By Sal Bommarito
The furor about an impending Iran nuclear deal continues to grow. President Obama is lobbying Americans to gain their support for his “outline.” He even summoned one of his primary apologists, Tom Friedman of the New York Times, to the White House for a chat about the deal. He wrote a follow-up article after his meeting with the president. Click here to get Friedman’s take on the controversy.
There are many things about the negotiations with Iran that are suspicious and should cause any experienced negotiator to be skeptical. One is related to the negotiating strategy of the U.S. From my vantage point, the U.S. has most of the bargaining chips, yet it appears that American negotiators have been too quick to capitulate to Iranian demands. One could reasonably ask whether this is about American security or Obama’s legacy.
A most important factor should be the state of Iran’s economy. It is in free fall because of United Nations and U.S. sanctions coupled with a significant decline in oil prices. Waiting or stalling would increase the pressure on Iran as its citizens experience the sting of economic turmoil.
When one party in a negotiation has such a powerful advantage, he must capitalize on it. Instead, the U.S. indicated it would end sanctions relating to the nuclear issue, which would increase Iran’s revenues. With more cash flow, it will surely accelerate its nuclear program and supplement its reign of terror in the Middle East. Perhaps, the president should look back at Ronald Reagan’s dealings with the Soviet Union. He successfully implemented a strategy that virtually bankrupted Russian thereby ending the Cold War.
The negotiations have been one-sided. Iran gets to keep its nuclear infrastructure and too much enriched uranium, which will enable it to produce a weapon in ten years, or earlier if Iran violates the terms of a treaty. The U.S. receives a “theoretical” delay of one year in the ability of Iran to build a nuclear weapon. [I wonder how the hell that calculation was made.] Additionally, Iran is supposedly giving inspectors unfettered access to its nuclear operations to ensure compliance to a treaty. We all know hour cooperative Iran has been over the years in this regard.
The U.S. has important allies in the Middle East that have been disappointed too often. The Iran deal has made the group even more reticent about the Obama administration. A nuclear deal with our most despised enemy in the region is being negotiated as our friends, such as Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Israel and the Gulf States object.
It is doubtful that a treaty will stop Iran from moving forward with a plan to build a nuclear weapon. So, other Middle East countries will surely insist on a similar right to initiate a nuclear program. The Iran deal will be the impetus for a regional arms race, a phenomenon that will make the area that much more unstable.
Some facts about Iran are indisputable. It hates America. In fact, its ayatollahs are regularly leading chants of “Death to America.” Iran similarly despises Sunnis and non-Muslims, as compared to ISIS, which abhors Shiites, non-Muslims and non-Arabs. Iran continually supports terrorist groups that have destabilized Sunni regimes. Yemen is the latest insurgency sponsored by Iran. Israel insists that a nuclear Iran is an existential threat to its survival. There should be no doubt about this given that Iranian leaders have said they want to obliterate the State of Israel. And so the big questions are why would the U.S. engage our mortal enemy, and for a nuclear weapon, no less? And, what does Obama expect to gain from this adventure?
And then, there is the critical issue of Iran’s compliance with the terms of the treaty. Most people are not comforted by Obama’s assurances that the U.S. can or will stop Iran anytime in the future from building a nuclear weapon. He said the U.S. spends $600 billion on defense each year while Iran spends only $30 billion. So, why should Americans or Sunni Arabs worry?
This bluster is meaningless unless Iran is convinced that the U.S. will actually enforce the treaty. Previous “lines in the sand” drawn by Obama have been empty threats (consider Syria). It is highly unlikely that Obama will dispatch bombers to Iran if it violates the treaty. Once Iran has a nuke, it will be too late and the region will be permanently destabilized.
Unlike many other situations, the U.S. has options. A better tactic would be to stall and allow financial events to destroy the Iranian economy. Another is for Obama to caucus with Congress to test his decisions before signing a treaty. I, for one, would feel much safer if Congress endorses his plan given its current level of skepticism. I do not believe the president should take such an important step without more eyes on the deal. After all, it’s a nuclear weapon we are talking about.