April 10, 2015

US-Iran Interim Agreement: the Ayatollah Weighs In.

by Hal Gershowitz

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Of Thee I Sing Heading AuthorsTo paraphrase Nancy Pelosi, we Americans may really have to agree to the final nuclear deal with Iran so that we can see what is in it. There yawns a gap so wide between what we hear from Washington and what we hear from Tehran one could shoot an Iranian Soumar long-range missile through it. The Republican opposition should stop protesting and just let Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khamenei do all the talking. His bellicosity is most instructive.

According to the Ayatollah, the phased lifting of sanctions commensurate with Iran’s step-by-step compliance with a final agreement, which has been a bedrock condition of the United States, is a non-starter for Iran. Sanctions are to be lifted as a reward for Iran signing an agreement, not for Iran complying with an agreement.

And, to add insult to injury, no UN inspectors will be allowed to step foot on any Iranian military base. Now, we have weapons testing facilities in many locations in the United States such as Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland, Plant 42 in Palmdale, California, Wright Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton Ohio and so on. Iran, of course, has its military proving grounds as well, but that really won’t matter because UN inspectors will not be allowed to set foot on any of them.

So just what is this impending historic arrangement with Iran about which the White House and its media sycophants are crooning?Based upon what we are learning from the Ayatollah, it may be little more than window dressing for an emerging modus vivendi between the United States and Iran, which, in effect will recognize Iran as the hegemon of the Middle East.

Those who are leery of the direction in which the negotiations have veered are castigated by liberal columnists, Administration spokespersons, and even the President as obstructionists and war mongers, but when the Ayatollah himself fires hyper-critical salvos at the Administration, his criticisms are shrugged off as rhetoric for local consumption. Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu can only wish he might be accorded such understanding from the White House for his recent campaign excesses.

Let’s be very clear about just what the Ayatollah had to say about the Administration’s description of the interim agreement. “Americans put out a statement just a few hours after our negotiators finished their talks … this statement, which they called a ‘fact sheet’, was wrong on most of the issues.” That is how Khamenei characterizes what the Administration says was agreed to in Lausanne. Small wonder virtually all of our allies in the region are doing a slow burn over how the US has managed the Iranian nuclear negotiations.

The P5+1 have, up until now, insisted that Iran fully cooperate with a U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) investigation into past nuclear activities that could be related to making weapons. It is, according to the IAEA, known that Iran was doing (and may still be doing) considerable research into nuclear weapon detonation technology. The West needs to know what the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear research were, or are. But Iran has made it clear that “possible military dimensions” (PMD) are an issue it will not budge on.

“PMD is out of the question. It cannot be discussed,” an Iranian official said. Add to that (for good measure) Khamenei’s statement, “Iran’s military sites cannot be inspected under the excuse of nuclear supervision.”

Now, this adds a new and very troubling wrinkle for the US and the other members of the P5t+1. We have been told, repeatedly, that the inspection requirements we have negotiated are among the most intrusive in history. Yet we are largely silent when Iran’s Supreme Leader emphatically states that no inspectors will be allowed on any Iranian military site. Well, several of the sites the P5+1 have been most concerned about are on Iranian military bases including the deep-underground enrichment center at Fordo, just outside the religious city of Qum. So what in the world is going on here?

We don’t wish to criticize anyone for trying to forge a workable deal with the Iranians. However, any experienced negotiator knows that the strongest card any negotiator can hold is simply the willingness to walk away from an impending deal that has turned sour. Considering where we and the other P5+1 members were when this process began, it is not unreasonable to say the deal did, in fact, turn sour some time ago.

We must remember that for the past twenty years US policy encompassing three different presidents was predicated on the conclusion that an Iran capable of producing nuclear weapons was a danger to world peace, contrary to our national interests and to those of virtually all of our allies in the region. We would offer friendship and normal relations if Iran ceased sponsoring terrorism and abandoned its determined march to nuclear weapons, but we would stop them from developing nuclear weapons by force if necessary.

It has been clear for some time that we have been seriously out negotiated to the point that banning nuclear weaponization is no longer even the objective of the negotiations. The objective has slowly morphed into a pause or, perhaps, a slowdown to the reality of a nuclear-armed Iran.

