The emerging Iran nuclear deal raises major concerns

By Editorial Board, WaPo,  February 5

As the Obama administration pushes to complete a nuclear accord with Iran, numerous members of Congress, former secretaries of state and officials of allied governments are expressing concern about the contours of the emerging deal. Though we have long supported negotiations with Iran as well as the interim agreement the United States and its allies struck with Tehran, we share several of those concerns and believe they deserve more debate now — before negotiators present the world with a fait accompli.

The problems raised by authorities ranging from Henry Kissinger, the country’s most senior former secretary of state, to Sen. Timothy M. Kaine, Virginia’s junior Democratic senator, can be summed up in three points:

First, a process that began with the goal of eliminating Iran’s potential to produce nuclear weapons has evolved into a plan to tolerate and restrict that capability.

Second, in the course of the negotiations, the Obama administration has declined to counter increasingly aggressive efforts by Iran to extend its influence across the Middle East and seems ready to concede Tehran a place as a regional power at the expense of Israel and other U.S. allies.

Finally, the Obama administration is signaling that it will seek to implement any deal it strikes with Iran — including the suspension of sanctions that were originally imposed by Congress — without seeking a vote by either chamber. Instead, an accord that would have far-reaching implications for nuclear proliferation and U.S. national security would be imposed unilaterally by a president with less than two years left in his term.

The first and broadest of these problems was outlined by Mr. Kissinger in recent testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee. The talks, he pointed out, began as a multilateral effort headed by the European Union and backed by six U.N. Security Council resolutions intended “to deny Iran the capability to develop a military nuclear option.” Though formally the multilateral talks continue, “these negotiations have now become an essentially bilateral negotiation” between the United States and Iran “over the scope of that [nuclear] capability, not its existence,” Mr. Kissinger said.

Where it once aimed to eliminate Iran’s ability to enrich uranium, the administration now appears ready to accept an infrastructure of thousands of Iranian centrifuges. It says its goal is to limit and monitor that industrial base so that Iran could not produce the material for a warhead in less than a year. As several senators pointed out during the hearing, the prospective deal would leave Iran as a nuclear threshold state, while theoretically giving the world time to respond if Tehran chose to build a weapon. Even these limited restrictions would remain in force for only a specified number of years, after which Iran would be free to expand its production of potential bomb materials.

Mr. Kissinger said such an arrangement would very likely prompt other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, to match Iran’s threshold capability. “The impact .?.?. will be to transform the negotiations from preventing proliferation to managing it,” he said. “We will live in a proliferated world in which everybody — even if that agreement is maintained — will be very close to the trigger point.”

A related problem is whether Iran could be prevented from cheating on any arrangement and acquiring a bomb by stealth. Mr. Kaine pointed out that an attempt by the United States to negotiate the end of North Korea’s nuclear program failed after the regime covertly expanded its facilities. With Iran, said Mr. Kaine, “a nation that has proven to be very untrustworthy .?.?. the end result is more likely to be a North Korean situation” if existing infrastructure is not dismantled.

The administration at one time portrayed the nuclear negotiations as distinct from the problem of Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism, its attempts to establish hegemony over the Arab Middle East and its declared goal of eliminating Israel. Yet while the talks have proceeded, Mr. Obama has offered assurances to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei that the two countries have shared interests in the region, and the White House has avoided actions Iran might perceive as hostile — such as supporting military action against the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad.

For their part, the Iranians, as Mr. Kaine put it, “are currently involved in activities to destabilize the governments of [U.S.-allied] nations as near as Bahrain and as far away as Morocco.” A Tehran-sponsored militia recently overthrew the U.S.-backed government of Yemen. Rather than contest the Iranian bid for regional hegemony, as has every previous U.S. administration since the 1970s, Mr. Obama appears ready to concede Iran a place in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and beyond — a policy that is viewed with alarm by Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, among other allies.

Former secretary of state George P. Shultz cited Iran’s regional aggression in pronouncing himself “very uneasy” about the ongoing negotiations. “They’ve already outmaneuvered us, in my opinion,” he told the Senate committee.

