Dreams from a Deal with Iran
The other night we had a dream. We dreamed that the negotiations with Iran had produced a comprehensive agreement that not only credibly contained the country’s pursuit of nuclear weapons forever but also effectively checked its regional ambitions. Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu came close to endorsing the agreement, taking credit for having pressed hard for some of the limitations that the agreement enshrines. President Obama received congratulations from almost every corner of the earth and even Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei made a dramatic announcement of support, stressing that the agreement was a turning point in his country’s history. He noted that the deal represents the ultimate failure of those who have sought all along to topple Iran’s regime and that it would in no way diminish Iran's deeply held suspicions of the "Great Satan". Khamenei claimed that the agreement signed leaves his country as the acknowledged regional power and critical global power. He announced the appointment of the Head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force Genaral Qassem Suleimani as his personal envoy to promote a peaceful settlement in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, implying that even a long-term armistice with Israel could be part of this initiative, provided the "Zionist entity" would discontinue its “creeping annexation” of the West Bank and its “aggression” against Gaza.
In the wee hours of the morning very noisy garbage trucks outside our respective homes woke us up to the realization that this was a mere fantasy – that the achievable deal yielded neither a verifiable Iranian commitment to restrict its nuclear endeavors to the parameters of a peaceful energy program nor a mechanism that reliably prevents Iran from funneling the enormous unfrozen funds provided to it to all the wrong causes. Moreover, Iran has already begun to set limits on the access rights of the IAEA to its facilities, to violate with impunity the ban on arms transfers to and from Iran, and to create “facts on the ground” ahead of the deal's entry into force. Within 10-15 years it was to become a legitimate nuclear threshold state, weeks away from nuclear weapons. And Iran’s Supreme Leader continued his virulent attacks and relentless diatribes against the U.S. and the Israel – the greater and smaller Satan respectively.
The following night we had another dream. In it the negotiations yielded a highly flawed deal, one that would expire after only seven years and that contained few real limitations on Iran's nuclear fuel cycle and weaponization activities. It also lacked any extraordinary verification arrangements. Iran was not required to convert or dispose of much of its enriched uranium stockpiles, or to mothball more than a third of the centrifuges at its disposal. It was permitted to operate a third of its spinning centrifuges in the relatively immune Fordow facility near Qom, and to sustain the Arak heavy water reactor with only symbolic (and reversible) modifications. Moreover, the measures put in place to monitor the mothballed centrifuges seemed almost amateurish. Astonishingly, no meaningful restrictions were placed on Iran’s ability to research, develop, test and eventually deploy much more advanced centrifuges, thus making the limited quantitative restrictions placed on its existing centrifuges almost meaningless.
The President defended the flawed deal, arguing that the sanctions regime was already under duress, making this deal the only viable alternative to war. He further submitted that the deal would encourage the moderates within the Iranian leadership, and would pave the way for Iran to play a more constructive regional role, first and foremost in Syria. Finally, the President reiterated the assurance that U.S. would, if the need arose, employ all the means at its disposal to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
Numerous experts and Iran buffs came out in support of the agreement, hailing the diplomatic breakthrough as far superior to going to war, and arguing in favor of the timely substitution of sanctions for an agreement before the former would inevitably crumble. They noted that the concessions made were all warranted given the ability of the U.S. and the IAEA to monitor the agreement and the U.S. to act in case it would be violated. They further emphasized what they saw as new opportunities the agreement opened for mobilizing Iran to fight ISIS as well as its contribution to the strengthening of the so-called “moderates”, led by President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.
Well, at least this dream had a happy end. The Obama administration's claims, that the deal was the best that could be obtained under the circumstances and that the alternative was an inevitable slide toward war, were universally rejected. Palpable public outcry erupted over the provisions of the agreement – that in exchange for measures that would only extend Iran’s nuclear “breakout out time” by a mere two to three months, the P5+1 consented to opening the doors of hell by releasing tens of billions of dollars of frozen assets that Iran could immediate funnel to murderous organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah. A very large number of high ranking retired U.S. military officers and other former defense and intelligence officials were to uniformly testify that the agreement reached was an unmitigated disaster.