A Bad Deal With Iran in the Nuclear Talks Could Destabilize the Middle East
"In the case of Iran getting the bomb, I’ve always assumed that the roughly 200 weapons … in Pakistan now were rent-a-bombs for Saudi Arabia — that the moment Saudi Arabia sees that the Iranians have the bomb … they’ll use their Hertz preferred credit thing to get a couple of bombs sent over." — ...
"In the case of Iran getting the bomb, I've always assumed that the roughly 200 weapons ... in Pakistan now were rent-a-bombs for Saudi Arabia -- that the moment Saudi Arabia sees that the Iranians have the bomb ... they'll use their Hertz preferred credit thing to get a couple of bombs sent over." -- Sen. Mark Kirk to Foreign Policy Initiative, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and the Bipartisan Policy Center briefing on Capitol Hill, Nov. 20, 2014
"In the case of Iran getting the bomb, I’ve always assumed that the roughly 200 weapons … in Pakistan now were rent-a-bombs for Saudi Arabia — that the moment Saudi Arabia sees that the Iranians have the bomb … they’ll use their Hertz preferred credit thing to get a couple of bombs sent over." — Sen. Mark Kirk to Foreign Policy Initiative, Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and the Bipartisan Policy Center briefing on Capitol Hill, Nov. 20, 2014
By extending nuclear talks with Iran for seven more months, the major powers avoided total collapse but also raised the stakes, "ensuring that failure, if that is what eventually happens, will be all the more cataclysmic," according to the Guardian. My take, however, is that a bad deal with the Iranian regime is likely to destabilize the Middle East.
How could a bad deal destabilize the region?
It might look something like this: Iran pockets, without reciprocity, the backing away by the major powers from U.N. Security Council Resolutions (UNSC) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from demands for full disclosure of "possible military dimensions" (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program. Consequently, regional actors follow the lead of Riyadh and Jerusalem — getting the bomb (as Sen. Kirk outlined) and bombing Iran, respectively.
According to the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI), on Nov. 18 Iran’s Fars news agency — which is affiliated with the country’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps — revealed U.S. demands from Tehran in the talks. Although Iran is to permit snap inspections at every Iranian facility, including military ones now off limits to inspectors, there is no explicit mention of PMD.
The MEMRI report is troubling. But a Reuters article from Saturday is even more so: It reports that the major powers "will likely stop short of demanding full disclosure of any secret weapon work by Tehran to avoid killing an historic deal." PMD is a baseline for verification. Inspectors require a yardstick to compare with the current Iranian nuclear program. PMD is the gold standard for the IAEA to operate in Iran.
A backdown on PMD erodes credibility of the U.N. Security Council and the IAEA in face of Iranian obstructionism. UNSC Resolution 1929 of June 9, 2010 stated that Iran has not cooperated with the U.N. watchdog agency, "to exclude the possibility of military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear programme." The IAEA stated on May 25, 2012, "Since 2002, the Agency has become increasingly concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear related activities involving military related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile."
This issue has been raised regularly throughout the talks.
David Albright and Serena Kelleher-Vergantini, with the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), argued in May that, "A deal that does not include Iran addressing the IAEA’s concerns about the past and possible on-going military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program would undermine the verifiability of that deal." Albright of ISIS and Bruno Tertrais, with the Paris-based Foundation for Strategic Research, wrote in the Wall Street Journal around the same time that, "It is critical to know whether the Islamic Republic had a nuclear-weapons program in the past, how far the work on warheads advanced and whether it continues."
"You don’t need to see every nut and bolt," Olli Heinonen, former IAEA chief inspector now at Harvard, told David Sanger of the New York Times in June, "But you are taking a heck of a risk if you don’t establish a baseline of how far they went," because it would be far more difficult to understand Iran’s timelines to a weapon. And a year ago, Michael Singh, Managing Director, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote in the Washington Post that, "Without insight into the full extent of Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities, no amount of monitoring and inspection can provide true confidence that Iran lacks a parallel program beyond inspectors’ view."
The Paris-based Foundation for Middle Eastern Studies (FEMO) released a new study in Brussels on Nov. 20, 2014, endorsed by Ambassador Robert Joseph, former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. The study provides explicit details on how during the past two decades the Iranian regime has concealed its nuclear military work inside a civilian program and has covertly advanced it.
FEMO analyzes the Center for Explosion and Impact — a subdivision of the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research (SPND), which conceals weaponization. Indeed, under Executive Order 13382, signed by President George W. Bush on June 29, 2005, President Obama’s State Department placed SPND on its list of sanctioned entities on Aug. 29, 2014, calling it "primarily responsible for research in the field of nuclear weapons development," a statement reinforced by details from the FEMO study.
Only robust verification and monitoring based on resolution of PMD can prevent covert Iranian breakout — a dash for the bomb before inspectors can detect the breakout. Postponement for seven months may allow congressional buy-in on the U.S. approach for the next round; if so, the Hill can help decrease the likelihood of a bad deal that ignores "possible military dimensions" and destabilizes the region. Otherwise, Iranian noncooperation with inspectors might signal "actual military dimensions" of a threshold nuclear weapon state and inflame the Middle East.
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