Since the P5+1 deal with Iran—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—was announced on July 14, there has been much discussion and debate about it, with lots more undoubtedly to come.
No less important, however, are a number of revealing developments that give a glimpse of what may well lie ahead. We ignore or downplay them at our peril.
First, the Associated Press (AP) reported that it saw a copy of a draft agreement between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran, which has now been made publicly available. According to two anonymous officials, the text does not differ from the final confidential deal between Iran and the IAEA regarding Parchin, the site of Iran’s nuclear weaponization program. Startlingly, according to the document, IAEA officials will rely on Iran’s own experts to take a limited number of environmental samples, videos, and photographs for review by the Vienna-based nuclear watchdog. Moreover, the IAEA would only be granted a single visit to the site “as a courtesy” by Tehran.
If accurate—and the United States has not disputed the AP dispatch to date—this is nothing short of stunning. It is the equivalent of putting Dracula in charge of the blood bank. How could we possibly trust Iran, with its history of deception and deceit, to be in the driver’s seat in trying to ascertain the possible military dimensions of Iran’s own nuclear program over the years?
Second, the ink on the deal was barely dry and German Vice Chancellor and Minister of Economy Sigmar Gabriel was already headed to Tehran with a business delegation. They could hardly wait to start talks on new commercial opportunities, lest they be beaten to the Iranian capital by other export-seeking nations. The German official did ask Iran to stop calling for Israel’s destruction, but when the Iranians rebuffed the request, that didn’t present an impediment to the talks. In fact, just one day before the visit, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described Israel as a “terrorist, baby-killer government.”
Third, not to be outdone, Laurent Fabius traveled to Tehran, the first French Foreign Minister to do so in 12 years. He told his interlocutors that France would be back in September with a large business delegation of “around a hundred” leaders in the automobile, farming, and environment industries.
Fourth, Switzerland didn’t even wait for the actual implementation of the deal before announcing that it was unilaterally dropping its own sanctions against Iran, including in the all-important banking sector. In an upside-down understanding of the JCPOA’s logic of lifting sanctions only after Tehran complies with the agreement, the Swiss government asserted: “Should implementation of the agreement fail, the Federal Council reserves the right to reintroduce the lifted measures.”
Fifth, according to media reports, China announced the prospect of a billion-dollar deal to sell Tehran 24 advanced jet fighters for the air force in exchange for access to Iran’s largest oil field.
Sixth, Russia indicated that it would now go forward in selling as many as four S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Iran, which would, of course, significantly bolster Iran’s air defense capabilities against any outside force. And speaking of Russia, despite denials from the Kremlin, it played host to the head of the Iranian Al Quds force, Qassem Soleimani, even though he remains on a UN list of individuals banned from such travel, at least for a few more years. Washington protested the trip, but to no avail.
Seventh, Iran has just produced a new film with an arresting title – “Preparation of the Complete Destruction of Israel by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Islamic Revolution in Iran.” And the calls for “Death to America” are undiminished, including those chanted loudly at a rally addressed by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei just days after the JCPOA was signed.
Eighth, despite the transparently political efforts of some media outlets to describe the opposition to the Iran deal as limited to the Israeli government and some American Jews, the reality is quite different: a bipartisan majority of both Houses of Congress is on record in opposing the deal presented on July 14; Israeli political leaders across the political spectrum, and not just in the current government coalition, are against the agreement; and a majority of the American people, according to several reputable polls, neither support the deal nor believe Iran can be trusted to fulfill its obligations.
Ninth, the debate has turned quite ugly, as illustrated by the reaction to Senator Charles Schumer’s decision, after more than three weeks of study and consultation, to oppose the Iran agreement. Rather than engage him on the serious issues under discussion, some supporters of the Iran deal, including the editors at the Daily Kos, have instead chosen to accuse him of “dual loyalty,” as if an American Jew could not question the deal unless somehow motivated by an “Israel-first” mindset.
And tenth, if the devil is in the details, the unfolding drama of the conflict between Iran and the United States about what was, and was not, agreed to in the July 14 deal continues to play out. To illustrate, while Washington insists the agreement did not confer on Iran the right to enrich uranium, the Iranian government says precisely the opposite—that its right to enrich has now been recognized. These are by no means minor differences.
As the national debate continues in the coming weeks, these developments and their implications ought to be addressed. Turning a blind eye, as some supporters might wish, while repeating the mantra that “the only alternative to this deal is war,” just won’t wash.