While presidents initiate U.S. foreign policies, it is vital that major shifts win the support of Congress and the country; otherwise, they will be unsustainable. Yet Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken suggested in Senate testimony that the administration intends to postpone any congressional vote on a deal indefinitely, while meeting its commitments to Iran by using provisions allowing it to suspend legislatively enacted sanctions. Mr. Blinken conceded that the Iranian parliament would likely vote on any accord but said that Congress should act only “once Iran has demonstrated that it’s making good on its commitments.”

Such a unilateral course by Mr. Obama would alienate even his strongest congressional supporters. It would mean that a deal with Iran could be reversed within months of its completion by the next president. It’s hard to escape the conclusion that Mr. Obama wishes to avoid congressional review because he suspects a bipartisan majority would oppose the deal he is prepared to make. If so, the right response to the questions now being raised is to seek better terms from Iran — or convince the doubters that a deal that blesses and preserves Iran’s nuclear potential is better than the alternatives.

February 6, 2015 | 11 Comments »

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  1. @ SHmuel HaLevi 2:

    I have fussing with the Jewish Forward on this very subject. Abe Foxman has come against BB visit to congress. I dislike Mr Foxman intensely, as a representative of American Jew and because he bares my late Father’s name.

  2. Iran is clearly the threat when it obatains nukes. Without nukes it is still dangerous but at a lower level.

    Iran has the ability to put a missile or satellite in space,
    which means they are also a threat to the USA and Europe. They can explode a nuclear bomb over Nebraska and fry all electronics and electrical devices in the USA on at the time of the explosion with an electro-magnetic bomb created from the explosion.

  3. BOOM! Benjamin Netanyahu Just Exposed Obama on Live TV

    Although they have repeatedly vowed to destroy us and our allies, President Barack Obama seems intent on reaching out a friendly hand to the tyrannical theocratic regime in Iran.

    Obama is making concessions to them — virtually guaranteeing that they will one day obtain a nuclear weapon — in a misguided effort to work together with the Islamic nation, when in reality Iran is working against us at every turn.

    But Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is well aware of the dangerous threat posed by Iran and appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation” to spread this awareness.

    Though it should be common knowledge, Netanyahu still felt compelled to bluntly state “Iran is your enemy” while reminding viewers that Iran has threatened the very existence of both Israel and America, who they call the “Little Satan” and “Great Satan,” respectively.

    When it comes to the ongoing negotiations over Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Netanyahu warned, “Don’t fall for Iran’s ruse, they are not your friend!” More

    Netanyahu has a message for Obama – Iran is not your friend, Iran is your enemy

  4. @ honeybee:

    Iran is in our region

    Iran has publicly stated it’s intended use for it’s Nukes against Israel almost weekly
    Iran can still be stopped even if it by military means
    The Imagery of Iran is easier to oppose than is Pakistan which is for most in the west out of sight and out of mind.

    Pakistan is a fundamentalist Sunni state, very unstable politically and economically but most of all they already have some 100 nukes and delivery systems and means of delivery. The Saudis paid for the Islamic bomb and some say they received several in payment manned by Pakistani military in Saudi Arabia. Were radical Islamic dissidents to topple the government in Pakistan They would become an immediate existential threat to Israel. Meantime they are the suppliers of nuclear intellectual property or knowhow to all parties who pay the price like even Shia Iran but more closely to Gaddafi, Assad in Syria, Egypt and Algeria all know to have advanced nuclear programs.

    Pakistan Still unlike Iran have to be concerned with India and China Iran nobody? Iran wants to attain at least 50-100 of nukes before they would be prepared to use them and that will take some years but in the meantime they will cancel out the Israeli nuke deterrent making regional conventional war more likely. IMO they Iran are a more immediate threat to the Gulf States and the Saudis than Israel. Nukes in their hands will guarantee their regime from foreign threats.

    All of the above said and done I would incinerate Iran because of their threats and consider them a casus belli and not take any chances they are bluffing. Give them no benefit of any doubt.

    Two views from the right and the left in America.

  5. The Iranian plans have been known for decades and nothing was done by us to stop them. We have been betrayed by high treason bent cadres.