Surely, we were not the only ones bemused by the irony of Kerry and Zarif meeting in Munich (of all places) to try to iron out wrinkles in the on-going negotiations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. For goodness sake, they could have gone down the road thirty-five miles to Augsburg, chatted, had a beer, posed for pictures and avoided their hour-long photo op in the one city whose name will always be synonymous with appeasement. Yes, we know all the suits were in Munich for an annual security conference, the agenda of which was dominated by the unfolding events in Ukraine — but still.
Things are not going well with our attempts to keep Iran from becoming an unwelcome member of the nuclear club. In fact, from what we know, they are going quite badly, despite the President’s assurances to the contrary. The agreement we are negotiating would, as the President says, be historical, but it won’t be an agreement history will smile upon. That’s because we’ve already conceded just about everything except the arrangement of the deck chairs. Everyone outside of the beltway bubble (well almost everyone) knows it’s going to be a bad deal. Even the left-leaning, and generally Obama-supportive, Washington Post seems more than a bit troubled at what is about to come down.
The venerable Post noted, “…while presidents initiate U.S. foreign policies, it is vital that major shifts win the support of Congress and the country; otherwise, they will be unsustainable.” This was in response to the Administration’s plans to circumvent congressional approval of the impending deal. While it is true that foreign policy initiatives have largely been conceded to the Executive branch since the early days of the Republic that does not mean, and has never meant, that Congress cannot and should not assert itself when it feels the nation’s vital interests are being put at substantial risk.
The Post opined after hearing two former Secretaries of State (Henry Kissinger and George Schultz) and others from both parties testify before the Senate Armed Services Committee, “though we (The Washington Post) have long supported negotiations with Iran as well as the interim agreement…we share several of those concerns (those of the Republican and Democratic witnesses) and believe they deserve more debate now (emphasis added)— before negotiators present the world with a fait accompli” (so much for Congress having no role in these deliberations as some have contended, and so much for the brouhaha over inviting the only ally in the region threatened by Iran to address Congress).
Prominent Democrats such as Virginia’s Senator Tim Kaine, who has generally been a strong supporter of President Obama and was on Obama’s shortlist to run as Vice President, have parted company with the President over Iran. Kaine testified and reminded the Armed Services Committee that an attempt by the United States to negotiate the end of North Korea’s nuclear program failed after the regime covertly expanded its facilities. With Iran, Kaine, said, “a nation that has proven to be very untrustworthy . . . the end result is more likely to be a North Korean situation if existing infrastructure (essentially 18,000 centrifuges) is not dismantled.”
So, what do we know about Iran’s centrifuges currently spinning or able to spin? Iran is estimated to have about 18,000 centrifuges 9000 of which are (or were) spinning away at Iran’s Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant.
According to reports by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, the approximately 9,000 first generation centrifuges operating at its Natanz Fuel Enrichment Plant could, theoretically, produce enough weapon-grade uranium to fuel a single nuclear warhead in about 1.7 months. The UN agency also estimates that Iran’s more advanced IR-2m centrifuges, about 1,000 of which are installed at Natanz, would allow Iran to produce weapon-grade uranium more quickly. The Agency estimates Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium is now sufficient, after further enrichment, to fuel approximately seven nuclear warheads.
This is very serious stuff. We are negotiating with a regime that considers America its number one enemy (the Big Satan) and Israel its number two enemy (the Little Satan). It has solemnly declared that Israel must be wiped off the face of the earth, and the evidence overwhelmingly suggests that they have been developing the technology capable of accomplishing that. It has for two decades been the position of the United States, our allies and the UNIAEA (let’s just say the sane world) that Iran must not develop that capability because doing so would greatly destabilize the Middle East and beyond.
Democrat Tim Kaine put it well, “ (Iran is) currently involved in activities to destabilize the governments of [U.S.-allied] nations as near as Bahrain and as far away as Morocco.” The Washington Post observed that — “a Tehran-sponsored militia recently overthrew the U.S.-backed government of Yemen. Rather than contest the Iranian bid for regional hegemony, as has every previous U.S. administration since the 1970s, Mr. Obama appears ready to concede Iran a place in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and beyond — a policy that is viewed with alarm by Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Turkey, among our (European) allies as well.”
Former Secretary of State Kissinger reminded the Senate Armed Service Committee that negotiations with Iran have evolved from a multilateral effort headed by the European Union and backed by six U.N. Security Council resolutions intended to stop Iran from developing nuclear capability to, essentially, a bilateral negotiation between the United States and Iran “over the scope of that nuclear capability, not its existence.”
Think about that for a moment. Negotiations are no longer about keeping Iran from being able to build a bomb, but rather conceding that capability to Iran and then trying to control it. Specifically, we are negotiating for, essentially, a one-year’s “head up” so that we’ll know they are enriching Uranium in a one-year countdown to weaponization. We’re hoping to accomplish that by getting Iran to agree to a level of enriching technology that would require about a year to enrich and then weaponize.
Kissinger testified that such an arrangement would very likely prompt other countries in the region, such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey, to match Iran’s threshold capability. “The impact . . . will be to transform the negotiations from preventing proliferation to managing it,” he said. “We will live in a proliferated world in which everybody — even if that agreement is maintained — will be very close to the trigger point.”
Former Secretary of State George P. Shultz testified that he was “very uneasy” about the ongoing negotiations. “They’ve already outmaneuvered us, in my opinion,” he told the Armed Services Committee.
Meanwhile, back in Munich things took an interesting turn. As though to send a message to Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu following the White House pronouncement that the Administration doesn’t meet with foreign leaders who are facing an election, Vice President Biden and Secretary of State Kerry both met with Israeli opposition leader Isaac Herzog in the Bavarian capital last Saturday. Herzog is Netanyahu’s main opponent.
The darndest things seem to happen in Munich.