US national security advisor Susan Rice.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Once upon a time way back on March 1, White House National Security Council Advisor Susan Rice made a speech before AIPAC in which she chose to invert a famous line by Ronald Reagan; “Trust but verify,” into “Distrust but verify,” by which she meant that the P5+1 deal must verifiably eliminate any pathway to nuclear development for Iran.
However, the framework accepted by the permanent members of the Security Council plus Germany and their negotiating partner Iran do not remove all the centrifuges or close the nuclear development sites at Arak, Bushehr, Isfahan, Natanz, Parchin and Qom or Iran’s research reactors or uranium mines. Uranium enrichment will be capped at 3.67 percent for 10 years assuming that the Iranians comply with the terms of the agreement, which does not coincide with their history. It was the exiled National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) that discovered the secret uranium enrichment facility at Natanz as well as the plutonium development facility at Arak, and not the IAEA, which currently states that Iran has prevented it from gathering information on the history of its nuclear development (thus making it virtually impossible to conduct a comprehensive investigation of Iran’s nuclear development facilities and to identify potential unidentified facilities such as the one the NCRI identified near Tehran on February 24, 2015).
The framework to a written agreement as spelled out in the White House release of the “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding the Islam Republic of Iran’s Nuclear Program” mentions PMD (Possible Military Dimensions), but does not mention the Parchin military site by name or provide any specificity on how the inspection of it, and the identification of any secret sites (like those uncovered so far by NCRI or those that enabled Pakistan to ultimately develop a bomb and become a major source of nuclear proliferation) will be undertaken. It is important to note that the Islamic Republic of Iran has issued a number of statements contradicting the terms of the agreement outlined by the White House and began an ongoing dispute over when the sanctions on Iran would be lifted by the United Nations as well as the United States and other nations.
The US Congress, led by its Senate Foreign Relations Committee and its chairman Bob Corker have maneuvered to play a substantive role in the review and approval of any agreement that is signed by the president through its promotion of S. 615; Iran Nuclear Review Act of 2015. The bill was passed out of committee with a 19 to 0 bipartisan vote and currently has 66 co-sponsors (one shy of the 67 that Senator Corker says he has that is necessary to override a presidential veto). To keep the bill bipartisan the chairman if not the majority leader of the Senate is rejecting amendments from Republicans that amount to a so-called “poison pills” that would effectively sink the ultimate passage of the bill by Congress and its signature by the president. There is a significant question regarding whether the hard-won Congressional review offers enough substance to encourage the president to strengthen the terms of the final agreement or simply underlines the limits of Congressional involvement in the design of US foreign policy.
I believe the president has fought for a serious Middle East reset that is based on the achievement of a nuclear agreement with Iran and the emergence of a newly credible Islamic Republic of Iran from isolation on the international stage. It is apparent that the White House believes that this achievement supersedes the concerns of the Israelis, the Saudis and the majority of Congress because it represents the best terms available to try to keep Iranian nuclear ambition in check. President Barack Obama told Tom Friedman of the New York Times: “There is no formula, there is no option, to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon that will be more effective than the diplomatic initiative and framework that we put forward – and that’s demonstrable.”
With the Russians already removing an implicit sanction on the sale of S-300 missiles it is clear that the international community (including P5+1 members), are increasingly unwilling to desist from trade with Iran and that the deal on the table represents the best that President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry could negotiate with an Iran that is now represented by the smiling faces of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. According to a number of sources the White House has found an alternative to the debate over when and on what basis to lift sanctions on Iran once the agreement is signed. To put a smile on any Iranian official’s face the US appears to be offering a substantial “signing bonus” to the Iranians.
While the number appears to be astronomical; $30 billion to $50b., State Department spokesperson Marie Harf would not dispute the reality of a signing bonus and committed only to saying that she would “look into it.”
I understand the president’s enthusiasm for concluding an immensely important deal that has been and will be a cornerstone of not only his foreign policy but the realization of his Nobel Prize-winning efforts at non-proliferation. It will no doubt reset the Middle East.
I am a liberal who remains convinced that handing an untrustworthy fundamentalist hegemony a big check and the ability to re-enter and do business with the community of nations is an invitation to disaster and tangible evidence that America has ceded its authority in the region to the competing interests of Shi’ite and Sunni nations and the terrorist organizations and proxies that will pillage the Middle East and beyond unchecked, and what’s worse, increasingly uncheckable.The author is president of ICMEP, the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace, a NGO located in suburban Philadelphia. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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