The issues with Iran and Geneva

The Iranian nuclear program is a means to an end and not an end to a means. Iran does not want nuclear weapons because they care for nuclear weapons. There is nothing specific or inherent about nuclear weapons that make them attractive to Iran. Iran simply wants to become a hegemonic power in the Middle East and further their interests. They view the development of nuclear weapons as way to achieve this goal. When people talk about states being rational, it is somewhat incoherent. All states follow the path that they believe to be in their best interest. However, the interest of most states is merely to improve the lives of their civilians and bring more prosperity. When people call Iran irrational, they do not mean to indicate that Iran is not acting in their own interests, but that their own interests are absurd as their goal is not to enhance the lives of their own people but to export their ideology and revolution across the Middle East.

A game theoretical decision making tree would look something like this (with arbitrary numbers).

Developing nuclear weapons – utility = 10

Not developing nuclear weapons – utility = 5

It is very easy to get Iran to go down the path of not developing nuclear weapons, all one needs to do is reduce the utility of developing nuclear weapons to being below 5, or increase the utility of not developing nuclear weapons above 10. If America offered Iran 1 trillion dollars for relinquishing their nuclear weapons program, their utility in not developing nuclear weapons would raise significantly. The issue is that America does not want to give Iran 1 trillion dollars or anything remotely similar to these.

States typically do not like to reward enemy states for their rogue behavior; this only increases the likelihood of similar actions happening in the future (for that state or others) creating less stability and more problems. Instead, states want to punish states for their rogue behavior in order to reduce the likelihood of similar actions happening again. This is the whole concept behind sanctions; by sanctioning Iran and damaging their economy, the utility Iran receives from developing a nuclear weapon diminishes (hopefully to the point of being lower than their utility of not seeking nuclear weapons).

One of the main issues about the Geneva agreement is that it does not change the utilities for Iran and thus, the motivations behind Iran’s actions. In fact, it is very arguable that the agreement increases the utility of Iran developing a nuclear bomb.

Theoretically, it should be very easy to see when the utilities have changed in Iran making it so that it is more beneficially for them to not develop a nuclear weapon. As nuclear weapons are just a means to an end, when it is no longer worth pursuing them, they will stop asking for any concessions on things like the right of enrichment and centrifuges; they will give up all of these things for consideration that helps them more in other areas such as trade, or security in the region.

This is the big problem. The Geneva Agreement was constructed with Iran still trying to achieve nuclear weapons.

This would be tolerable if Barack Obama put Iran in a position where there had to be a final agreement within 6 months, or face the threat of having their utility decrease substantially (either by tougher sanctions or the threat of military action). However, this is not what is happening at all. Obama is giving Iran as much time as they want which suits both parties.

Some things to consider – the Geneva agreement did not start when it was signed, but starts at a later agreed upon date; until this date, Iran is free to do whatever they like under the protection of the United States. Unlike what the media is stating, this agreement is not for six months, but was intended to last for one year. Moreover, this agreement can be extended with the consent of both parties indefinitely (The last interim agreement signed with Iran in 2003 lasted for two years and ended when violated by Iran).

The biggest priority and concern for Obama is that he does not want to make a decision on Iran. He does not want to bomb them yet he does not want to be the one responsible for them getting nuclear weapons. By having this situation, all Obama needs to do is keep negotiating until he’s out of office and until its someone else’s problems (this should start to look a lot like Bill Clinton and North Korea to you).

Why this benefits Iran? Because they just for all intents and purposes crossed the nuclear weapon threshold.

To be clear, from where Iran was, they were capable of producing a nuclear weapon in less than one month. Despite this number, Iran still had not completed the process of weaponization for a nuclear weapon or finished the production of their intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of carrying a nuclear weapon. Unfortunately, none of these things were included in the Geneva agreement meaning that while Iran reduces the amount of centrifuges spinning, they can continue to work as much as they want on the militarization of their nuclear weapons.

Additionally, the whole concept of the nuclear weapon threshold is Iran was not just about go to out one day and drop a nuke on another country. Iran just wanted to have a nuclear weapon in their possession to hold as a threat. Iran being one month away, or 7 weeks away it does not matter (that’s how much time this agreement adds to Iran’s path to a bomb); Iran is close enough to the bomb that in case anything happened, they could develop it quickly enough to use it.

Aside from all of this, there are many other reasons why this agreement is great for Iran. As long as negotiations are going on, which seem to be a minimum one year and likely much longer than that, Iran is immune from any sort of attack. That means Iran can do whatever they wish, and they have protection from the international community of any sort of response.

