Plenty of headlines have focused on the Iran deal, officially the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA, and they have mostly focused on various details of the plan or been overly focused on broad generalities; most either singing the agreement praises or damning it. Here I would like to take a step back and view it for its obvious implications.
September 18, “adoption day”, has come and gone with the US congress unable to usher enough votes to stop the deal, despite their being vigorous opposition to it from both parties. The reason being, that as the Obama administration is fond of doing (and by now quite adept at it), it has once again skirted constitutional “formalities”, the rule of law, and the irksome system of checks and balances with its three independent branches of government.
In the USA, according to the constitution, any international treaty must be ratified by two thirds of the senate (something which this agreement could not possibly achieve). The Obama administration termed this agreement an “executive agreement” in order to not fall under a treaty’s requirements. From the international perspective, these are just as binding as any other treaty, although by US law, an executive agreement would not be legally binding. Basically, a president can agree to use his executive power a certain way, but he can also change his mind, and certainly any future president could easily adopt a different approach. A real ratified treaty, cannot be discarded in such a way, because it has become “the law of the land” and is protected under the supremacy clause.
In any event, without digressing into that legal issue, though it is an interesting one, the Obama administration turned the concept of a treaty on its head, and instead of requiring two thirds of the senate to be ratified, two thirds of both houses of congress were needed to stop him from “ratifying” this agreement. And this is why congress was unable to stop the agreement’s ratification. The administration variably stated that the reason it classified the agreement as an executive agreement and not a treaty was because the US has no diplomatic relations with Iran and at other times that it was because it was not a bilateral agreement but a multilateral agreement (as Kerry stated to Sen. Ted Cruz in committee hearing). The second reason is absurd, many treaties are multilateral, and there is absolutely no constitutional or legal requirement that a treaty be bilateral to be considered a treaty. The former reason is likewise devoid of substance, there is also no legal requirement that a treaty be made only with parties that there are diplomatic relations with (one could argue that entering into a treaty would constitute “diplomatic relations” and in fact a treaty could be the vehicle which start diplomatic relations between countries), and on the other hand if there is no diplomatic relationship with Iran, should this not preclude the administration from entering into executive agreements with it just as much as it should treaties?
What would be the benefit of having diplomatic relations then? That it would be more difficult to negotiate agreements because then, as treaties, they would require approval by two thirds of the senate, whereas if the party refrains from having these “diplomatic relations” they and the president can enter into any agreement they want without calling it a treaty? In any event, not only did the administration provide contradicting and incredibly weak arguments of why this was an executive agreement as opposed to a treaty, but the agreement clearly goes beyond invoking only executive powers (which a president arguably could make agreements about without the Senate), and includes all sorts of US actions and commitments which involve legislative powers (such as lifting sanctions imposed by congress, and budget appropriations).
All of that not withstanding, Obama has little use for the constitution, and no one seems to be able to remind him of its existence.
In this piece, I would like to look at this agreement in its broadest perspective, and without getting caught up in its myriad of details, known and unknown, see whatever obvious benefits and/or dangers it promises.
Iran is widely considered to be a “rogue state”, intent on regional hegemony and spread of its theocratic Islamic revolutionary idea. It the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism and as General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has testified before the Senate, Iran’s “malign activities” cover at least 5 main areas, and
run the gamut from ballistic missile technology to weapons trafficking, to the use of surrogates and proxies to naval mines and undersea activity, and last but not least to malicious activity in cyberspace.
In other words, Iran sponsors terrorism and through proxies wages war on its enemies, Sunni Arabs, Israel and the USA, and also defies international stability and commerce by trying to develop and acquire long-range missile technology, trafficking arms and engaging in activities that encroach on international waters and maritime commerce (mainly in order to try control the strategic gulf waters and the strait of hormuz), and deny them to western powers and sunni gulf states.
All of this is of course, completely besides the extremely troubling “malign activity” of Iran trying to acquire nuclear weapons. This assessment is focused on national military interests and does not get into the “malign activities” that Iran perpetrates on its own population, which includes grave human rights violations and persecution of minorities. As General Dempsey said, the agreement only addresses (or tries to address) the nuclear issue and does not deal with all these other Iranian problems.
