More “Progress” to an Iranian Nuclear Deal

Once again, we are in the throes of the fetish of signed agreements. Those of us living in Israel have been down that road before during the unlamented Oslo “peace process.” The peace process took on a life of its own, claiming “sacrifices” completely unrelated to peace itself.

And the measure of progress in the peace process was always signed agreements, no matter how meaningless. The biggest sucker of all was, of course, Oslo architect Shimon Peres, who famously remarked that he did not care what Arafat said before Arab audiences, only about what was in the treaty. But the intent of the parties is often much more important than the words of a contract. For instance, few of us would buy a house or even a used car from someone whom we knew had done hard time for fraud on more than ten occasions no matter how enticing the offer appeared to be.

FOR PRESIDENT OBAMA and Secretary of State Kerry, it is now clear that a signed agreement with Iran is the only possible foreign policy “achievement” to which they can possibly lay claim, and they are willing to purchase it at just about any price and no matter how many previous red lines they have to cross. To be sure, they continue to demand that Iran demonstrate that its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes.

But the mere demand itself makes clear how profoundly unserious they are. For Iran’s nuclear program is demonstrably not peaceful. First, with its huge oil reserves, Iran has no need for nuclear energy to meet its energy needs. Second, even if it did, it would have no need for an enrichment program, as it would be far cheaper to purchase nuclear fuel from other countries, such as nearby Russia. Finally, the Arak hard water reactor has only one purpose – the production of plutonium – and plutonium’s only plausible use is in a nuclear weapon.

Yet, this elementary logic has eluded not only the United States, but its negotiating partners. Their treatment of Iran’s intentions as if they were an open question, about which reasonable people might disagree, has only served to signal to the mullahs how desperate the West is for an agreement. And those who operate from a position of desperation never bargain effectively, especially against much more experienced opponents.

The Iranians had already been horsing the Europeans around for nearly a decade before Obama and Kerry interjected themselves onto the scene. Even the revelation of two hidden and unreported nuclear facilities at Natanz and Fordow did not bring those earlier negotiations to an end.

NEGOTIATING FROM A POSITION OF STRENGTH, the West, led by the United States, has squandered every advantage and ended up piling on concession after concession, while the Iranian negotiators wait patiently for the next, even more supine, offer. The one unthinkable outcome in Western eyes has been the possibility that it might have to take military action to stop the Iranian program, despite its overwhelming military superiority.

At the outset of negotiations a year ago, writes David Frum, the Iranian currency had lost three-quarters of its value due to American sanctions pushed through Congress over President Obama’s strenuous objections, and the days of the regime of Iran’s closest ally Bashar al-Assad in Syria appeared to be limited. Today, Iran has been granted substantial sanctions relief, its currency has rebounded, European countries are lining up to do business, and the United States and Britain are coordinating their bombing in Syria with Assad.

The Iranians, unfortunately, had one thing that the West lacked, concludes Frum: “clarity of purpose and the will to win.” And it has. It even managed to convince the West that rapprochement with Iran was more devoutly to be desired by the West than by Iran.

The Iranians have never showed the slightest sign of feeling pressured to achieve “progress” towards an agreement, and have, as a consequence, reaped an unbelievable bounty of concessions, each of which it has duly pocketed while waiting for the P5+1 to offer still more. And they have not been disappointed.

Lee Smith details some of those concessions in The Weekly Standard. According to press reports, Obama has offered Iran a sunset provision under which any restrictions would expire after 10 years, at which point Iran would be welcomed as a full-fledged member in good standing of the nuclear club. If that offer ever becomes formalized in an agreement, it is hard to think of anything more likely to provoke an Israeli attack. In addition, the United States has dropped its demand that Arak’s heavy water reactor, whose almost only use is to produce plutonium for a bomb, be converted into a light-water reactor.

When U.S. negotiators made clear that they wanted to discuss Iran’s ballistic missile program and possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif responded with laughter and did not respond to the request. And there are strong indications that the United States will not pursue the matter, despite several Security Council Resolutions requiring Iran to cease all work on its ballistic missile technology.

And just before the deadline for an agreement passed, the United States was reported to have given up on its demand that Iran disclose all its past nuclear activities, including those with military dimensions. Yet, as numerous non-proliferation experts pointed out, without a full accounting of past activities, any supervision regime under the auspices of the IAEA will effectively be neutered. Without that information, it is impossible to establish “benchmarks” against which the scope of the ongoing program can be determined and inspectors can determine that certain activities have stopped.

Even before negotiations began, the United States had already conceded Iran’s right to enrich uranium as an incentive for Iran to join the negotiations. And early on, it agreed to dramatically increase the number of permitted centrifuges and dropped the requirement that those above the agreed upon limit be dismantled. Instead, the hapless U.S. negotiators accepted having them disconnected from one another, even though they can be reconnected easily and in a short amount of time.

All these concessions, we can be sure, have been pocketed by Iran, and the next round of negotiations starting in January will be conducted from there. In the meantime, Iran, as a reward for its “patience” in keeping the negotiations going will receive $700,000,000 in frozen assets a month.

It is possible to explain President Obama’s concessions simply in terms of his strong aversion to the use of military force in any sort of preemptive strike. But it is also possible to suggest that Obama has simply chosen Iran over the irascible Jews of Israel, and has decided that terror-exporting, expansionist Iran can be a force of stability in the Middle East.

Last month, a senior American official mocked Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for being too chicken to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities over the United States’ fierce objections to doing so. And now it is too late, said the official, because Iran’s nuclear program is too advanced.

Those remarks suggest THAT the administration’s number-one priority from the start was to stop Israel from acting militarily, even if the cost is allowing Iran to become a threshold nuclear power.