Why Congress should vote ‘no’ on Iran

The Washington Post Sunday - - OPINION SUNDAY - BY ERIC EDEL­MAN AND RAY TAKEYH Eric Edel­man, un­der­sec­re­tary of de­fense for pol­icy from 2005 to 2009, is a scholar in res­i­dence at Johns Hop­kins School of Ad­vanced In­ter­na­tional Stud­ies. Ray Takeyh is a se­nior fel­low at the Coun­cil on For­eign Re­la­tions.

Af­ter two years of painstak­ing diplo­macy, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion has fi­nally con­cluded a nu­clear agree­ment with Iran. A care­ful ex­am­i­na­tion of the Joint Com­pre­hen­sive Plan of Ac­tion (JCPOA) re­veals that it con­cedes an en­rich­ment ca­pac­ity that is too large; sunset clauses that are too short; a ver­i­fi­ca­tion regime that is too leaky; and en­force­ment mech­a­nisms that are too sus­pect. No agree­ment is per­fect, but at times the scale of im­per­fec­tion is so great that the ju­di­cious course is to re­ject the deal and rene­go­ti­ate a more strin­gent one. The way for this to hap­pen is for Congress to dis­ap­prove the JCPOA.

Prior to the 2013 in­terim ac­cord, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s po­si­tion rested on rel­a­tively sen­si­ble pre­cepts. The United States in­sisted that, given Iran’s prac­ti­cal needs, it should only have a sym­bolic en­rich­ment pro­gram of a few hun­dred cen­trifuges, and that the Is­lamic re­pub­lic could not be con­sid­ered a mem­ber of the Nu­clear Non-Pro­lif­er­a­tion Treaty (NPT) in good stand­ing un­til it se­cured the trust and con­fi­dence of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity in the peace­ful na­ture of its pro­gram. These were not just U.S. as­pi­ra­tions but also the po­si­tion of mem­bers of the “P5+1” pow­ers — the five U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil mem­bers plus Ger­many.

These pru­dent pa­ram­e­ters were over­taken by a cav­al­cade of con­ces­sions that be­gan in 2013. The ad­min­is­tra­tion soon bran­dished the no­tion of a one-year break­out pe­riod that would al­low Iran to main­tain a sub­stan­tial en­rich­ment ap­pa­ra­tus, in ef­fect aban­don­ing the goal of pre­vent­ing de­vel­op­ment of an Ira­nian nu­clear ca­pa­bil­ity in fa­vor of man­ag­ing its emer­gence. The much her­alded one-year break­out pe­riod will only shrink over time as the JCPOA con­cedes that Iran can be­gin phas­ing out its prim­i­tive cen­trifuges in fa­vor of more ad­vanced ones. Even more trou­ble­some is the agree­ment’s stip­u­la­tion that af­ter its lim­its ex­pire, the “Ira­nian nu­clear pro­gram will be treated in the same man­ner as that of any other non-nu­clear weapon state party to the NPT.” This means that Iran can pro­ceed with the con­struc­tion of an in­dus­trial-sized nu­clear in­fra­struc­ture sim­i­lar to that of Ja­pan. At that time, Iran could easily sprint to the bomb with­out risk­ing timely de­tec­tion.

In the com­ing weeks, the ad­min­is­tra­tion will jus­tify its con­ces­sions by pro­fess­ing that the agree­ment es­tab­lishes an un­prece­dented in­spec­tions regime. The ver­i­fi­ca­tion mea­sures of the JCPOA rely on “man­aged ac­cess” whereby the In­ter­na­tional Atomic Energy Agency has to first of­fer cred­i­ble ev­i­dence of un­to­ward ac­tiv­ity and then ne­go­ti­ate with Iran for timely ac­cess to the sus­pect fa­cil­ity. This cer­tainly falls short of the in­spec­tion modal­ity pledged by Energy Sec­re­tary Ernest Moniz, the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s chief nu­clear physi­cist, who said in April that “we ex­pect to have any­where, any­time ac­cess.” Un­der the cur­rent ar­range­ment, the likely re­sponse to Ira­nian mis­chief will be pro­longed ne­go­ti­a­tions mired in ar­cane de­tail over at least a three-week pe­riod.

In as lit­tle as a few months, Iran will for all in­tents and pur­poses no longer be a sanc­tioned coun­try. Although elab­o­rate and pro­tracted pro­ce­dures are in place for the re-im­po­si­tion of the U.N. Se­cu­rity Coun­cil sanc­tions res­o­lu­tions, the eco­nomic sanc­tions im­posed by the Euro­pean Union and the United States — al­ways the most es­sen­tial ones — will be rolled back quickly and will not be easily re­con­sti­tuted. The Euro­pean oil em­bargo, in­ter­na­tional bank­ing re­stric­tions and ef­forts to seg­re­gate Iran from the global econ­omy will be sus­pended. And the no­tion that U.S. busi­ness will be left out of the com­mer­cial march to Iran be­cause con­gres­sion­ally im­posed U.S. sanc­tions will re­main in place is it­self un­der­mined by a loop­hole in the deal al­low­ing “non-U.S. en­ti­ties that are owned or con­trolled by a U.S. per­son to en­gage in ac­tiv­i­ties with Iran that are con­sis­tent with this JCPOA.”

The JCPOA stands as one of the most tech­no­log­i­cally per­mis­sive arms-con­trol agree­ments in history. All is not lost, how­ever, and with sen­si­ble amend­ments the ac­cord can be strength­ened. The United States should re­turn to the ta­ble and in­sist that af­ter the ex­pi­ra­tion of the sunset clause, the P5+1 and Iran should vote on whether to ex­tend the agree­ment for an ad­di­tional 10 years. A ma­jor­ity vote ev­ery 10 years should de­ter­mine the longevity of the agree­ment, not an ar­bi­trary time-clock. Fur­ther, the JCPOA has use­fully stressed that all of Iran’s spent fuel from its heavy-wa­ter re­ac­tor will be shipped out per­ma­nently. A sim­i­lar step should be taken with Iran’s en­riched ura­nium. The re­vised agree­ment should also limit Iran to the first-gen­er­a­tion cen­trifuges and rely on “any­time, any­where ac­cess.” These and other such mea­sures could help fore­stall an Ira­nian bomb and stem the pro­lif­er­a­tion cas­cade in the Mid­dle East that this agree­ment is likely to trig­ger.

At this late date, the only way that the agree­ment can be re­opened and amended is for Congress to first re­ject it. At that time, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion or its suc­ces­sor can re­turn to the ta­ble and con­fess that given the ab­sence of a bi­par­ti­san foun­da­tion of sup­port in the United States, key pro­vi­sions of the agree­ment have to be re­con­sid­ered. At the end of such a process, the United States may yet be able to ob­tain a vi­able ac­cord that re­li­ably al­ters Iran’s nu­clear tra­jec­tory.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.