A Dangerous, Wrongheaded Deal
How the Obama administration gave Iran a win and sold out our Israeli allies.
According to the interim agreement regarding Iran’s nuclear program that was reached this weekend in Geneva, not one centrifuge will be destroyed. Not one pound of enriched uranium will leave Iran. Not one American unjustly detained in Iran’s notorious prisons will be released. But Iran will start to receive, in a matter of days, $7 billion in relief from international economics sanctions.
This appears to be an unfortunate case of history repeating itself. As happened with North Korea in 1994, fascination with the negotiation process has blinded American diplomats to the true nature of their negotiating partners. Substantive sanctions relief has been exchanged for vague promises that the growth of a nuclear program will be curbed. Press reports on that failed deal are ominously similar to what we are reading today:
"President Clinton on Tuesday approved a deal reached by U.S. negotiators in Geneva to stop North Korea’s nuclear weapons program, saying the agreement ‘will make the United States, the Korean peninsula and the world safer’…. The accord, concluded Monday in Geneva, gives North Korea a series of economic and political benefits in exchange for promises to freeze and eventually dismantle its current nuclear facilities, which the CIA believes have been used to make the material for one to two nuclear weapons."
We all know how this story played out. North Korea lied, cheated, and stalled for time, all the while using the economic windfall from the United States to finance its nuclear program until it was ready to test a weapon in 2006.
Likewise, the mullahs in Tehran can now laugh all the way to the bank while they spend the time and money they have gained in Geneva pursuing nuclear capability. And all Americans have bought for $7 billion is the prospect of additional negotiations that might result in progress at some point down the road. But given the unfortunate results of these most recent negotiations, it is difficult to place much faith in such rosy scenarios — especially as the existential threat represented by a nuclear-armed Iran makes North Korea pale by comparison.
Those who do not learn from history, the saying goes, are doomed to repeat it. In this case, we cannot afford to let the Obama administration learn on the job. It is time to recognize the hard lessons of the last 20 years and apply them to this process.
We should have demanded preconditions from the Iranians before any direct meetings took place, and we can at least do so now before additional negotiations begin. We can start by reclaiming the moral high ground and demand the Iranian regime immediately and unconditionally release the three Americans they are unjustly detaining, Saeed Abedini, Amir Hekmati, and Robert Levinson. American citizens are not bargaining chips, and there should be no further discussion while they are languishing in prison.
In addition, Iran should affirm Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state. The noxious rhetoric in which Israel is referred to as a "rabid dog" that is "doomed to failure and annihilation" should be utterly unacceptable to the United States. Tolerating such verbiage on the eve of the Geneva negotiations sent a dangerous signal to Iran that the Obama administration was more eager to get a deal than to stand with Israel.
Finally, the United States should be crystal clear that to gain any further sanctions relief, Iran must take concrete steps not just to pause the nuclear program but to dramatically scale it back by, for example, ceasing the enrichment of uranium, exporting any remaining stockpiles of enriched uranium, and permitting full and unconditional inspections of the Arak nuclear facility. The burden should be on Iran, not the United States, to demonstrate it is a good-faith negotiating partner.
All the smiling embraces between diplomats in Geneva after the interim deal was signed notwithstanding, the Iranian regime remains a brutal and oppressive dictatorship that pursues nuclear weapons for the purpose of dominating the Middle East and threatening America and its allies, notably Israel. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry should reconsider their policy of rapprochement with Iran that is dismaying to Jerusalem and encouraging to Tehran.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu predicted this agreement would be a "very, very bad deal" and has now correctly identified it as an "historic mistake." Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted his satisfaction, saying that "breaking down the architecture for sanctions has begun."
The administration has gotten it backwards and it is time to reverse course before any further damage is done.