Delusion of the Iran Nuclear Deal
March 22, 2017
Trump promised to rigorously and radically enforce the Iran nuclear
agreement, which he called ďthe worst deal ever negotiated.Ē It sounds
tough, but itís an approach that plays into the hands of the Iranian mullahs.
Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action presents the Trump administration with a
bedeviling paradox: The greater the focus on enforcement, the higher the
likelihood Iran will emerge with nuclear weapons.
nuclear deal contains limited, temporary and reversible constraints that
disappear over time. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United
Nations nuclear watchdog tasked with monitoring the deal, may be able to detect
Iranian violations. But Iran doesnít need to cheat. In fact, it has every
incentive not to do so.
the terms of the agreement, Iranís uranium and plutonium pathways to atomic
weapons expand over time. The deal allows for Iran to ramp up the testing of
advanced centrifuges in seven years and install these centrifuges in its Natanz
enrichment facility in nine years. Breakout time, the amount of time needed to
enrich one bombís worth of fissile material to nuclear grade, drops from one
year to months and then weeks.
less than 15 years, the majority of restrictions on vital components of a
military-nuclear program vanish. This includes bans on enrichment above 3.67%
purity, the stockpiling of uranium, the use of the buried-under-a-mountain
Fordow centrifuge plant, and the building of additional enrichment facilities
and heavy-water reactors.
that point, Iran will emerge with an industrial-size nuclear program with a
near-zero breakout capability and much easier ways to sneak around restrictions.
After the disappearance of the arms embargo three and a half years from now and
the missile embargo in six and a half years, Tehran can significantly enhance
its military power by acquiring advanced conventional weapons and further
expanding its long-range ballistic-missile program to include intercontinental
ballistic missiles. No country developing ICBMs has ever not obtained nuclear
IAEA faces daunting tasks: It must monitor an enormous nuclear program, widely
dispersed on a territory more than twice the size of Texas. It will need to
secure access to military sites in order to block weaponization activities, but
Iranís Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has said these are out of bounds. It will
have to ensure that uranium isnít diverted to clandestine enrichment sites,
which could be powered by a small number of easier-to-hide advanced centrifuges.
with an Iranian economy possibly doubled in size by then, with hundreds of
billions of dollars of foreign investment from Asia, Europe and Russia, few
countries will join the U.S. in snapping back sanctions should Iran violate the
deal. With Iran at near-zero nuclear breakout, even the most crippling sanctions
arenít likely to stop a determined regime.
rigorous enforcement looks to be a daunting task, what could the Trump
administration do to get out from under this deal and perhaps into a better one?
Mr. Trump must address the Iranian threat the way Ronald Reagan treated the
Soviet one. In the early 1980s, Reagan instructed his National Security Council
to develop a comprehensive assault to undermine the Soviet Union. The Trump NSC
needs a similar plan, one that uses both covert and overt economic, financial,
political, diplomatic, cyber and military power to subvert and roll back the
Khamenei has alluded to his regime being ďon the edge of a cliffĒ as a
result of the 2009 democratic uprisings. Mr. Trump should create the distinct
impression that America will help the millions of Iranians who despise the
regime to push it over that edge.
the Trump administration, with an assist from Congress, needs to reinvigorate
the sanctions regime aimed at Iranís support for terrorism, ballistic-missile
development, human-rights abuses, war crimes, and destabilizing activities in
the Middle East. These sanctions need to target, in particular, the Islamic
Revolutionary Guards Corps, which controls strategic areas of Iranís economy.
diplomats may balk, but these sanctions are fully compliant with the nuclear
deal. International banks and companies will think twice about working with
Iranian companies, especially if doing so might mean losing access to the U.S.
market. The Trump administration should work with Congress to design a statutory
architecture that freezes the Iranian nuclear program where it is today and
impose new crippling sanctions if it expands in any way that drops nuclear
breakout time to less than one year.
Trump administration also needs to put Iran on notice that the U.S. will use
force to counter Iranian aggression. Sanctions without the credible threat of
military action will always be insufficient to change the regimeís calculus.
putting the squeeze on the regime, the administration should make it clear to
the Chinese, Europeans and Russians that Washington is prepared to negotiate a
follow-on agreement that addresses the fatal flaws of the original deal. Tehran,
still struggling to attract foreign investment because of its continued malign
activities, can benefit from such an offer if itís prepared to come back to
the table and halt its subversive behavior.
enforcing the Iran deal is a delusion. There is a better way forward than
enabling the Islamic Republic to take patient pathways to nuclear weapons, ICBMs
and regional dominance.