Unravel the Deal

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What is to be done about Obama’s Iran “deal”? We could, fatalistically, lament the collapse of American foreign policy. We could, indignantly, gnash our teeth in frustration at the current administration. We could, constructively, work to secure congressional review of the deal and urge presidential candidates to commit to altering or abrogating it.

Or we can stop it now.

How? The best chance is to prevent a final deal from being signed on June 30. And the best way to do that is to spend the next 80 days pulling on the loose threads and poking at the fraying parts of the framework announced last week in Lausanne. Those loose threads are the ambiguities, those fraying parts are the uncertainties, in what was agreed to. Those ambiguities and uncertainties are there to obscure concessions the Obama administration made to get Iranian acquiescence, concessions that the administration knew it couldn’t sell at home. Can a final deal be achieved if the American public and Congress insist on clarity rather than ambiguity?

Perhaps not. We have the Obama administration saying Iran agreed not to operate advanced centrifuges, and the Iranians saying they will begin operating them the day after a deal is signed. We have the Obama administration saying sanctions can snap back, and the Iranians saying they’ll be gone once and for all the very day the deal is signed. We have the Obama administration saying there will be a strict inspections and verification regime, and the Iranians saying there won’t be anytime/anywhere inspections. We have the Obama administration trying to reassure us that it won concessions on the underground site at Fordow and the heavy-water reactor at Arak (and, indirectly, on the military testing site at Parchin), and the Iranians boasting they’ve given up nothing serious with respect to any of them. We have the Obama administration reassuring us that Israel will be fine—but saying that it’s crazy to ask the Iranian regime to recognize Israel’s right to exist.

It’s hard to see Barack Obama or John Kerry ever walking away from a deal. But it might be possible to put enough pressure on Obama and Kerry that they would have to clarify various aspects of the deal in ways that might cause Iran’s supreme leader to decide it’s not worth it. Khamenei thinks we’re the Great Satan. We can take a cue from this. We can find devilish details to highlight. We can heighten the contradictions, exacerbate the tensions, make unacceptable the ambiguities, and thus tempt the Iranians to decide to walk away.

All other fronts of opposition should be pursued as well. The case against the deal should be made comprehensively, emphasizing the nature of the Iranian regime, the overall impact of this deal on the Middle East, the ways the deal will make war more likely. But the best prospect for victory is to stop the deal before it happens. The three months until the planned final signing ceremony are an opportunity for disrupting, and indeed derailing, the deal.

Members of Congress have a major role to play. Let them by all means advance the Corker-Menendez bill to ensure a congressional vote on a deal if there is one. But let them also try to prevent a deal. Why not simple pieces of legislation that say: No closing of the underground site at Fordow (which President Obama himself said was unnecessary for a peaceful nuclear program), no deal. No anywhere/anytime inspections, no deal. No sanctions that remain for at least the first couple of years, no deal. No cessation of support for terror, no deal. No visit by a congressional delegation, accompanied by impartial experts and scientists, to Fordow and Parchin, no deal. No recognition of Israel, no deal.

As to why the deal should never be allowed to come into existence, don’t take our word for it. Read the devastating analysis published on April 8 in the Wall Street Journal by Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, perhaps the first time in modern American history that two former secretaries of state—and distinguished ones at that—have come out against an agreement negotiated by a president with a foreign country.

And read the powerful article by the liberal Israeli journalist Ari Shavit in the left-wing newspaper Ha’aretz on April 9. Since American readers are less likely to have seen this piece, let me quote some key paragraphs:

Since the Lausanne deal was announced a week ago, it has provoked innumerable worrisome questions. Why is there no similarity between the Farsi and English versions of the text? Why do the Iranians insist that the sanctions will be lifted immediately and that they will be able to continue enriching uranium in high quantities and developing advanced centrifuges without restrictions?

Why, even according to the American version, will the Iranians be able to keep an underground nuclear facility at Fordo and a nuclear reactor at Arak? Why, even according to the American version, is it not clear whether the fissionable material (approximately 10 tons) will be leaving Iran and whether international inspectors will have free access to every site in the country?

And what’s supposed to happen 10 years from now? Don’t we want to live after 2025? Doesn’t the Lausanne deal pave the way for a nightmarish not-so-distant future in which Iran is nuclear, the Middle East is nuclear and the world order collapses?

Shavit continues:

The next 80 days are critical. History is watching us all closely. Where did we stand, what did we say and what did we do when the most important decision of our time was made? There will be no forgiveness for our mistakes. There will be no pardon for weakness, apathy or pettiness. 

It’s wonderful, in politics, to be able to say “Yes,” to seek to achieve positive things, to pass legislation, to ratify treaties, to take a step forward arm-in-arm with others into the broad, sunlit uplands of peace and prosperity. But there are times when the greatest contribution one can make is to strongly and decisively say “No,” in order to prevent disaster and a descent into the abyss. This too is statesmanship. This too can be a political movement’s duty, and a democracy’s finest hour.

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The Foreign Policy Initiative seeks to promote an active U.S. foreign policy committed to robust support for democratic allies, human rights, a strong American military equipped to meet the challenges of the 21st century, and strengthening America’s global economic competitiveness.
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