These should not be in any way overlooked or thought of as minor. The nuclear issue is a potential risk… and while it is a tremendous intolerable risk, it remains a threat and a risk. These other activities that Iran currently engages in are not threats or risks, but part of Iran’s day-to-day regime of policies. There are plenty of other activities that it could begin to engage in, including all out war, and those are in realm of threats and risks together with the use of a nuclear weapon, but the “malign activities” are a current reality already. The administration accepts that 500 US servicemen lost their lives due to Iranian supplied IEDs, and the real number of deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan due to Iranian activities or Iranian backed activities are probably much higher.
It is the Iranian backed Hezbollah that killed 307 people, 241 US marines among them, in the deadly 1983 Beirut bombings. Iran has famously kidnapped US nationals, and even today, despite this agreement, continues hold US citizens and refuses to release them (giving us a sign of Secretary Kerry’s negotiating prowess). No regime on earth has come close to openly hurting US interests and her allies as much as Iran, which has inexplicably escaped any real retaliation. This has emboldened the ayatollahs. While Qadaffis, Saddam Husseins, Mubaraks and Talibans, all can be easily swept away by the west’s military, economic or diplomatic powers, the Islamic Revolution of Iran goes on, grows and strengthens while the west cringes back.
The Bush doctrine most famously found its exception in Iran, for when Bush furiously and famously dared the states of the world to stand either “with us or against us” after the 911 attacks, words which the giant and nuclear Pakistan shuddered at as it fell in line, words that spurred Qadhafi to openly abandon its WMD program (to his great regret a few years later); Iran felt completely free to sponsor attacks on the US army in both Iraq and Afghanistan, while freely continuing to back terrorism internationally, Shiite death squads in Iraq, and pursuing nuclear weapons in violation of international treaties it has signed. It has violently cracked down on any internal opposition, acts for which alone other totalitarian regimes have suffered the West’s wrath. I can’t think of much more Iran could have done to show its defiance. The consequence for this flagrant defiance? Nothing.
Syria’s Assad likes what he saw happening with his ally and sponsor Iran, and so he too got the North Koreans to help him build a nuclear enrichment and weapons program. Israel detected it, and bombed it… done deal. But the Iranian paper tiger continues to roar louder and louder, and both Iran and the west have forgotten it is made of paper, and this is very dangerous indeed. Left to grow and feed as the west continues to cower, it will grow real teeth.
The “logic” in favor of the agreement
Iran’s character and history aside, the single argument and logic to support the current agreement is as follows:
Yes, Iran is very dangerous, and that’s why we should not want them to have a nuclear weapon. This agreement at least sets them back. A military strike would only set them back a few years, while this agreement is good for 15 years at least. We will have more intelligence about their activities and more time to deal with them. Without this agreement, Iran will be nuclear in a few months time.
And as far as Iran’s other malign activities, the US will continue to “push back” against them in various ways, as if there was no agreement. However, the US will at least be pushing back against a non nuclear Iran than a nuclear Iran. Yes the deal ideally could be much better, but this was the best that could be negotiated, and we are much worse off without any deal at all.
Obama himself declared that the only alternative to this deal is war.
At first look, this reasoning may seem sound. The very unfortunate reality is that it is not.
The first mistake is the belief in this premise that “something is better than nothing”.. whereas in reality it very much depends on what that something is, and what that “nothing” is. Right now the Iranian economy is in tatters, especially as oil prices dropped, the regime’s hold on power tenuous, and the rogue state internationally isolated. Yes it has gathered great credibility and legitimacy in the eyes of many in the muslim world by its apparent regional importance and by the way it can stand up to – no, push around better said – the west. But that is all perception, and the fundamentals of country are very weak.