There must be some commonality of interest for a negotiation to succeed. The Obama Administration entered these negotiations believing that Iran could, over time, be coaxed into living harmoniously with the United States and, at least, most of our allies. That belief probably has never been realistic. The Ayatollahs have never seen the Islamic Revolution that brought them to power as an end unto itself. It has never been considered as a terminus, but rather as a commencement of a revolutionary Islamic terrorist movement to be exported at every opportunity. Think Hezbollah and the estimated 100,000 Iranian-supplied rockets they now possess in Lebanon, think Buenos Aires bombing, think the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, think Iranian-backed bombing in Bulgaria, think support of Hamas, think Iran-sponsored bomb-plot in Azerbaijan, think attempts against Jewish targets in Georgia, India, Thailand, Kenya and even Cyprus. This is not just lawlessness, it is religious fervor, and we are not going to coax the Iranians into comity with the west.

Under the system of nation states that has been the international organizing principle since the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, individual states interacted, sometimes peacefully, sometimes belligerently, but generally with rational interests, as ugly as they sometimes were – interest in more land, more resources, warm-water ports or whatever. They sometimes fought, generally made peace sooner or later, and were motivated to go to war or to make peace by rational standards. That’s why the doctrine of mutually assured destruction worked. But as Henry Kissinger and George Schultz eloquently wrote this week in the Wall Street Journal, “Previous thinking on nuclear strategy assumed the existence of stable state actors. Among the original nuclear powers geographic distances and the relatively large size of programs combined with moral revulsion to make surprise attack all but inconceivable. How will these doctrines translate into a region where sponsorship of nonstate proxies is common, the state structure is under assault and death on behalf of jihad is a kind of fulfillment?”

It is tempting to be reassured by the warm handshakes and smiles we were treated to as our diplomats posed with the Iranians for photographers in Lausanne ten days ago. But the Ayatollah is the real voice of the Iranian regime with whom we are negotiating. He dislikes us, doesn’t trust us and has publically proclaimed that inspections will not really be nearly as intrusive as the White House suggests. He says that all sanctions will be lifted as a condition of signing the agreement, not compliance with it. Furthermore, we are told by the Ayatollah that there is nothing sacrosanct about the June 30th deadline. “What has been achieved so far does not guarantee a deal or even that the negotiations will continue to the end,” Khamenei said, adding that an extension of the deadline should not be a problem. Is it any wonder that the Saudis and the Israelis are extremely concerned? Is it any wonder that, according to a just-released NBC poll,  68 percent of Americans believe that Iran was  not likely to abide by a nuclear agreement?

And to think — it has taken two years of negotiations to reach this level of agreement.

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2 responses to “US-Iran Interim Agreement: the Ayatollah Weighs In.”

  1. Irwin Yablans says:

    So what’s the problem?..If the ayatollah’s demands speak for the Iranian position then come June there will be no agreement.
    Then we will begin to implement our alternate strategy.Heavier sanctions, military strikes,invasion…There will be a menu of options to choose from. You say “you don’t want to criticize anyone for trying to forge a workable deal” but that is exactly what this column and republicans have been doing from the start of these negotiations.
    Why are you all so anxious to see these talks fail before the timeline expires.
    As far as I can tell, the negotiating team can walk when and if our demands are not meant ,This rooting against any possible agreement with the Iranians by the same people that have been so wrong about so much in the middle east is troubling .
    Wether we like it or not Iran IS a “nation state”, powerful in the region made more potent after we neutralized the only buffer,Iraq,with a moronic war. . Let the talks play out,..the alternative is war.

    • Ah, Mr.Yablans is at it again. He sees the essay as “rooting against any possible agreement with the Iranians” and as being “anxious to see these talks fail before the timeline expires.” Of course, the essay makes no such case. It merely focuses on the demands made by the Ayatollah which would seem to be be quite inconsistent with the agreement as presented by Washington, and where we are now compared to where we were when we first entered the negotiations. Were it not for the critics (Republicans and Democrats) one could think we really had a meeting of the minds with the Iranians.

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