Tuesday, July 14, 2015

The Capitulation

Hearing news of the Iran deal this morning, I immediately thought of Winston Churchill and his dire warning from 1938, when European diplomats and political leaders were determined to appease another murderous regime, at any cost:

"You were given the choice between war and dishonor. You chose dishonor and you will have war.”

But who's worried about national honor?  Certainly not a President who bows and scrapes before foreign potentates, or utilizes various world forums to trash his own country's polices and history.  And certainly not a Secretary of State who "delivered" this accord by capitulating to Tehran at every turn, in his shameless pursuit of a Nobel Peace Prize.  As Dr. Krauthammer keenly observed a few weeks back: "Obama wants a deal; Kerry wants the Nobel, and Iran wants a bomb.  All three will get what they want".

And the world will be a much more dangerous place in return.

As the Greek chorus in the mainstream media begin to sign the praises of this "deal," it is instructive to remember where the talks began, and how they morphed into a complete capitulation by the west.  At the onset, negotiations with Iran were supposed to prevent the Islamic Republic from gaining a uranium enrichment capability.  A decade later, the agreement approved this morning does little more than "manage" Iran's entrance into the nuclear club--an event that will happen sooner, rather than later.

Consider these details from the accord, now being leaked to western media outlets, including the Washington Free Beacon:

- Iran will be permitted to continue spinning centrifuges, which are used to enrich uranium, the key component in a nuclear weapon. Western powers will also work with Iran to help it install and operate more advanced centrifuges, according to those apprised of the deal (Note: some reports indicate that Tehran will be allowed to operate at least 6,000 centrifuges at any given time; the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control previously estimated that Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium in two months, using the 9,000 centrifuges currently installed at its Natanz facility; the timeline would be accelerated using 1,000 advanced centrifuges now operating at that plant. So, for all the crowing about the "reduction" in Iranian centrifuges, Tehran's timeline for a breakout capability--using the enrichment track--has not been seriously impacted.

- Sanctions also will be lifted on Iran, including those on the country’s banks and financial sectors, which have long supported Iran’s nuclear program as well as its sponsorship of international terrorist groups.

- A United Nations embargo on arms will also be lifted within around five years as part of the deal, according to multiple reports.

- A similar embargo on the construction of ballistic missiles, which could carry a nuclear payload, also will expire in around eight years under the deal.

- Preliminary readings of the deal also indicate that Iran will be given the right to veto so-called “anywhere, anytime” inspections of its nuclear sites

- Iran also will be permitted for a time to keep its military sites off limits to inspectors, who have long been unable to confirm the past dimensions and scope of Iran’s nuclear weapons work.

But the good news for Iran's ruling clerics doesn't end there.  In return for its cooperation, Tehran will get sanctions relief and billions in frozen assets will be returned to the Islamic Republic, providing more resources to fund the nuclear program, or sponsor its terrorist proxies in the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Iran is supposed to remain "at least one year away" from a nuclear capability for the next 10 years, a "gap" that can be easily overcome with a breakout effort which would yield at least one bomb in a matter of months.

And it doesn't take an arms control wonk to see the obvious holes in this accord.  For starters, there's the matter of trusting a regime that has broken virtually every international accord it has signed.  Only North Korea has a worse record of non-compliance, and it's quite evident that Tehran studied Pyongyang's hard-line negotiating tactics before reaching the deal with the U.S. and its western partners.  The Iranians learned that Washington will do anything for an agreement and if you stick to your guns, you'll get what you want--in this case, a pathway to a nuclear bomb.

Secondly, for a deal "built on verification" (as President Obama describes it), there is much we don't know about Iran's nuclear program, and our ability to gain that information appears limited.  As we noted previously, Tehran has been forced to declare a previously unknown nuclear site about every two years since 2000.  In each case, the discovery was made by Iranian opposition groups--not western intelligence agencies.  Iran has a very sophisticated denial and deception (D&D) program that has been very successful in masking its nuclear activities.  There is no reason to believe those efforts will not continue under the new accord.

In fact, it's quite reasonable to assume that Tehran has a parallel, "covert" nuclear program which could produce a bomb very quickly--if it hasn't already.  Many of the activities associated with building a nuclear weapon can be accomplished in nondescript facilities, with virtually no external signatures.  And, given our limited human intelligence (HUMINT) capabilities in Iran, it's doubtful we have the assets needed to identify suspect facilities and guide collection from technical platforms.  Historically, we have long relied on Israeli intelligence and Iranian opposition elements for insights on Iranian leaders and their intentions.

Making matters worse, the "inspection veto" clause in the agreement will further limit our insight into Iran's nuclear activities.  That provision alone simply boggles the mind; a rogue nation, bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, will be allowed to determine which facilities cannot be inspected.  In those instances, Secretary Kerry might argue, the U.S. and its partners can rely on "national technical means" to keep tabs on Iranian sites.  That assumes, of course, that we actually know where to look and we have systems that can penetrate layers of concrete, steel and dirt--a tall order, even for the most advanced MASINT tools in the arsenal.

Readers will also note that Iran was not required to denounce terrorism, recognize Israel's right-to-exist, or address the plight of Americans currently being held by Tehran.  Those are separate issues, as Mr. Obama likes to say, that will be resolved at another time.  Translated: we're not going to discuss anything that might jeopardize the shining foreign policy "achievement" of the Obama Administration.

History records that Churchill's words in 1938 were prophetic.  Barely a year later, Europe was at war, paying a terrible price for years of indifference and inaction towards Hitler.  The timeline for conflict in the Middle East may be equally short.  Israel--with its national survival at stake--has no choice but to go after Iran, realizing it is truly alone.  Meanwhile, Iran's neighbors will scramble to get their own nuclear weapons, led by Saudi Arabia.

Having sown the wind to pad his legacy, Barack Obama will ensure that millions reap the nuclear whirlwind, in the Mid-East and beyond.  Not that he's actually concerned.  Having mastered the art of cowering, concessionary diplomacy, Mr. Obama figures the explosion--literally and figuratively--will occur after he leaves the White House.  At that point, he can take a break from the latest golf outing to criticize his successor for making such a hash of his sterling nuclear diplomacy.                      



Neil said...

I'm sure the president believes the consequences of this deal will fall on his successor, not him. Just like Obamacare was supposed to go sour only after he left office.

I think the Administration's policy-making will prove to be just as competent in the arms control arena as it has been in healthcare.

ppjakaJim said...

Obama has made it almost impossible to call the folks who call him a closet Muslim nutcases filled with paranoia.