Reading the Iran Deal, Abridged

The following is a shorter version of an essay I posted on the Iran deal. It examines the following serious flaws in the Iran deal some of which have not received the public attention they deserve.

1. Treating the Islamic Republic of Iran as a normal country:
Nowhere in the full text of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) 

Do the E3/EU +3 (Britain, France, Germany, United States, Russia, China and the European Union) insist that Iran immediately cease its threats to the United States and Israel, abandon the lies of Holocaust denial and official anti-Semitism, release political prisoners and adopt practices of human rights enshrined for example in the Helsinki

Agreements in the Soviet bloc in the 1980s. Why should anyone expect a change of policy from an agreement that leaves unmentioned the ideological fanaticism of the rulers in Tehran? Why should a strategy that treats the Iranian regime as a normal state lead to a future of regional and international peace and security? Is this not a reward to a regime that has engaged in terrorism and threats to our allies and thus an incentive to further acts of aggression?

2. The expanding 300 kg limit:
The agreement’s treatment of a supposed 300 kg. limit of highly enriched uranium known as UF6 suggests that Iran can import its way to the bomb. The text of the agreement clearly states that UF6 from Russia or “other sources” will not be counted against the 300 kg limit. In plain English this means that Iran may already have more than 300 kg of UF6 and that in the future it may import even more, perhaps from Russia or China, North Korea or Pakistan. The agreement indicates that the exporting country and Iran — not the United States and the IAEAA — will certify the acceptability of these imports. Again, this suggests a huge loophole in the deal that makes it possible for Iran to import the uranium needed to build nuclear bombs and that the inspections regime described at Fordow, Natanz and Arak will completely miss these others sources of the growth of Iran’s nuclear stockpile.

3. Knowledge transfer:
The creation of a center for nuclear research at Fordow and in the project of modernize the nuclear reaction at Arak would appear to enhance Iran’s path to the bomb by facilitating the transfer of scientific and technical knowledge from the E3/EU + 3 signers to Iran. It is a bizarre gift to a country that has been violating UN Security Council resolutions for years. When scholars gather together, they talk with one another. It is reasonable to assume that ether unintentionally or as a result of espionage, Iran will gain significant knowledge it would not otherwise gain. The scientists and engineers in these projects will probably oppose giving nuclear secrets to Iran yet why assume that Russian and Chinese scientists would take that view? Anti-Americanism and hostility to Israel resonate in parts of the European universities? Will they have no impact on the willingness of scientists and engineers to aid Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

4. Self-deterrence and the multilateral restraints of the JCPOA and the very unlikely enforcement of the agreement in the event of Iranian violations.

The JCPOA builds into the agreement a set of multilateral institutions and vested interests that place significant barriers in the way of an American “snap-back” of sanctions or an American military strike in the event of Iranian violations. They make effective enforcement of the agreement highly unlikely if not impossible.

First, the growing economic presence in Iran not only of Russia and China but of our European allies including Britain, France and Germany — and presumably many other countries around the world — creates multiple vested interests in preservation of the nuclear agreement even in the face of Iranian violations. In the event of disputes, a growing body of countries will have a vested interest in giving Iran the benefit of the doubt and opposing enforcement measures. The agreement, with a veto of Russia, China and Iran in mind, stipulated that only five of eight members of the Joint Working Group are needed to declare Iran in violation of the accord. Yet given the vested interests of our European allies, it is conceivable that the United States could find itself outvoted by a majority that included some or all of our European allies.

Second, the presence of increasing numbers of engineers and scientists from the P5+1 countries s and perhaps many others as well at Fordow and Arak also create possibilities for Iranian espionage. In the event of violations, Iran could use these scientists and engineers as hostages or human shields to deter an American snap-back of sanctions or military strike. The President of the United States could face a hostage situation including citizens of many countries, including our allies that would also intensify opposition to anything so “rash” as to snap-back the sanctions or strike from the air thus endangering the lives of many engineers and scientists from many countries, both friends and allies.

About the Author
Jeffrey Herf is Distinguished University Professor in the Department of History at the University of Maryland, College Park, USA. He has published extensively on modern German and European history including Undeclared Wars with Israel: East Germany and the West German Far Left, He is completing a study entitled “At War with Israel: East Germany and the West German Radical Left, 1967-1989" (Cambridge University Press, 2016). His "Israel's Moment: The United States and Europe between the Holocaust and the Cold War" is forthcoming.
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