“France’s foreign minister says Iran wants 24 days before international inspectors could visit its nuclear sites in the event of a suspected violation of a deal with world powers over its atomic program.” That is an actual news item, not a punchline from the Onion. The report coincides with this week’s remarks from Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, that Iran would not let military sites be inspected nor allow investigators to speak with Iranian scientists. If Iran is bent on sticking with these positions, the Obama administration will be hard-pressed to come up with a final deal that passes the straight-face test.
Consider what has occurred since President Barack Obama announced the “historic” framework: It’s obvious Iran and the administration have no common understanding. Iran has rejected anywhere/anytime inspections. The “snapback” sanctions and upfront sanctions relief have been widely disparaged. And despite the president’s efforts to soothe our Gulf State allies, Saudi Arabia is promising that if Iran keeps its nuclear weapons infrastructure and remains on the road to obtaining a nuclear capacity, a regional nuclear arms race is inevitable. (“Whatever the Iranians have, we will have, too.”)
Add to that Iran’s increasingly brazen conduct in the region (diverting ships, backing rebels in Yemen and Shiite militias in Iraq), Syria’s bald-faced cheating on its chemical weapons agreement and Congress’s near-unanimous insistence that it get a say in any deal and one can see the administration has been perpetually on defense. Public opinion polls reflect the voters’ lack of confidence in Obama’s handling of Iran.
Even if the president’s negotiators are able to paper over the obvious differences on inspections and disclosure of past military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program and find a solution as to what to do with fissile material, the administration is no longer pursuing dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure or barring Iran from eventually gaining status as a nuclear power. As a result, his own stated goal – preventing a nuclear arms race – becomes impossible. In fact, the deal sets off the nightmare scenario conservatives and liberals alike harbor – a chaotic Middle East awash with WMDs.
For Democrats, who have cherished international nonproliferation efforts, this would represent a complete failure after decades of trying to contain and, in fact, rid the world of nukes. Last year, 26 senators, including 24 Democrats and the most liberal members of the Senate, e.g., Elizabeth Warren (Mass.), Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Al Franken (Minn.), Tom Harkin (Iowa), Sherrod Brown (Ohio), Ed Markey (Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dick Durbin (Ill.), Jon Tester (Mont.), Martin Heinrich (N.M.), Barbara Boxer (Calif.) and Ron Wyden (Ore.), wrote to the director of the Office of Management and Budget imploring him to fund nonproliferation programs: “The President has said that nuclear terrorism is ‘the most immediate and extreme threat to global security.’ He followed these words by hosting the first Nuclear Security Summit in 2010. While we applaud the President’s leadership in spearheading an accelerated international effort to enhance the security of nuclear and radiological materials, we remain concerned about what the future would look like if we slow these programs.” They argued that the essential need to “keep nuclear and radiological materials out of the hands of terrorists is out of sync with the high priority that President has rightly placed on nuclear and radiological material security . . . in the effort to lock down these materials at an accelerated rate. The recent spate of terrorism in Iraq, Pakistan and Kenya is a harrowing reminder of the importance of ensuring that terrorist groups and rogue states cannot get their hands on the world’s most dangerous weapons and materials.” So how would they justify a deal that not only gives Iran an eventual pathway to a bomb but also ensures the Saudis and others would do the same?
In fact, reports suggest the Saudis are not waiting for the ink to dry on a final deal but have already made the decision to purchase an “off-the-shelf” nuclear weapon from Pakistan. In this regard, the deal contemplated by the framework would not only be a bad deal but also the worst possible outcome for longtime opponents of nuclear proliferation. That is a reality not even presidential spin could overcome, and it may pose the biggest hurdle to Obama’s efforts to appease Iran.
Rubin writes the Right Turn blog for The Post, offering reported opinion from a conservative perspective.