Though the Iran nuclear accord officially began on January 20th, thus easing economic sanctions and unlocking $7 billion dollars in frozen Iranian assets, even a cursory look at the six-month interim agreement shows that it is already doomed to fail.
In the international community’s most important test of nuclear non-proliferation, the U.N. Security Council’s permanent five plus one (P5+1), comprising the U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany, have been haggling with Iranian negotiators in Geneva off and on for months to halt Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons.
Yet despite the rosy optimism, best expressed by President Barack Obama who triumphantly declared in November, “diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure – a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon,” declaring victory is deeply misguided.
Let’s look at the top five reasons why the nuclear accord is fatally flawed and doomed to fail:
Fails to halt uranium enrichment – Iran will continue uranium enrichment to 5 percent, the level needed to operate light water nuclear reactors to generate electricity. While Tehran is required to eliminate the stockpile of 20 percent-enriched uranium, its 19,000 centrifuges won’t require much time to enrich a sufficient quantity of uranium to 90 percent, the threshold for weapons-grade fissile material. When U.N. sanctions began in late 2006, Iran possessed just hundreds of centrifuges.
Fails to ensure complete verification measures – Though International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors will be granted daily access to uranium enrichment sites at Natanz and Fordow, access to uranium mines and mills, and “more frequent” access to the heavy water reactor at Arak designed to produce plutonium, it doesn’t allow inspections for each and every one of Iran’s dozens of known and suspected nuclear sites. Considering that Iran is 1.6 million square kilometers large and mountainous, Secretary of State John Kerry’s “trust but verify” rings hollow when we can’t possibly know everything Tehran is doing outside our field of vision.
Fails to curb missile technology – Iran has worked behind the scenes with North Korea on its missile program for years, successfully testing delivery vehicles that can strike Israel and Turkey. According to a report by the non-partisan Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, the Shahab 1, 2, and 3 missiles can reach 1,000 kilometers, or roughly 600 miles. The Ghadr-1 and Sejil-2 can reach 1,600 and 2,200 kilometers, respectively. Yet missiles are off the table in this accord.
Fails to stop warhead development – Iran is also free to research nuclear warhead development. Which is one reason access to Parchin, a military base 400 kilometers south of Tehran is so critical. If IAEA inspectors can prove a nuclear trigger mechanism was in fact tested there in 2011 as they believe, we could call Iran’s bluff. Iran’s mining activities in Latin America should raise alarm bells, as they’ve been working with friendly governments in Venezuela and Bolivia to extract dual-use minerals like lithium and tantalum, while reportedly using Argentina as a trans-shipment point.
Fails to include powerful deterrent – Iran has some incentives to slow its nuclear program, namely recovering $100 billion in frozen assets and fully returning to the oil market. Yet there are no worse consequences if they don’t. Sure, international economic sanctions have hurt Iran’s economy and put the regime at an elevated risk for a coup — yet they haven’t dampened Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s quest for the bomb. As a state supporter of terrorism for over three decades via Hezbollah and other shadowy militants, Iran understands brute force. The so-called “moderates” now running Iran, including newly appointed Defense Secretary Hussein Dehghan, a man connected to the 1983 Marine Barracks bombing in Beirut, only respect strength. They must be convinced that the U.S. will lead massive military strikes to stop their nuclear program. Regrettably, the accord doesn’t even come close to giving that impression.
So while the White House and doves in Congress channel John Lennon to “give peace a chance,” it seems more likely they’re actually channeling another famous Englishman, Neville Chamberlain. “Peace in our time” indeed.
J.D. Gordon is a retired Navy Commander and former Pentagon spokesman who served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense from 2005-2009. He is a Senior Adviser to several think tanks in Washington, DC.