Sunday, January 19, 2014

Iran Sanctions Showdown

Iran Sanctions Showdown
After Tehran agreed to implement November's interim nuclear deal, President Hasan Rouhani on Tuesday turned to Twitter: TWTR in Your Value Your Change Short position "Our relationship w/ the world is based on Iranian nation's interests. In #Geneva agreement world powers surrendered to Iranian nation's will."

Back in Washington, President Obama hailed "this important step forward" and had some tough words of his own—for the U.S. Congress. He repeated his threat to veto a new Iran sanctions bill at last count co-sponsored by 59 Senators, all but accusing them of pushing America into another Middle Eastern war. We hope Senate Democrats keep Mr. Rouhani's tweet in mind and don't blink.


The interim agreement keeps open Iran's path to a bomb. In exchange for immediate sanctions relief, Tehran promises to dilute its stockpile of higher levels of enriched uranium, stop installing new centrifuges, and halt most work on a heavy-water reactor that could lead to a plutonium bomb.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

As for the fine print of this First Step Agreement, you'll have to take the Administration's word for it. Officials say the International Atomic Energy Agency, which will monitor its implementation, usually keeps this confidential. But on Monday Iran's chief negotiator talked about the existence of a secret informal 30-page addendum that, among other matters, covers Iran's right to nuclear enrichment.

The Case-Zablocki Act of 1972 compels Mr. Obama to release any international agreements within 60 days. He can invoke a national-security exemption and show only certain Members of Congress, which is what he seems to be doing. But the secrecy won't build confidence in the deal.

In background briefings, even Administration officials acknowledge the deal's limitations. Iran can't install new centrifuges, but it can continue R&D work on centrifuges. No country needs advanced centrifuges except to build a bomb. Some unspecified work will also continue on the Arak heavy-water plant, which ought to be dismantled. And Iran can still enrich uranium to lower levels in breach of U.N. resolutions.

The IAEA will be allowed to inspect the Natanz and Fordow enrichment plants daily and Arak once a month. But the agreement doesn't provide for inspections of the Parchin military complex that may be perfecting triggers and delivery vehicles for a bomb. Reuters reported Monday that the interim accord "falls short of what [the IAEA] says it needs to investigate suspicions that Tehran may have worked on designing an atomic bomb," and "is also a far cry from the wide-ranging inspection powers [it] had in Iraq in the 1990s."

And Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Abbas Araghchi said this week that, "We can return again to 20% enrichment in less than one day and we can convert the [nuclear] material again. . . . I can say definitively that the structure of our nuclear program will be exactly preserved. Nothing will be put aside, dismantled or halted. Everything will continue, enrichment will continue."

Meanwhile, the sanctions regime has already started to crack. The Administration says Iran will get $7 billion in gradual relief over six months, including $4.2 billion in Iranian funds frozen overseas and the rest by easing sanctions on Iran's gold and precious metals trade, petrochemical exports and manufacturing goods. Others put the economic relief much higher. A French commercial delegation will visit Iran next month, looking for business opportunities to exploit as the sanctions break down.


All of which underscores the case for the Senate to vote on the "Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013." The bipartisan bill tees up stronger sanctions on Iran's oil and financial industries, but only if Tehran walks away from negotiations. The Administration should welcome this as leverage.
More important, the bill lists the terms that a final deal must include. This includes compliance with existing U.N. resolutions that require on-demand inspections and that bar enrichment and the missiles to deliver a nuclear weapon.

Opponents say this is a poison pill, but that's true only if the Administration is willing to accept an inadequate deal. One reason so many Democrats are supporting the bill despite White House opposition is that they want to stiffen Mr. Obama's spine. They're privately afraid that he'll accept a deal that lets Iran remain on the cusp of a nuclear breakout even if it doesn't test a weapon. The sanctions will collapse with Iran being a de facto nuclear power, the way Japan is today.

That suspicion is only reinforced by the rhetoric the White House is using to push Democrats off the sanctions bill. Bernadette Meehan, a spokeswoman for the National Security Council, put out a statement last week that the bill's supporters "want the United States to take military action." And this week California Democrat Dianne Feinstein took to the Senate floor and also claimed that the bill "is a march toward war."

So Americans are supposed to believe that the only choice is between war and whatever Mr. Obama negotiates. But the far more likely path to war is a bad deal that induces Israel to strike and drives the Saudis and Turks to get their own bomb. Mr. Obama's opposition to the Senate sanctions bill shows how much it is needed.
Guest Comment:
The agreement of the P5+1 with Iran allows Iran to have and continue having advanced "centrifuge research", something no country needs unless it is seeking a nuclear weapon. There will be no inspections of Iran's Parchin military complex that may be perfecting triggers and delivery vehicles for a nuclear bomb. The agreement is a surrender to Iran and its dangerous path. 
 "The interim agreement keeps open Iran's path to a bomb".
Nurit G. 

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