The conventional armed forces are aging, corrupt and weak. The private sector a dwarf in the economy, and Iran’s non-oil export capability close to nil. The foreign reserves are far too small and more than 100 billion USD are frozen overseas. Whereas it wielded enormous influence in shiite-led Iraq, ISIS has shown that a Shiite Iran-backed government from Baghdad cannot rule the Sunnis in the north. It has failed to help its ally Assad, retake the country from sunni rebels, and Hezbollah itself is in peril and stretched thin trying to help Assad (who may survive in power, due to the recent Russian intervention, but not due to Iran’s backing). Iran is in a weak position indeed, beleaguered by international sanctions and increasingly isolated.
So yes, it is trying to acquire nuclear weapons, but it is a stated policy of several powerful countries including the USA and Israel, that a nuclear Iran will not be tolerated. Iran has for years and years attempted to build up its nuclear capacity while publicly stating it had no WMD program and that its nuclear activity was for peaceful energy purposes only.
In fact, an infamous US intelligence estimate published near the end of the Bush administration declared that Iran had abandoned its nuclear and WMD programs (how wrong they were!). This intelligence estimate in fact, is what stopped a very frustrated George W Bush (not to mention a much more frustrated Dick Cheney!) from ordering a strike on Iran. Bush had ordered an invasion of a country (Iraq) that apparently did not have a viable WMD program when the intelligence community assured him that it did. he couldn’t possibly subsequently order military action against a country when the intelligence community told actually him that it had NO such program.
Bush to his credit, knew that this intelligence assessment was wrong, and that it was probably the result of over-reaction to getting the Iraq situation wrong, but much less to his credit, he still did not act.
In any event, Iran was able to “survive” these years of build up by saying that there was no WMD program, and the Iraqi experience gave it some cover. But now the cat is out of the bag, and a great deal is known about the Iranian program, and they have admitted a great deal. If this agreement was to collapse, the stated policies of the US, Israel and others still would stand… Iran cannot have a nuclear weapon.
So who would then have the most to lose at the loss of this agreement?
The US could do nothing except fail to ratify this deal, and Israel would certainly strike at the now known nuclear facilities of Iran. Alternatively, the US and others could also take action. The more likely outcome is that in the face of that reality, Iran would quickly acquiesce to a truly acceptable deal, in order to not face bombardment.
The second error is believing, as Obama stated, that it’s either this deal or war. First of all, as was just explained, if this deal falls through, others are possible, especially other better ones, and especially if Iran feels the West’s determination to end it nuclear program, one way or another.
Furthermore, it is deceitful of the president to state those two options as the only ones… there are many things in between (and outside of) this agreement and war. There are continued and expanding economic and diplomatic sanctions for one, which are having a serious effect on Iran. But most importantly is the false characterization of “war”. Just like there are a myriad of diplomatic and economic strategies that can be employed against Iran, so is there a myriad of military options, not to mention combination of options. There is everything from enforcing “no fly” zones, precision “pin prick” strikes, to larger sustained air campaigns, to various types of limited war to total war.
In our current scenario, there is nothing that would indicate the problem requires anything more than some stand-off munitions (air strikes, missiles, drones and the like). Would air strikes on Iran’s nuclear facilities be a “war”? Currently the US is engaged in air strikes over Iraq and Syria against ISIS, not to mention operations over Afghanistan and drone strikes over Pakistan and Yemen. Are all of these “war”? NATO recently maintained air superiority and air strikes over Libya in order to support the jihadist insurrection against Qaddaffi (which I wrote much to condemn). Was that war?
The above mentioned actions are all sustained air campaigns, most of them quite long term. A strike against Iran’s nuclear capabilities does not necessarily entail anything as prolonged as that. The strikes could be over in hours. Is that war? Sure, one has to account for the Iranian “response”. The Iranian response would be to hope very badly that their regime would not crumble under a successful strike. Other than that, Iran would instruct Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza, to launch rockets at Israel (Hamas does that frequently anyways). Hezbollah for its part, may or may not listen to these instructions, depending on many parameters including the situation in Syria and Lebanon, and how successful the strikes were, and how the chances of the survival of the regime looked. Hassan Nasralla is nobody’s fool, and he already has a heroic reputation in the Arab world for standing up to the IDF in the second Lebanon War, and he knows he is unlikely to survive another round with Israel. Certainly if the Iranian regime looks like it will crumble, there would be no reason for him go down with them. But in any event, that is the extent of the “Iranian response”.