The sanctions apparatus has also effectively ended. While negotiations are ongoing, no new sanctions will be placed on Iran. Moreover, if Iran violates a future agreement, companies and states will be significantly more reluctant to agree to future sanctions. This should mean that all of the old sanctions should remain, but this is not the case. There is a game of cat and mouse, and every time there is a sanction created, there is an attempt to circumvent it.

In order for a sanction to be effective, the United States treasury must identify and blacklist those companies that violate them. However, dating back to last June, much before the Geneva agreement, America had almost completely stopped blacklisting companies that violated the sanctions.

Previously, the largest way Iran evaded sanctions was by selling oil and gas to Turkey in exchange for Turkish Lira which while still remaining in Turkey was then used to purchase gold that was shipped to the United Arab Emirates where it was traded for different currency and sent back to Iran. Surprise surprise, Turkey has just announced that this trade arrangement is going to resume now that the Geneva agreement has been reached; something that can only happen with Obama’s tacit approval.

Another important thing to consider is that systems are not meant to make it impossible for someone to cheat or break the law, but to deter them from doing so by having consequences. Iran clearly has the ability (and desire) to cheat their way through this agreement. All they need to do is keep saying yes, until the world stops paying attention and then behind the scenes do a really small bit of cheating until they have nuclear weapons – this is exactly what North Korea did. The reason why this strategy works is because in the near future, nobody is going to care about Iran and nobody is going to threaten Iran.

In 2013, there is by far the most pressure and attention on Iran there ever has been. Even with this, the international community was terrified by a conflict that they tried as hard as they could to prevent military action. Going forward, there is going to far less focus on Iran and way less emotions involved. In a year from now if Iran cheats on their agreement, there is going to be a very muted reaction from the international community. Furthermore, nobody would ever contemplate a military strike on Iran at that point, especially over “such a small violation” (like North Korea).

There are a lot of other negative components of this deal such as it giving Iran the “right” to enrich uranium in contravention to numerous United Nations Security Council resolutions or how it legitimized one of the worst regimes in the world and shifted away any pressure on Iran for their abhorrent internal and external regard for human rights.

The thing that I would like to focus on is the action of the Obama administration in this process. The Obama administration acted with complete contempt and disregard for its allies. From Israel, to Saudi Arabia to Germany, England and France.

Firstly, America lied to Israel consistently. In reality, since last winter, America was engaged in secret one-on-one talks with Iran without Israel’s knowledge. Remember all those times where America said there was no daylight between Israel and America, and how they had the same information, goals and strategy; none of this was true. Moreover, there is also the issue of all of the hostile and antagonizing statements made by the Obama administration to isolate and attack Israel. There is also the issue of how it seemed like the biggest priority for Obama during this process was not to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, but to prevent Israel from having the ability to strike Iran.

The purpose of the aforementioned secret one-on-one negotiation between Iran and America was for America to present their agreement to the P5+1 powers in Geneva as a fait accompli. Aside from completely excluding the parties most affected by the agreement (Israel and Saudi Arabia), they also completely excluded their allies in the E3 and all of the other countries in the P5+1.

This however is not the worst part of this fait acompli. The worst part by far is that in the agreement America reached with Iran, they did not include any stoppages or inspection of the heavy water reactor at Arak which will produce plutonium; Iran’s alternative path to the bomb. Arak is not operational yet, but once it is, it cannot be attacked because it was made with the purpose that it would kill thousands of innocents of civilians by the nuclear leak such an attack would cause. Think about that for a second – the deal that America agreed to and wanted to force on the P5+1 gave Iran a safeguard and ultimate protection in producing an alternative plutonium track to a nuclear weapon.

The other issue I think is important in Syria. With the information known today, it becomes clear that once Obama decided to start his diplomatic process with Iran, he had already decided Syria was not an issue of American concern. It is interesting to realize that the biggest advocate that there were no moderate rebels in Syria and that they are all a bunch of Al-Qaeda terrorists was the Whitehouse. Even more interesting is that the CIA (presumably under the directive of the Obama administration) informed Hezbollah about a planned Al Qaeda attack on them.

Remember Obama’s redline on Syrian chemical weapon use; ya, nothing was going to happen about that. Remember when Obama said that he wanted to strike Syria, ya that was also a lie. What is even stranger to consider is France had planes on the runway waiting to take off to bomb Syria and Obama is the only reason they did not fly. Syria was a fig leaf that Obama gave to Iran and the tens of thousands of civilians whom have died as a result of this are just collateral damage.

About the Author
Daniel lived in Israel where he pursued his graduate studies focussing on Israeli policy. Daniel is now back in his home country of Canada studying law. Come check me out at
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