Nuclear deal will not successfully prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon
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[CON] Iranian President Rouhani boasted that when he was Iran’s nuclear negotiator, he bought time for the program with tempo- rary restrictions: “While we were talking with the Europeans in Tehran, we were installing equipment in parts of the facility in Isfahan [the Iranian plant that converts solid uranium to gas for use in enrichment centrifuges], but we still had a long way to go to complete the project. In fact, by creating a calm environment, we were able to complete the work on Isfahan.” In 10-15 years, Iran will be free of sanctions and free to build as many centrifuges as it wants. The administration has traded sanctions relief for temporary restrictions.
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[CON] Iran has a dismal record of compliance with its international obligations. Almost ten years ago, the IAEA Board of Gover- nors found that Iran had violated its safeguards agreement on multiple occasions over an extended period of time. Because the deal does not force Iran to address fully past nuclear weapons activities, there is no reliable baseline for verifying future work. In addition, many of the strongest verification measures in the tentative deal fade away after 20 years, which will leave Iran in a stronger position to cheat.
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A nuclear agreement that verifiably eliminated Iran’s ability to acquire nuclear weapons capability would of course be desirable, although I do not believe that it is achievable. Certainly Tehran has not put anything on the table thus far that comes even close to meeting this standard. The Iranian penchant for pursuing secret nuclear and weaponization programs and admitting to them only after the U.S. finds them does not bode well for full transparency, particularly considering the Iranian conviction that the International Atomic Energy Agency is an espionage network for the West. There is also the question of how to ensure continued Iranian adherence to any agreement in the absence of sanctions. Sanctions have been absolutely essential in bringing the Supreme Leader to the negotiating table at all. Once lifted, they will not be easily or quickly restored. Without the credible threat of the rapid restoration of crippling sanctions, pressure on Tehran to abide by any agreement will be considerably less than the pressure that has been required to bring Iran to the table. Even a deal could only work, then, if the Iranians really undergo a fundamental change of heart on the nuclear issue—something for which there is no evidence whatever to suggest.
In his press conference on Wednesday, President Obama said that his deal with Iran is the best outcome that could be achieved. History proves otherwise. Unlike past successful non-proliferation efforts with respect to states seeking nuclear weapons, this deal moves Iran further down the path toward obtaining a nuclear weapon. Indeed, the deal actually recognizes Iran’s "right" to enrich uranium and Iran will keep at least five thousand nuclear centrifuges spinning into the future. Six previous United Nations Security Council Resolutions stated the opposite. Iran flouted those resolutions and is now being rewarded for its clandestine and illegal nuclear enrichment activity.
When South Africa, for example, ended its nuclear weapons program in 1992, it not only dismantled its weapons stockpile, the country completely shut down its entire nuclear weapons program under IAEA supervision. When Libya came clean on its weapons of mass destruction program, it turned over every scrap of illegal material and dismantled its weapons making infrastructure. Not so here. Iran will keep the Fordow bunker “for nuclear research.” It will keep its Arak reactor (albeit, modified) and all other illicit sites it developed to build an atom bomb. South Africa and Libya were non-proliferation success stories. This Iran deal is not.
Third, if Tehran does agree to a deal that permits enrichment, it might violate the deal’s terms by quietly continuing to pursue a nuclear weapons breakout capability. Iran’s leaders would like to have sanctions relief and nuclear weapons too. At present, the U.S. government and the international community are laser-focused on Iran, but once the United States formally declares an end to the Iranian nuclear crisis, its gaze will wander. Relations will be nor- malized, trade will resume, and global leaders will forget about Iran and start worrying about other issues. Iran may calculate that it would be difficult for the United States to rally support for new international sanctions if Iran cheats on its agreements. In the ab- sence of renewed international pressure, the United States would be forced to consider a military option to stop Iran from building the bomb.
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[CON] No, the parameters do not prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons over the long term. Iran is allowed to retain too much nuclear infrastructure and the restrictions do not last long enough. The limits on Iran’s enrichment program taper off after 10 years and are completely removed after 15 years. If it is unacceptable for Iran to have a large scale enrichment program now, why would it be permissible a decade or so from now? How could the U.S. have any confidence that the nature of the Iranian regime and its interest in acquiring nuclear weapons–which goes back 30 years–will change in 10 years? In addition, the verification provisions are not strong enough, especially provisions requiring Iran to fully account for past weaponization activities.
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[CON] No, even if breakout is detected, the international community might not be able to reach agreement quickly enough to stop Iran. A greater cushion is needed. Moreover, these calculations apply only to Iran’s known facilities, but most experts believe that a far more likely path to nuclear weapons would be use of secret facilities. That is why verification provisions–including understanding past weapons work, accounting of current centri- fuge inventories, imposing tight restrictions on procurement of nuclear materials and equipment, and ensuring access to suspect sites–are so important. Under the tentative agreement, these extra verification provisions are not permanent, meaning that it will be easier for Iran to construct secret nuclear facilities in the future, once physical restraints have been lifted.