Ten diplomats proudly stood before a sea of journalists. The thunderous sound of cameras clicking filled the entire room as the negotiators exchanged laughs and sighs of relief that Vienna summer day. It was finally over; peace, at last, seemed at hand. It was 2015, and the P5+1 and Iran had finally reached what many would laud as a “historic” agreement: the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Indeed, the Iran nuclear deal was historic, but not for the reasons John Kerry and Barack Obama had hoped; it remained in the minds of multitudes of Americans—both then and now—as a fundamentally flawed negotiation, and one does not have to look far to note these crucial miscalculations.
Specifically, contrary to then-President Obama’s claims, the West did not broker the agreement “from a position of strength” as America clearly exhibited its unwillingness to walk away from the deal. The very threat of such a move would have certainly frightened an economically-debilitated Iran; the rogue nation was in such need of sanctions relief that it was finally willing to arrange a deal with a nation that it fervently denounces as the “Great Satan.” This presented the golden opportunity the U.S. had been anxiously waiting for: a time to diplomatically commit itself to preventing the rise of a nuclear Iran and Middle East. But in this effort, Obama also saw another chance in the midst of his second term: a legacy project—an accomplishment that would be revered for generations and generations to come. His mission to reforge relations with Iran and “turn the country’s clerics from foes to friends” would, as a Bloomberg columnist noted, become the President’s “obsession.” Consequently, Obama went to extreme lengths to assure Iran of America’s desire to befriend its former enemy. For instance, besides Obama’s reluctance to acknowledge Iran had rigged its 2009 election and support the resulting democratic Green Revolution, the President had terminated American “programs to document Iranian human rights abuses.” But far worse, Obama—in an all-out effort to pacify Iran and create his legacy—refused to retaliate against Assad’s regime after it used chemical weapons, and Iranians (and some U.S. officials) warned that “nuclear negotiations would be halted” if he acted in response to Assad’s breach of the President’s supposed “red line.” Furthermore, a Politico investigation even uncovered that Obama agreed to a prisoner swap with Iran as the deal slowly moved towards an agreement—releasing seven prisoners who were noted by the Justice Department as being national security threats or even being deeply involved in Iran’s nuclear proliferation efforts. These overt acts of appeasement clearly illustrate Obama’s central desire of building a legacy for himself and finalizing a nuclear deal before the end of his Administration. It was this misguided objective and his inability to walk away that enabled the Iran deal to cross so many of the “red lines” the President had once drawn. This need to negotiate weakened America’s bargaining power and ultimately allowed for the Iranian delegation to gain concessions that undermine the fundamental hopes of the West in preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons.
One of the significant flaws of the deal was that it was dangerously soft on Iranian development of advanced nuclear centrifuges. While it is true that Iran has been instructed by the deal to dismantle thousands of its nuclear centrifuges, it is vital to understand why Iran would agree to this. Yes, it was in dire need for sanctions relief, but it is important to also remember that one of Iran’s chief negotiators in this agreement was Dr. Ali Akbar Salehi—the MIT-educated leader of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization and known by many Western journalists as the regime’s “bomb maker.” Salehi clearly understood that if his country was to ever obtain nuclear weapons, it would have to act more subtly as to avoid detection and international retaliation. It is because of this that he greatly disapproved of then-President Ahmadinejad’s decision to vastly expand Iran’s collection of “primitive IR-1 centrifuges,” which were grossly inefficient and thus could be easily exposed. Instead, Salehi brilliantly realized that if Iran updated their nuclear technology and constructed advanced centrifuges (like an IR-6 or an IR-8), it would be able to, in small nuclear cascades, “enrich vast quantities of uranium to weapons-grade quality” and would, due to its efficiency, be extremely hard to detect by the world. Nevertheless, estimates indicated that it would take Iran “at least eight years to develop a new generation of centrifuges,” and, as stated previously, Iran continued to sink into an ever-desperate economic crisis. Thus, Salehi found the perfect opportunity in the Iran deal to secure this future by persuading the world to provide $150 billion in sanctions relief effective at the start of implementation and buy time to perfect its advanced centrifuge technology. Because of his success at the negotiating table, Iran’s “bomb maker” would even boast that the “apparent limitations [on primitive and advanced centrifuges] that we have accepted…it’s not really a limitation.” This concession, along with failing to adequately address the subjects of Iran’s flagrant use of ballistic missiles, its ability to create chemical and (potentially) biological weapons, its illegal attempts to acquire nuclear technology (even post-implementation), and its continued expansion of military operations (including its ever-increasing sponsorship of terrorism) proves to be a grave error in Secretary Kerry’s negotiations. Through this agreement, Iran has been able to rapidly expand its influence throughout the region (and thus opposing Western interests and also violating U.N. resolutions in the process) through immediate and generous sanctions relief in addition to securing a future for Iran that includes a modernized nuclear program and an incredibly short break-out time. The world cannot permit this; this deal must end.
Now is the time to terminate the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions—especially with Iran, despite sanctions relief, in a state of political unrest and on the brink of economic collapse. The West cannot stand silent as Iran continues on its path towards obtaining greater nuclear technology with the sole purpose of acquiring nuclear weapons. This moment is prime time for the United States and Europe to once again pressure Iran for a better, more comprehensive deal. The security of our allies in the Middle East and the entire world depends on it.
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