The terrible price of appeasing Iran

As a consequence of the deal on its nuclear programme, Iran has effectively received international legitimacy as a nuclear threshold state. It remains the world's leading state sponsor of terror, and it will now feel more emboldened than ever. In other words, they've played us like a violin

Now we can all relax, right? Wrong...
Jeremy Havardi
On 4 April 2015 12:45

On the face of it, the parameters of the deal on Iran's nuclear programme are better than expected. The country is not about to join the elite nuclear club, at least for the time being. Under the proposed deal, Tehran must reduce by two thirds all its installed centrifuges, and those that remain will only be first generation.

It has agreed 'not to enrich uranium over 3.67 percent' for 15 years while reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium from 10,000 kg to 300 kg for the same period. It has agreed 'not to enrich uranium at Fordow for 15 years' and to rebuild the heavy water reactor in Arak for peaceful purposes.

The IAEA 'will have regular access to all of Iran's nuclear facilities' and 'the supply chain that supports Iran's nuclear program'. Sanctions relief will be given if Iran 'verifiably abides by its commitments' but sanctions 'snap back' if there is 'significant non-performance'.

For the next decade, the breakout time for acquiring enough fissile material for a bomb, currently two to three months, will be extended to at least one year.

But appeasement has a price -- it always does. Iran has effectively received international legitimacy as a nuclear threshold state. Years of Security Council resolutions were supposed to have resulted in the complete suspension of nuclear activities and the removal of Iran's nuclear architecture.

Yet as things stand, much of this architecture remains in place. Iran will still retain thousands of centrifuges at Fordow and Natanz while none of the country's nuclear facilities will be shut down, as they surely need to be.

No wonder that Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javid Zarif, crowed: 'Our facilities will continue. We will continue enriching; we will continue research and development'.

If the breakout time for a bomb is pushed back to a year, this is certainly a welcome development. But the essential nuclear components will still be in the country, waiting to be revitalised if Iran so chooses. Fordow is a particular problem as it lies buried under a mountain near Qom.

If the Iranians renege on their commitments and refuse to give the IAEA unfettered access to the site, military action will be essential. Yet that option has hardly been on the table in recent years, nor would the UN likely approve it.

The ten year sunset clause for this agreement is also problematic. After a decade, Iran could theoretically renew its enrichment activities, using the results of the R&D it is allowed under this agreement. Yet it is not clear what is in place to deal with this eventuality.

Nor does the deal say anything about the very real problem of Iran's ballistic missile program, which remains a palpable threat to Israel and most European nations. Iran must come clean about its nuclear weapons research over the last decade, an issue on which it has been highly evasive according to the IAEA. The agreement is somewhat vague on this issue too.

Supporters of the deal point to the intrusive inspection regime that will be imposed on Tehran for an entire generation. Obama has made it clear that 'if Iran cheats, the world will know'. Perhaps so, but the key issue is not whether violations are discovered but how the world responds to them.

Charles Duelfer, who led the Iraq Survey Group after 2003, has rightly argued that the weapons inspection team in Iran will only be as effective as the body empowering it, namely the Security Council. The IAEA may be trusted to report violations but it is ultimately the Council that can decide to re-impose sanctions.

Recent history tells us that this body is riven with discord, a great deal of it emanating from Moscow. Power politics will play a role in any Council decisions and Putin in particular, who has a direct interest in accessing Iranian markets, will be in no mood to get tough with Tehran.

Duelfer points out that if the Iraq experience is anything to go by, the IAEA will likely be penetrated by Iranian intelligence in an attempt to impede 'surprise' inspections. The verification regime may not be as watertight as Obama thinks.

But the worst aspect of this deal is that it has been decoupled from any discussion about Iran's regional behaviour.

The Islamic Republic remains the world's leading state sponsor of terror. Its desire for regional hegemony now sees it exercising significant control in four major capitals outside Iran: Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad and Sana'a. This deal will only embolden the regime and extend its grip on neighbouring states.

The Islamic Republic remains implacably opposed to Israel's existence and its leaders speak approvingly of the country's destruction. The U.S. is in Iran's sights too. Hence Ayatollah Khamenei's chilling call for 'Death to America' only a fortnight ago in Tehran. No attempt is made to hide such incendiary rhetoric. Instead it is embraced with a zeal and brazenness that is wholly unsettling.

This deal allows Iran to continue sponsoring terrorist groups, carry out human rights violations and destabilise the entire region. This is the truly terrible price to pay for appeasing a rogue regime.

Jeremy Havardi is a journalist and the author of two books, Falling to Pieces, and The Greatest Briton

blog comments powered by Disqus