The volume of opinions on the potential deal concerning Iran’s nuclear capacity is deafening. I risk adding to the noise.
One thoughtful voice with long experience working on the Administration’s part is Robert Einhorn. He just offered the case for the presumed pending agreement in a New York Times Opinion piece. (http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/27/opinion/deterring-an-iranian-nuclear-breakout.html?_r=0 )
Mr. Einhorn frames the problem simply. He asserts that the reality is that there is limit on what is achievable. Iran simply is not going to give up all that they have achieved, and at the end of the day, a potential Iranian breakout can be deterred. In essence, the offered agreement will be better than nothing.
Well, maybe. But consider a few points.
I still cannot understand how the negotiations have completely dropped the matter of causing Iran to admit what they have accomplished with respect to designing and testing nuclear weapons components. The focus has been entirely on enrichment capacity. If John Kerry cannot get Iran to even admit that it has done such work, then, from the start, we are accepting a pretty blatant falsehood in the interest of getting a deal. The whole matter of Iranian weapons development work has been dismissed with an anodyne acronym, “PMD’s” for “possible military dimensions.”
Further, if we agree to this deal with Iran and depend upon deterrence to keep Iran in check (after we have lifted sanctions of course), how will that be seen elsewhere? Have we set a global standard, in effect, that all nations are welcome to develop a nuclear weapons capacity so long as they don’t test fully and limit there breakout time to one year?
It’s widely rumored that the Saudis are keen to match whatever the Iranians have. Some claim the Saudis already have a deal with Pakistan, basically a nuclear weapon on the lay-away plan. If this posture spreads, and everyone is on a one-year timeline…it starts to sound like August of 1914. Once one starts moving forward, everyone starts mobilizing. I am not sure how deterrence will play out in this eventuality. It would be much different than the classic game theory played out in decades past.
Finally, the Administration’s Iran nuclear negotiations have been part of an overall Iran policy. That policy has evolved, to say the least. President Obama’s optimism about Iran in 2009 has been reworked by reality. Iran has killed a lot of Americans since 1979. Has it stopped?
We keep hoping that the government will change. We remain convinced that the Iranian people are fundamentally aligned with our goals and norm. Some say it’s just the mistrust or misguidance of the government. Maybe.
But look at the full range of what Iran is doing in the region. Quds force commander Qasem Soleimani has been outwitting the US throughout the region. And he has killed many Americans in Iraq and elsewhere. Keep in mind Iran has probably killed more Americans than ISIS. In this broader context, I am not sure that the something in the nuclear agreement will, in the long run, be better than nothing.