It could attempt other actions, symbolic mainly, such as mining parts of the gulf, attacking commercial vessels, attempting terrorist acts internationally (which it does anyways) and stepping up marginally its anti-American activities in Iraq and Afghanistan. But on the whole, there is not much that the Iranian regime could do other than try to hold on to power despite the embarrassing strikes (that would finally lay bare the “paper tiger”). Depending on the severity of these actions, they could be ignored, or they could invite further strikes. For example, if Iran closed the strait of Hormuz, it would invite a well rehearsed US response that would knock out most of its offensive naval and air power within hours and the strait would be re-opened speedily. This is stated US policy regardless of this agreement.
So there are many alternatives to this agreement, one of which is a military option which should not be characterized as war. Israel has used this military option, with resources much more limited than the US presently in 2015, twice to stop two aggressive totalitarian regimes from obtaining nuclear weapons. Under Menachem Begin, Israel bombed and famously destroyed Saddam’s hopes for nuclear weapons in 1983, and more recently it dashed Syria’s goals of the same with another air strike. Both times it entailed air operations that took hours in total and both times it caused no real military reaction and no war. The harshest reaction Israel had to withstand after the Iraqi strike, was the western international condemnation of its actions; actions that allowed the same western world a decade later to face a non-nuclear Saddam Hussein after his invasion of Kuwait.
Are there differences in the Iranian situation? Sure… there is more than one site to be bombed for sure, and the logistics are specifically difficult for Israel, due to the distances, the countries that need to be crossed on the way and most importantly because of the US controlled airspace all around Iran. But for a US strike, these difficulties do not exist, and though a strike must be more comprehensive than in the the aforementioned instances, it is definitely doable.
Now, we confront the argument that a military strike only sets back a nuclear program and does not eliminate it completely. This is a silly argument. Iran used to be populated by cavemen and yet somehow today it is a threshold nuclear state. Obviously countries can go from zero nuclear capability to a full capability. This means that even if a military strike destroyed every inch of every relevant facility, every relevant piece of equipment and document, and left the country without a trace of its former weapons program (which it will not), they could still build it anew. All countries start with no nuclear program, they started without roads as well.
So by definition a strike, no matter how much of the program it destroys, just like any other solution, only “sets back” the program since it can always be reconstituted. The point is twofold; first that strikes can always be repeated just like nuclear programs can always be rebuilt, and two, that countries don’t like to be bombed and certainly don’t like to invest millions or billions of dollars into expensive weapons programs that get destroyed every couple of years. Regimes don’t survive that. That is just not how it works. The examples of Syria and Iraq are good ones. A country who gets their nuclear program destroyed by air strikes is unlikely to simply start building them again as if nothing happened, and if it does.. nothing impedes further strikes. Committing to keep a state without nuclear weapon has a price. But reactors and nuclear weapons programs are far more expensive than air to ground missiles. And anyway it’s good for pilots’ training.
So What’s Wrong with this Plan?
So after establishing that there are plenty of options outside of this agreement, and outside of this agreement or “war”, what is wrong with this agreement…
Without getting into the nitty-gritty of the deal, there is plenty wrong with it on its face and premises.
Like was explained above (as if it needed explanation), Iran is a rogue state of the worst kind. It is committed to the destruction of the western way of life, and to an Islamist supremacy. It’s efforts to obtain nuclear weapons is only one of the many dangerous activities it engages in. In fact, the reason a nuclear Iran is so intolerable (as opposed to other states with nuclear weapons) is because of its ideology and the other activities it engages in.
For all these reasons and others, the US has no diplomatic ties with Iran. Iran has been hostile to the US since the 1979 Islamist revolution that overthrew the Shah and installed the ayatollahs. The right approach to a country like that (especially as weak and isolated as Iran is), is to indeed not have diplomatic relations with it.. which should preclude treaties (executive agreements or otherwise)! You don’t speak to a state like that, you isolate it, weaken it, sanction it, and if necessary attack it, until it no longer poses those threats and engages in those activities. It’s called victory. And peace tends to follow it.
