the idea of a deep division between moderates and hard-liners in Tehran was manufactured by the Obama administration as part of its campaign to sell the nuclear deal. Samuels wrote: “The idea that there was a new reality in Iran was politically useful to the Obama administration. By obtaining broad public currency for the thought that there was a significant split in the regime, and that the administration was reaching out to moderate-minded Iranians who wanted peaceful relations with their neighbors and with America, Obama was able to evade what might have otherwise been a divisive but clarifying debate over the actual policy choices that his administration was making.”
Precisely: The administration was strengthening the vicious, aggressive Iranian regime, and knew it was doing so. This was part of Obama’s policy of accepting and legitimizing Iran’s growing power, which became even clearer when Obama told journalist Jeffrey Goldberg in that famous April interview in The Atlantic that he was trying to “say to our friends as well as to the Iranians that they need to find an effective way to share the neighborhood.”
Instead of blunting Iranian power, Obama is accommodating it, and the nuclear deal is a key part of that policy.
So has any good come from this deal with Iran? What was the exception, the possible benefit that I noted at the start? The deal has postponed Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons, but at the cost of legitimizing it. That’s the “benefit,” the supposed 10-year postponement.
That benefit accrues to all of us, of course, only if Iran sticks to the deal and actually slows its program and does not “break out.”
What is Iran’s breakout time? We were told last year that it was at least one year. The Institute for Science and International Security says the actual breakout time may be only seven months.
Because of the limited information that IAEA reports now contain, we know less than we used to. The IAEA’s quarterly report “does not provide information about the numbers and types of centrifuge rotors and bellows in Iran’s inventory. These components are essential in assessing breakout times, and re-installation of previously removed advanced centrifuges or installation of new ones can directly affect the one-year breakout time that proponents of the JCPOA maintain it enforces,” says Olli Heinonen, the former IAEA deputy director- general.
So there you have it: The Iran nuclear deal one year later. Under the deal, we do not really know Iran’s breakout time; we have legitimized its nuclear program; we have strengthened the regime with money and a propaganda victory; and we see Iran’s support for aggression and terror rising.
In time, this agreement will be more and more widely understood as the disaster it was called by its opponents. Let us hope that we all wake up in sufficient time.