Larry Snider

Using a Band-Aid or a Bomb against Iran?

A provocative title mirrors a provocative choice that is not only imperfect but literally will bring fallout to the region, to Europe and the world. A US President stands on one side doing his very best to earn the Nobel Peace Prize he was given for his promise of “Change” more than as a result of anything he had yet done to make the world a safer place. He has talked about nuclear disarmament at the United Nations as well as at the Brandenburg Gate on June 19, 2013:

“Peace with justice means pursuing the security of a world without nuclear weapons — no matter how distant that dream may be. And so, as President, I’ve strengthened our efforts to stop the spread of nuclear weapons, and reduced the number and role of America’s nuclear weapons. Because of the New START Treaty, we’re on track to cut American and Russian deployed nuclear warheads to their lowest levels since the 1950s. (Applause.)

But we have more work to do. So today, I’m announcing additional steps forward. After a comprehensive review, I’ve determined that we can ensure the security of America and our allies, and maintain a strong and credible strategic deterrent, while reducing our deployed strategic nuclear weapons by up to one-third. And I intend to seek negotiated cuts with Russia to move beyond Cold War nuclear postures. (Applause.)

At the same time, we’ll work with our NATO allies to seek bold reductions in U.S. and Russian tactical weapons in Europe. And we can forge a new international framework for peaceful nuclear power, and reject the nuclear weaponization that North Korea and Iran may be seeking.”

He has made an effort to back up that talk with actions that have brought Iran to the negotiating table and created the possibility of a nuclear weapons limitations agreement to be signed by Iran and the P5 + 1 members of the UN Security Council. A Memorandum of Understanding will be the first outcome of the talks due by the end of March.

Once upon a time the international community was clear that to stop Iran from spinning any centrifuges it would apply a potent regime of sanctions. Negotiations usually imply each side agreeing to make concessions to the other. Has the maximum acceptable minimum of centrifuges and nuclear facilities and know-how changed to accommodate an Iranian agreement? You bet ya! Is it necessary for the P5 + 1 to make concessions that may leave some 6000 centrifuges in Iran, a second generation of smarter higher efficiency centrifuges ready to spin even as Iranian missile development continues unabated? I don’t know. But the President believes contrary to his public pronouncements that a deal is better than the lack of a deal. That is why he tried, (and is still trying), to push the Israeli Prime Minister and all his warnings against the deal out of the way. Are the best and brightest at Langley and in the Pentagon convinced that what’s on the table serves the United States best? Let’s hope so! Is the United States Congress in agreement with the President? No! Is it a partisan issue? Yes and no!

Just Friday the Chair and Minority leader of the House Foreign Relations Committee sent a letter to the White House signed by 367 members including 129 Democrats questioning the terms for an Obama Administration deal with Iran:

“The United States has had a longstanding interest in preventing Iran from achieving a nuclear weapons capability. Over the last twenty years, Congress has passed numerous pieces of legislation imposing sanctions on Iran to prevent that outcome, ultimately forcing Iran into negotiations. Should an agreement with Iran be reached, permanent sanctions relief from congressionally-mandated sanctions would require new legislation. In reviewing such an agreement, Congress must be convinced that its terms foreclose any pathway to a bomb, and only then will Congress be able to consider permanent sanctions relief.”

But the President in what can only be described as the most partisan climate in many years has chosen to play his cards close to his vest, to push naysayers away and keep the Congress at arm’s length in his crafting and implementation of this critical foreign policy initiative. It may be his only route to enactment. But does it contain enough to prevent or only delay the breakout of Iran as a member of the nuclear club as it continues its military advance throughout the Middle East? The second more nuanced and fateful question is; does that really represent the best we can get Iran to do short of launching a bombing run on Iranian nuclear facilities? Playing chicken with nuclear weapons is a fools game. But today Sunni nations in the Middle East are answering the question by undertaking their own “peaceful” nuclear development with help from the Russians, South Korea and Pakistan. Soon the region will be overrun by centrifuges coinciding with the purchase of advanced weapons systems. How do you put the nuclear genie back in the bottle when Iran already possesses the know-how and the capability and if all else fails it has the ability to purchase a bomb outright? A most difficult question that forces one to look at how many years a deal, (any deal), will actually buy?

There is the path of no deal, more sanctions and enough US and French led pressure on the international community to keep significant economic pressure on Iran. But some members of the P5 + 1 as well as other nations are waiting impatiently to resume and even increase trade with Iran. The clock is ticking and it looks increasingly like the leader of the free world is sitting in the catbirds seat even as Iran moves forward on multiple fronts and awaits word of just how much power it will gain in its deal with the Western devil governing its nuclear development. Somehow it seems the players have changed seats?

About the Author
Larry Snider was President of the Interfaith Community for Middle East Peace a non-profit based in suburban Philadelphia. Today he lives in New Jersey and is a Board Member of the Jewish Community Relations Council of Southern New Jersey.