The new international deal involving Iran’s nuclear program is both complicated and controversial. Tremendously so, in both respects.
Here’s what President Obama’s team touts as the virtues of the deal, and what the deal’s critics say in response:
Does it open Iran’s nuclear program to verifiable inspections?
What Obama Team Promises: The entire deal is “built on verification.” International monitors will enjoy round-the-clock access to any Iranian nuclear site “when necessary, where necessary.” Cameras for international monitoring also will be on all 24 hours of each day. The number of international inspectors will be allowed to increase (by an unspecified amount).
What Critics Are Warning: Iran has cheated before, repeatedly, and this deal lets them easily cheat again. Any time Iran balks at inspections of a suspect site, it can trigger a process that could take up to 24 days to resolve, before inspectors are allowed in. They can hide all sorts of things in 24 days – and even then, at least four member-countries of an 8-member council would need to agree to force the inspections, in order for them to occur against Iran’s objections. As for the cameras, they won’t be live, but only recorded. As for the inspectors, no Americans will be allowed.
Does the deal effectively limit Iran’s stores of, and ability to process, nuclear weapons-capable fuel?
What Obama Team Promises: Yes, it does. Uranium stockpiles must drop by 98 percent, with its enrichment levels limited to 3.67 percent. A potentially dangerous heavy-water reactor will be converted to a non-weapons-capable facility. And the number of nuclear centrifuges will be cut by two thirds.
What Critics Are Warning: No, it does not. The deal is a direct capitulation to Iran. Obama had promised to eliminate Iran’s uranium enrichment, not just limit it. This deal actually gives Iran access to more – yes, significantly more – natural uranium in exchange for the supposed limits on its enriched fuel. The U.S. heavy-water reactor was supposed to be eliminated, not allowed to continue operating in ways that allow Iran to develop more expertise in such projects. And while limiting the number of centrifuges, the deal effectively lets Iran do more intensive testing of advanced ones.
Does the deal provide an effective enforcement mechanism if Iran violates the accord?
What Obama Team Promises: Yes, it provides for economic sanctions to “snap back” if Iran transgresses.
What Critics Are Warning: There’s very little snap, much less crackle or pop. The sanctions would supposedly return unless the United Nations votes to continue letting them lapse. But even assuming that supporters of sanctions win the day in the U.N., the member nations with clout to enforce the sanctions would need to agree to do so – putting the sanctions at the renewed whims of the domestic politics of numerous nations that in the meantime might have come to rely on Iranian trade.
Even if it all works as planned, is this merely a temporary reprieve from Iran’s nuclear-weapons ambitions, or one that in effect will become permanent?
What Critics Are Warning: The various enrichment restrictions would all expire within 10 to 15 years (different deadlines for different ones). Because of all the other loopholes, this means Iran would be ready to strike within mere months after the restrictions expire.
What Obama Team Promises: This long period of having Iran behave cooperatively will allow it to re-enter the community of lawful nations and, in doing so, stop acting like a threat to world peace. Besides, 10 years is better than none – and do the critics have any better idea?
Speaking of which, how will this affect Iran’s behavior in the meantime, especially its state support for terrorism?
What Obama Team Promises: Without this deal, said Obama, “an Iran armed with a nuclear weapon would be far more destabilizing and far more dangerous to our friends and to the world. Meanwhile, we will maintain our own [separate] sanctions [specifically] related to Iran’s support for terrorism, its ballistic missile program and its human rights violations.” (For instance, Iran will continue to be denied access to American banking, and most American companies would still not be allowed to do direct business in Iran, until and unless it stops aiding terrorists.)
What Critics Are Warning: Iran will now have rapid access to some $150 billion currently frozen in overseas accounts, plus, eventually, many tens of billions of dollars in increased oil revenue – all funds it will be able to use to finance Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist groups. Plus, the deal will allow Iran, after several years, again to openly import conventional arms and ballistic weapons, with which of course it can do even more to support terrorist schemes. Meanwhile, because the civilized world capitulated on so many issues during these negotiations, Iran has learned that bad behavior is not punished but rewarded.
Multiple sources were consulted for this article.