So the very act of engaging Iran in a full comprehensive treaty, between the Permanent Security Council members (plus 1) and including the world’s superpower, the USA, and her (Iran) despite its ideology, stated goals and activities is very bad policy indeed. It allows you to strengthen an enemy state (by lifting of sanctions, etc) instead of strengthening a friend (as is the case in a good treaty).
Therefore an agreement which only aims to take care of the nuclear issue, and lifts sanctions, while leaving Iran free to continue to sponsor terrorism, to support its regional proxies, to threaten genocide, continue its cyber-attacks against the west and in general continue to engage in Dempsey’s 5 malign activities (other than attempt at nuclear proliferation), is strange to say the least. If Iran wants to come into the community of nations and have the sanctions that strangle it lifted, it would be perfectly reasonable to have it denounce terrorism and stop its sponsorship of terrorist organizations. Iran is the isolated country, not the US nor her allies, and it is strange indeed to ignore all of Iran’s bad behavior and enter into a comprehensive agreement with it only on the nuclear issue.
However, let’s assume that this is indeed what is done, an agreement based solely on the nuclear issue which ignores everything else, and allows Iran to continue to be an enemy state in every possible arena, but just not have nukes. Ok… that isn’t ideal to say the least, but let’s say that you are convinced for the importance of having the nuclear issue dealt with; then at least get that! In a deal like that, which ignores all of Iran’s other transgressions, and deals only with its nuclear transgression, one would expect would be clear… you are voluntarily disarming, openly fully and immediately. Otherwise, what’s the deal?
There is plenty of precedent for this, such as South Africa, Libya, Ukraine, Argentina and Brazil to name a few. First, the state must voluntarily disarm, want to disarm… not engage in a game of hide and seek. The state, wanting to disarm in order to gain acceptability in the world community, lift sanctions etc, disarms willingly.. so both sides are on the same side on that issue. The disarming state volunteers all information, all stockpiles, all facilities to begin with, and subsequently, the international community, can check and verify everywhere and anywhere at all times. No doubt should be left that full disarmament took place. That’s what a disarmament agreement looks like. It’s not unprecedented and it is very straight forward.
This treaty enshrines into international law the cat and mouse games Iran loves to play in order to continue its illicit activities including enrichment and arming. So it is one thing that the agreement allows Iran to continue to be a state sponsor of terrorism, to continue to hold US hostages, continue its aggressive attempts at regional hegemony in part aimed at eventually destroying Israel, if it indeed opened up Iran to full and verifiable nuclear disarmament, but is quite another to have the world’s great powers lift sanctions, welcome Iran into commercial and diplomatic ties while they refuse to even comply with an open and transparent disarmament.
What then does this agreement do?
What it does is protect Iran, and its nuclear program.
As was stated earlier, many countries on earth are not willing to tolerate a nuclear Iran, and so, in the absence of this agreement, one or more of them would ensure that Iran would not go nuclear. This task, becomes extremely difficult if not impossible after this agreement. Israel, who failed to strike Iran when I warned about the short window, would be extremely reluctant to strike Iran while it is complying with a treaty approved by the security council and the P5 + 1 nations, and in the supposed process of inspections and verification. Israel would seem to be acting like a madman.
The same is true for any other nation that would try to stop Iran from going nuclear. The treaty protects Iran for at least the next 15 years. Sanctions are to be lifted almost immediately. Frozen assets to be released. Oil export revenues and foreign investment will flow into Iran. After 5 years, the treaty stipulates that conventional weapons sanctions would be lifted. This is an outlandish concession that the Americans gave at the last moment, after weeks of promising that it would not happen. After 8 years, the ICBM sanctions would be lifted, allowing Iran to legally purchase intercontinental ballistic missile technology on the open market. ICBMs of course, are missiles that are capable of hitting the USA from Iran.
