Updated: December 27, 2013 6:14AM
The ink was hardly dry on the agreement over Iran’s nuclear program when the two sides expressed disagreement over a fundamental issue. What does that tell us about how good this deal is?
Iran’s president Hassan Rouhani, said the interim agreement established Iran’s right to enrich uranium. Secretary of State John Kerry was equally adamant in saying, “There is no inherent right to enrich.”
This breach is glossed over as two sides reading into diplomatic language what they want. But the text of the four-page document favors Rouhani. It says Iran can continue to enrich uranium, just not over the 5 percent level, and can continue using thousands of centrifuges, just not add new ones. And it says a “long-term comprehensive solution” will provide for a “mutually agreed enrichment program with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the program.”
Rouhani appears to have reality on his side while Kerry seems to be indulging in political spin to make the agreement palatable to its critics in Congress, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
This pact needs a lot of explaining, because there’s a lot for Iran to like while not requiring Tehran to dismantle any element of its program aimed at building nuclear weapons.
It throws the regime a lifeline of billions in hard cash through sanction relief. The Obama administration says most sanctions remain in force and those eased can quickly be reimposed if Tehran cheats. The mullahs think any sanctions let-up signals to countries eager for access to Iran’s oil, petrochemicals and other business that it’s OK to do deals, and they likely are right. It took a lot of work to put together the international sanctions, but such plans tend to be frail as nations and businesses look for ways to get around them.
Supporters of the pact note that it calls for Iran to degrade uranium already enriched to 20 percent. But it’s likely that process could be reversed.
Provisions requiring international inspections of Iran’s nuclear facilities also say that some of those visits will be subject to “managed access.”
The pact does nothing about weapons-related programs like work on trigger mechanisms or missiles.
The pact takes the U.S. military option off the table. The mullahs also likely believe that Israel would never attack Iranian atomic sites so long as Tehran is negotiating with America.
Despite the talk of this being a way-station on the way to a “comprehensive solution,” the agreement says it could be extended beyond six months. From the start President Barack Obama made rapprochement with Iran a key foreign policy goal, so he is not likely to abandon negotiations even if Tehran misbehaves.
Let’s not forget the nature of the regime we’re expecting to honor its commitments. Tehran is the worst state sponsor of terrorism. It kills its own people for dissent and executes gays. Untold numbers of Iranians, as well as several Americans, languish in its prisons. It funds and supplies troops to aid dictator Bashir Assad in Syria’s civil war. Its propaganda demonizes America and Israel. Even as this deal was negotiated, supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei gave a speech calling Israel a “rabid dog.”
We’ve been down this road before with another rogue regime, and that led to a nuclear-armed North Korea.