AÂ president desperateÂ to change the subject and aÂ secretary of state desperateÂ to make a name for himself are reportedly on theÂ verge of an â??interimâ?ť nuclear agreement with Iran. France called it a â??suckerâ??s deal.â?ť France was being charitable.
The only reason Iran has come to the table after a decade of contemptuous stonewalling is thatÂ economic sanctions have cut so deeplyÂ â?? itsÂ currency has collapsed,Â inflation is rampantÂ â?? that the regime fears a threat to its very survival.
Nothing else could move it to negotiate. Regime survival is the only thing themullahs value above nuclear weapons. And yet precisely at the point of maximum leverage, President Obama is offering relief in a deal that is absurdly asymmetric: The West would weaken sanctions in exchange for cosmetic changes that do absolutely nothing to weaken Iranâ??s nuclear infrastructure.
Donâ??t worry, we are assured. This is only aninterim six-month agreementÂ to â??build confidenceâ?ť until we reach a final one. But this makes no sense. If at this point ofmaximum economic pressure we canâ??t get Iran to accept a final dealÂ thatÂ shuts down its nuclear program, how in Godâ??s name do we expect to get such a deal when we have radically reduced that pressure?
A bizarre negotiating tactic. And the content of the deal is even worse. Itâ??s a rescue package for the mullahs.
It widens permissible trade in oil, gold and auto parts. It releases frozen Iranian assets, increasing Iranâ??s foreign-exchange reserves by 25 percent while doubling its fully accessible foreign-exchange reserves. Such a massive infusion of cash would be a godsend for its staggering economy, lowering inflation, reducing shortages and halting the countryâ??s growing demoralization. The prospective deal is already changing economic expectations. Foreign oil and other interests are reportedly preparing to reopen negotiations for a resumption of trade in anticipation of the full lifting of sanctions.
And for what? Youâ??d offer such relief in return for Iran giving up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. Isnâ??t that what the entire exercise is about?
And yet this deal does nothing of the sort. Nothing. It leavesÂ Iranâ??s nuclear infrastructureÂ intact. Iran keeps every one of itsÂ 19,000 centrifugesÂ â?? yes, 19,000 â?? including 3,000 second-generation machines that produce enriched uranium at five times the rate of the older ones.
Not a single centrifuge is dismantled. Not aÂ single facility that manufactures centrifugesÂ is touched. In Syria, the first thing the weapons inspectors did was toÂ destroy the machines that make the chemical weapons. ThenÂ they went after the stockpiles. It has to be that way. Otherwise, the whole operation is an exercise in futility. Take away just the chemical agents, and the weapons-making facilities can replace them at will.
Yet thatâ??s exactly what weâ??re doing with Iran. It would deactivate its 20â??percent enriched uranium, which besides being chemically reversible, is quickly replaceable because Iran retains its 3.5 percent enriched uranium, which can be enriched to 20â??percent in less than a month.
Result: Sanctions relief that leaves Iranâ??s nuclear infrastructure untouched, including â?? and this is where the French gagged â?? theÂ plutonium facility at Arak, a defiant alternate path to a nuclear weapon.
The point is blindingly simple. Unless you dismantle the centrifuges and prevent the manufacture of new ones, Iran will be perpetually just a few months away from going nuclear. This agreement, which is now reportedly being drafted to allow Iran to interpret it as granting the â??rightâ?ť to enrich uranium, constitutes the West legitimizing Iranâ??s status as a threshold nuclear state.
Donâ??t worry, we are assured. The sanctions relief is reversible. Nonsense. It was extraordinarily difficult to cobble together the current sanctions. It took endless years of overcoming Russian, Chinese andÂ Indian recalcitrance, together with foot-dragging from Europeans making a pretty penny from Iran.
Once the relaxation begins, how do you reverse it? How do you reapply sanctions? There is absolutely no appetite for this among our allies. And adding back old sanctions will be denounced as a provocation that would drive Iran to a nuclear breakout â?? exactly as Obama is todayÂ denouncing congressional moves to increase sanctionsÂ as aÂ deal-breaking provocationÂ that might lead Iran to break off talks.
The mullahs are eager for this interim agreement with its immediate yield of political and economic relief. Once they get it, we will have removed their one incentive to conclude the only agreement that is worth anything to us â?? a verifiable giving up of their nuclear program.