And of course, after 15 years (as if they needed it) all enrichment and nuclear material supply restrictions would be lifted (basically there would be no agreement left).
All in exchange for some limitations and inspections in some declared sites, a promise of Iran not to go nuclear (which it had already made and broken in various other agreements including the NPT).
Why is the agreement not fully verifiable?
Much has been written on this so here I will try to be brief. The agreement in its mechanisms is a joke. The main problems are the following:
For all past activity and existing nuclear capability, the Iranians negotiated separate and secret agreements with the IAEA. The US is not privy to these documents, and Kerry and others in the administration admitted to never having seen them or read them (Kerry explained that reading them would violate IAEA confidentiality, and then also said that one member of his team, perhaps, had read it, which was weird). Therefore, the US has no guarantees on what those mechanisms are and if they are sufficient.
Looking forward, the treaty lays out an extremely weak mechanism. The main problem is that if the US or another member wants a suspect site inspected (it can’t inspect it, it can only send in the IAEA inspectors which have to be citizens of a country with full diplomatic relations with Iran – ie not the US), then it must request this from Iran. There is a complex mechanism of back and forth negotiations (for example, the Iranians can offer samples “from that site” in order to satisfy the request of inspection) and only once the member state through the IAEA has insisted on physical inspection of the site, there is a 24 day period until Iran must comply with allowing inspectors (again, only from friendly states) into the suspect site. The media has advertised this period as 24 days, but even a brief reading of the agreement makes it clear that in practical terms it will almost always be longer (if the Iranians want it to be), and perhaps quite a bit longer.
Why the treaty would guarantee Iran at least a month before a site can be inspected is beyond me.
Besides that there are sites the treaty makes off-limits in general for any inspection.
For the facilities that Iran does “turn in” the benefits to Iran are great. The agreement is full of promises of R&D cooperation, advanced equipment including 3rd generation centrifuges and physics and nuclear facility cooperation with Russia and other advanced nuclear states.
The agreement focuses on nuclear material, enriching uranium mainly, which the Iranians can now do, and will certainly be able to do with even greater ease at any point after this treaty is implemented, be it in 5 years or in 15 years. The final part that is needed for a nuclear weapon is “weaponization”, and with military sites off limits to the inspectors, and the 24 day plus safety margin the Iranians have before inspections, who knows what they will be able to hide in this critical issue.
The Iranians are also not turning in anything that has to do with weapaonization nor admitting that they have done anything in that area. It is very likely that this part of their program will remain covert as it is now.
Their enrichment process will simply get a giant upgrade, and a “slow down” in the declared facilities at least, and will be ready to resume, stronger than ever, whenever Iran decides to.
Basically, at any point during the agreement, and defacto after the 15 years, Iran’s “breakout” time will be just as short if not much shorter than it is now, but it will be in a much stronger position, technologically, economically and militarily. Furthermore, up until that point, it will remain protected from any actions aimed at stopping its nuclear program.
For example, the Iranians have made clear in writing, that they will regard any imposition or re-imposition of sanctions as a material breach of this agreement, and allow them to “walk away”. Since it would have been the US that broke the agreement, multilateral sanction would not be easy to re-impose. So if Iran blows an embassy, or a Jewish center, or sponsors a terrorist attack on an airport, as it is fond of doing, then the US will be unwilling or unable to impose any “terror sanctions” on Iran, who can interpret them as a breach of the agreement.
Furthermore, on the other hand, the US will be unlikely to report or stop smaller violations on the part of Iran, because this could mean the termination of the agreement. The administration has made much of the “snapback” clauses that allow the US and others to reinstate sanctions due to Iranian violations. In truth, neither term not anything similar to it are in the agreement, and any attempt to re-impose the sanctions would be quite difficult and lengthy. Perhaps most importantly, because the Iranians can interpret (and said they would) any reimposition of sanctions as a material breach and legally “walk away” from the agreement to continue enrichment activities, the US is very unlikely (especially an administration like this one) to ever go to the security council with anything but massive violations. They will not risk reimposing any sanctions, nor going to the Security council on smaller violations, which will most likely be commonplace.
