Every time you think it can’t get any worse, another gaping hole appears in the world powers’ dismal Swiss cheese of a deal on Iran’s rogue nuclear program.
From the get-go, it seemed intolerable that the negotiations with Iran did not require, as early conditions, that the regime acknowledge its previous illegal efforts toward producing a nuclear weapon. But the sad fact is Iran was not required to come clean.
From the get-go, it seemed intolerable that the negotiations did not require the Iranian leadership to halt its relentless incitement for the destruction of the United States and Israel. Yes, one has to negotiate with one’s enemies. But apart from being demeaning and lacking in all self-respect, it is also inefficient to negotiate with enemies who continue to seek your demise. And yet, even as the talks proceeded, and since they were concluded, the poisonous rhetoric — rhetoric with inevitable violent consequence — has continued unabated.
From the get-go, it seemed intolerable that the negotiations did not also require that Iran cease its encouragement, training and arming of terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah. But Iran makes plain every day that its ongoing support for the “resistance” — as in, those who resist the notion of Israel continuing to exist — is not limited by the accord and will not cease.
As the deal itself took shape, it seemed intolerable that the US-led P5+1 powers had shifted from the imperative to neutralize and dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities and instead opted to content themselves with freezing and inspecting the Iranian program. But shift they did.
Even the Iranians plainly didn’t think they’d get away with a deal this ridiculous. It’s akin to having Bernie Madoff scrutinize his own business practices, or Tour de France cyclists conduct their own doping tests… except it has global life-and-death implications
As elements of the deal became public, it seemed intolerable and unthinkable that the regime would be allowed to continue its R&D on ever-faster centrifuges. Criticisms of this and other clauses were haughtily dismissed by senior Obama Administration officials as being premature and/or inaccurate. But the complaints and concerns proved all too justified.
When the deal was finalized, it seemed unthinkable that the negotiators had abandoned the demand for “anytime, anywhere” inspections of suspect facilities. But abandon that vital demand they most certainly did. Trying to understand the deliberately convoluted clauses of the accord that relate to inspections, one can only conclude that they empower the regime to maintain whatever secrecy it deems necessary at the military sites where it has pursued and will pursue work towards a nuclear arsenal.
After the deal became public, it seemed unthinkable that the flawed inspection clauses would be rendered still more problematic by related side deals that further neutralize effective inspection. But so it is proving. First, Iran indicated — and the US grudgingly acknowledged — that no American inspectors would be allowed into Iran. Then Iran asserted — and no denial has been forthcoming from the P5+1 — that it retains the right to veto any inspectors it doesn’t like the look of. Such assertions underline what has now become a depressingly familiar feature of the negotiation process: Iran’s descriptions of what has been agreed on have proven accurate; Western assurances, markedly less so.
Which brings us to Wednesday’s Associated Press report that one of the side deals reached between Iran and the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency provides for Iran to carry out its own inspection work at the Parchin military facility where the IAEA has long alleged it experimented with high-explosive detonators for nuclear arms. The Iranians have been strenuously attempting to sanitize the site for years — which is bitterly amusing, since they evidently need not have bothered. Even the Iranians plainly didn’t think they’d get away with a deal this ridiculous. It’s akin to having Bernie Madoff scrutinize his own business practices, or Tour de France cyclists conduct their own doping tests… except it has global life-and-death implications.
And, again, the Obama administration would seem to have misrepresented what was agreed. It had indicated that the IAEA-Iran side deals were technical, unremarkable documents. While IAEA chief Yukiya Amano insisted Thursday that “the arrangements are technically sound and consistent with our long-established practices,” Olli Heinonen, who was in charge of the Iran probe as deputy IAEA director general from 2005 to 2010, told the AP on Wednesday he could recall no previous instance where a country being probed for nuclear wrongdoing was allowed to conduct its own investigation.
On both sides of the aisle, the current conventional wisdom is that opponents of this abysmally negotiated, dangerous accord have the votes to reject it next month but not to overcome a presidential veto.
What has hamstrung key anguished Democrats thus far has been the “what if?” question — as in, what if we do defy our own president and vote with the Republicans to override the veto? Yes, it’s a lousy, lousy deal — which cements a vicious regime in power, gives it vast funding to foster terrorism and regional chaos, and paves its path to the bomb with a mixture of inadequate oversight, absurdly legitimized ongoing nuclear work and sunset clauses. But what happens if we strike it down? Does the rest of the world just ignore us and proceed with it anyhow? Would it constitute a pointless act of protest that could doom our careers? Would Iran get its sanctions relief anyway? Is there any prospect of a more competent deal being negotiated?
Good questions, not all easy to answer.
But one question can be answered with increasing confidence: Is this, as President Obama claims, the best possible deal?
Yes, indeed, it is. The best possible deal for the Iranians.
They continue enriching. They maintain their R&D to enable a speedier breakout to the bomb when they so choose. They can keep the inspectors at bay. They never have to come clean on past nuclear weapons work. They can continue missile development. They get their sanctions relief. Their coffers are swelled. The prospect of the regime being ousted by domestic reformers, already small, is reduced still further; they can now throw money at any domestic problems. They can merrily orchestrate terrorism and intimidate regional foes.
Truly, it is the best deal Iran could possibly have imagined — to an extent that becomes clearer to the rest of us with each passing day. You don’t have to be a war-monger or a lobbyist to see that. You just have to read the small print, to listen to the leadership in Tehran, and to watch developments in our bloody region. And don’t forget, there’s a second IAEA-Iran side deal whose details have yet to come to light.
That “what if” question is a tough one, indeed. What if we vote against? What if we defy the president?
But there’s another side to that question, which those anguished, responsible Democratic legislators must also ask themselves: What if we let this bad joke of a deal go through?
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