Opinion

Faith Or Foolishness: Obama’s Iran Folly

Steven Bucci Heritage Foundation

President Obama has always said he was a man of faith. The nuclear deal with Iran proves it.

The Vienna agreement is built solely on faith in the Islamic Republic of Iran’s leaders, and their willingness to play along with Obama’s grab for a foreign affairs legacy. This is foolishness of a potentially catastrophic order. God deserves faith; the Ayatollahs do not.

The agreement’s first article of faith is this agreement will not kick off a new arms race in the Middle East. Mr. Obama somehow believes that Iran’s neighbors harbor little fear of the regime’s destabilizing activities and trust its motives in signing the pact. But fear and mistrust of the regime is palpable throughout the region. Iran’s anxious neighbors will surely seek their own capability to deter or strike back at a nuclear Iran.

The only thing that can forestall that development is if America’s Middle Eastern allies and friends regain their confidence that they will be shielded by America’s nuclear umbrella. That faith has been lost, by an administration that has seemed far more willing to browbeat and threaten America’s long-time allies (Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, etc.) than Iran, a country whose real leader regularly led chats of “Death to America” throughout the negotiations.

The second article of faith is that the Iranian government will compartmentalize their support for terrorism, keeping it separate from its nuclear programs. Secretary of State John Kerry and Mr. Obama have insisted that there’s no need for the agreement to address terrorism or hostages — just nukes!” Apparently we are to believe that the $150 billion-plus windfall Tehran gets from the pact will go to pave roads and build schools.

Far more likely that the first budget request to be filled will come from the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force, a group who can only be compared to the Soviet Union’s Spetznaz commandos. This group attempted to assassinate a Saudi Ambassador right here in Washington, D.C. They lead radical Shia militias across Iraq (and supplied those same groups with advanced IEDs that killed Americans). They arm and equip Hezbollah and Hamas against Israel. They have fomented a Shia rebellion in Yemen, and directly support Bashir al Assad in Syria. When an outfit like that stands to benefit from the deal, you can’t claim terrorism is off the table.

The third article of faith is that pre-announced inspections, restricted to specifically requested sites, can effectively verify that Iran is living up to its promise to halt certain nuclear activities. This sort of lash up has never worked: not against North Korea, not against Saddam Hussein, and not against Syria. Mr. Obama has said that it doesn’t matter if the inspections aren’t “timely” or conducted without prior notice because, after all, nuclear procedures cannot be done in a “closet.” No, but they don’t require huge factories either. Illicit R&D labs can be camouflaged, and they can be moveable — particularly if you can get weeks or months of delay and “arbitration” before the inspection can occur. Iran doesn’t have to stop doing research or production; they just need to make it transportable.

The fourth article of faith is that sanctions, once removed, can be “snapped back.” They can’t. Once these sanctions come off, they’re gone for a good, long time, if not forever. The Europeans have kept the sanctions in place sacrificially over the last few years. Once they resume trade with Iran, there will be little appetite to damage their already weak economies by cutting it off again.

Faith is fine. But faith in a rogue regime’s good intentions or this agreement’s ability to make it behave is foolishness of the first degree. President Obama insists that we have no choice; it’s either this bad deal or war. That’s a Faustian choice, and a false one. There are better deals to be had, and big sticks that fall short of war.

Steven P. Bucci the director of the Allison Center for Foreign and National Security Policy at The Heritage Foundation.