Tehran and the art of the shell game

Give Iran a sharp choice: Fulfill its commitments and negotiate in good faith to a final deal, or the entire international community will respond with even more isolation and pressure.

Zarif and Kerry at Iran nuclear talks in Geneva 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Carolyn Kaster/Pool)
Zarif and Kerry at Iran nuclear talks in Geneva 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Carolyn Kaster/Pool)
I am a cynic when it comes to the willingness of Iran to cease its nuclear program and prove to the world that it is only interested in developing and utilizing nuclear energy for commercial purposes.
However, Iran and the P5 +1 reached an interim six-month agreement late Saturday night curtailing the expansion of nuclear activity in Iran and increasing access and the authority of the IAEA to make daily inspections in exchange for some sanction relief (roughly $7.5 billion).
The White House released a Fact Sheet that details the basic requirements of the interim agreement, ending with the following conclusion: “In sum, this first step achieves a great deal in its own right. Without this phased agreement, Iran could start spinning thousands of additional centrifuges. It could install and spin next-generation centrifuges that will reduce its breakout times. It could fuel and commission the Arak heavy water reactor. It could grow its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to beyond the threshold for a bomb’s worth of uranium.
Iran can do none of these things under the conditions of the first step understanding.
“Furthermore, without this phased approach, the international sanctions coalition would begin to fray because Iran would make the case to the world that it was serious about a diplomatic solution and we were not. We would be unable to bring partners along to do the crucial work of enforcing our sanctions. With this first step, we stop and begin to roll back Iran’s program and give Iran a sharp choice: fulfill its commitments and negotiate in good faith to a final deal or the entire international community will respond with even more isolation and pressure.
“The American people prefer a peaceful and enduring resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and strengthens the global non-proliferation regime. This solution has the potential to achieve that. Through strong and principled diplomacy, the United States of America will do its part for greater peace, security, and cooperation among nations.”
I’m all for that, but I question the sincerity of the Iranian regime in seeking only the peaceful utilization of nuclear energy, given its relationship to Syria and support of the Syrian government in a brutal civil war with its own people that has taken more than 100,000 lives and created millions of refugees. Given its support and arming of Hezbollah and Hamas as the fingers of its program to terminate the State of Israel, which Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described as recently as Wednesday as “the rabid dog of the region.”
And given its relentless attack on the West, beginning in 1979 with the brazen capture of US hostages from the American embassy in Iran and including a 2011 plot discovered to launch a terrorist bombing in Washington, DC, to assassinate Saudi Ambassador to the United States, Adel A. al-Jubeir.
Iran continues its relationship with North Korea, a country extraordinarily isolated from the West due to its own expanding nuclear weapons program. Iran recently (in August) guaranteed that cooperation with North Korea on strategic matters would continue: “According to the Bangkok Post, North Korean concerns that Rouhani’s perceived conciliatory position might threaten military cooperation with Pyongyang were assuaged by Jafari, who told them the Revolutionary Guards are not subordinate to the president but rather to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He reportedly reassured them that cooperation on ‘strategic matters’ such as nuclear missiles, would continue.”
According to a recent article in the Pak Tribune (November 20), Iran is looking to improve relations with Pakistan: Visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia and Pacific Affairs Ibrahim Rahimpour stated that “Iran’s new Government under President Hassan Rouhani was keen to improve relations with the countries of the region. He added that Pakistan figured high on the foreign policy of Iran and Iran was keen to expand bilateral relations with Pakistan in different fields.”
Since the United States led the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, relations between Iraq and Iran have improved.
Today, they involve not only economic and military assistance but also an important religious component, with increasing thousands of Iranians visiting the Shiite holy sites in Najaf and Karbala and the two nations developing a relationship that has brought Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to Iran, now its largest trading partner, on many occasions.
While none of these relationships is surprising, each bodes poorly for Western interests in eliminating the nuclear development of Iran. North Korea stands as a warning beacon, lighting up the night with an example of how to flaunt its relationship with the West, play its own shell game and come out with a nuclear weapons capacity that threatens Japan, China and the entire world. Even as the country continues to launch longrange missiles and enhance its expertise, there is little doubt that it exported its nuclear knowhow to Syria and will gladly do it again to another of its partners – Iran.
There is a concern as well that Iran is hiding (already has hidden) a nuclear facility within an existing industrial plant or underground far from the peering eyes of IAEA investigators or satellites. This fear does not make it so, but it represents the logical extension of a program to produce and eventually export nuclear weapons through its international terror network and gain the military power to expand its political and religious interests even further across the globe.The writer is president of ICMEP, the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace, a nonprofit located in suburban Philadelphia.
He can be reached at [email protected]
The words of the author do not represent the policy of ICMEP.