So in essence, the agreement gives Iran a giant protection screen against sanctions, rather than impose any “snapback” realities.
A clause that also has not been discussed is that other clauses, exempt existing contracts from whatever “snapback” options do exist. This means that contracts, assets and liabilities that are created during the time Iran is free from sanctions, are exempt from any new sanctions that would be imposed. This destroys any remaining “teeth” this agreement ever had, as oil contracts, banking relationships, investments and all sorts of major economic activities would be protected by these clauses. Basically, all entities that wish to engage in the Iranian economy will simply make sure to protect themselves with long term contracts.
And perhaps most amazingly, the agreement includes a “protection clause” for Iran in one of its annexes. The most disturbing clause (from a few similar ones), reads:
10. Co-operation in the form of training courses and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to prevent, protect and respond to nuclear security threats to nuclear facilities and
systems as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical protection systems;
10. Co-operation through training and workshops to strengthen Iran’s ability to protect against, and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage, as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical protection systems.
When asked about it, Secretary Moinz was baffled, and Kerry interrupted:
The purpose of that is to be able to have longer-term guarantees as we enter a world in which cyber warfare is increasingly a concern for everybody,” Kerry said. “If you are going to have a nuclear capacity, you clearly want to be able to make sure that those are adequately protected.
So this agreement ensures Iran’s nuclear capacity, and that is be adequately protected. Thanks Kerry (read my article on that loser).
Now, a note about the economic windfall for Iran that has also been much reported. Iran, as cash strapped as it is, dominates much of the world’s headlines when it comes to man-made bad things happening. The lifting of the sanctions long term obviously mean an increasingly rich Iran, especially due to its huge oil and natural gas reserves. But immediately, they mean on the order of approximately of $100 billion (according to the administration) dollars in frozen assets held in international banks released to Iran. There are debates about the exact net numbers, ranging from 50 to 150 billion that Iran would be able to access, but regardless these numbers are massive.
When Iran is able to cause as much trouble as it does, with the sanctions in place and with ever diminishing foreign reserves, it is hard to exaggerate the effect this windfall will have on them. The administration points to many domestic needs that Iran has for the money, but as the G Herbert Walker Bush administration infamously explained to Israel (when for the first time it linked certain aid and loan guarantees such as those for immigration, to settlements in Judea), “money is fungible”. So if you used this money for domestic purposes, then the money you were going to use there is suddenly available.. in essence any way you put it, more money is more money… and in the case of Iran it means more for domestic spending, more for weapons, and more for sponsoring terrorism.
Now, let’s put this 100 billion in context. Iran’s total annual GDP (2014) was approximately 415 billion USD. It’s total government budget for 2015 is $294 billion.
This means that $100 billion is an additional 25% of the entire GDP of the whole country for an entire year. And it is one third of the entire state budget.
To put that in perspective, a comparable cash windfall for the US (which had a GDP in 2013 of 16.77 trillion) would be $5.6 trillion dollars!
And to put that in perspective, the notoriously expensive TARP, meant so stave off global financial collapse was for only $700 billion, or .7 trillion dollars. The subsequent Obama stimulus package, which blew previous government actions out of the water and broke all records for financial massiveness, was about 800 billion dollars or .8 trillion.
Imagine then what 5.6 trillion dollars received all at once would be like. And to receive them at the same time that your revenues are drastically going up as the lifting of sanctions are increasing export revenues, foreign investment, and economic activity in general. In Iran, a dollar goes a long way. I shudder to think what they will be able to do with the lifting of sanctions plus this 100 billion dollar windfall. Obama, in essence, has become albeit somewhat indirectly, the world’s greatest financier of state sponsored terror.
Obama promised that the alternative to this treaty is war, and so we must accept it. This is a very bad sign in itself. History has not been kind to countries that accept surrender because they believe the alternative is war, and neither has it been kind to those politicians that convinced their nations to take this course.
A nation which can prefer disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves one.
– Alexander Hamilton