Opinion: Iran Nuke Deal at Best A 15-Year Ceasefire

No deal is better than this deal with Iran. Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Evan Schneider

Can Iran be trusted? Or is it talk now, fight later? Photo Courtesy of UN Photo/Evan Schneider

The framework agreement reached last week between the major world powers and Iran over the latter’s nuclear program has been hailed by US President Barack Obama as preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. To some degree, he is correct—for now. But key fine-print in the deal unfortunately paints a picture in which the world leaders have obtained today’s peace in exchange for tomorrow’s warfare. And it could prove to be worse than ever.

Hailed by the world powers as “historic”, the Iran nuke deal instead recalls a historic mistake—the Versailles treaty that ended World War I. The leader of the Allied Armies, Ferdinand Foch—according to About.com—believed the treaty didn’t properly prevent Germany from starting a new war. He famously said of the deal, “This is not peace. It is an armistice for 20 years.” World War II started almost exactly 20 years later.

And so it is for this Iran agreement if it is finalized as it appears today—it’s not peace, it’s a 15-year ceasefire at best. Here’s why.

The deal does some things right—one area of concern after another is addressed with Iran, from downgrading their nuclear fuel production capacity—known as enrichment—to limiting its quantity. Even their refusal to address questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the possible military aspects of their nuclear program is reversed with a demand that they satisfy their commitments to the IAEA.

According to a text of the deal released by the White House, it increases Iran’s “breakout time” to develop the material for a nuclear weapon from the current two-to-three months to at least a year. Well, at least it will be that way for the next ten years.

But even the agreement itself doesn’t make promises about Iran’s capabilities after a decade passes. Said the official summary of the deal, “For ten years, Iran will limit domestic enrichment capacity and research and development—ensuring a breakout timeline of at least one year. Beyond that, Iran will be bound by its longer-term enrichment and enrichment research and development plan it shared with the” world powers.

The reason the deal can’t promise better than a 10-year limit on Iran’s ability to quickly build a bomb is because the deal itself put time limits on all of the core restrictions on Iran. Nearly every single significant restriction in the deal expires in 15 years or less.

For example, Iran agreed to limit the level of nuclear fuel enrichment for at least 15 years. Low levels are used for nuclear power, while high levels are for weapons. But intermediate levels are also technically “peaceful” and get Iran quite close to the military-grade enrichment. And there are no limits on intermediate grade after 15 years.

Here are some more examples:

  • Iran promised not to build any new enrichment facilities… for 15 years.
  • No enrichment can be done at the underground bunker nuclear facility… for 15 years.
  • Iran won’t use its advanced enrichment centrifuges… for 10 years.

See the pattern?

Even the permanent monitoring and advanced supervision of their program isn’t very comforting. Previously, Iran was party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty before it became clear they were developing an illegal nuclear program. They hid their bunker enrichment facility from the IAEA for a while.

So if Iran can just be patient for 15 years, it will find that it has a legitimate nuclear program, limited sanctions, and just some more scrutiny than it faced when it is believed to have done its nuclear weapons research and built an underground bunker for producing nuclear fuel.

In other words, 15 years from now Iran will have the restrictions lifted and will only need to hide their nuclear weapons development as they march to the bomb—something they’ve already successfully done before.

But wait, there are some additional supervisory elements permanently in place, so maybe it’s different this time? Probably not. Even if Iran is found to be violating it’s promises or building a bomb, will a year be enough time to stop them?

It took years to build the international will to emplace tough sanctions on Iran that convinced them to really negotiate. And even still it couldn’t achieve a better deal than this. After 15-years of stockpiling resources and enjoying a robust economy that turns their dictatorship into national heroes, surely they can handle a year of harsh sanctions as they race to the bomb. It will take real war to prevent them then.

And even now, there are no promises that Iran won’t develop a nuclear weapon before 15 years are up. A little-noted clause in the framework agreement promises a process for handling disputes over whether or not Iran is abiding by the deal. That process will surely buy Iran time to make moves toward a bomb before sanctions can be re-imposed.

And as US Congresswoman Illena Ros-Lehtinen pointed out on her website, the deal allows Iran to keep “nearly every key aspect of its nuclear infrastructure.” While some elements are reconfigured or dismantled, much of it is not.

In fact, the restrictions on perhaps the most important element, the centrifuges, look to be easily reversed. The deal only says that excess centrifuges used for enrichment would be removed and placed under IAEA “monitoring.” It’s not even clear if they will leave Iranian soil.

So once Iran commandeers its old equipment from the defense-less IAEA, it won’t even have to do that much catch-up to do if it wants to race to the bomb. It may not even take a year.

War is a terrible thing, and it’s good to seek a diplomatic arrangement to prevent it. But this deal merely postpones it until a time when Iran is ready to build the bomb. It hearkens back to the days of pagan child sacrifice when the future was offered up on the altar of this year’s quest for better crops. The world powers have achieved peace in their time, but war is almost inevitable for the next generation.

In short, it recalls the end of World War I. That conflict was called the “Great War” and hoped to be the end of global warfare. But a faulty peace treaty to end it merely set the stage for a far worse fight two decades later.

Thanks to the short-sightedness of the treaty that concluded World War I, the world faced the devastation of Europe by the Nazi war machine, the horrors of the Holocaust, and the only time in history a nuclear weapon has been used in war.

Praying the latest errant treaty doesn’t set the stage for the next such occurrence.

(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, April 5, 2015)


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