The recently concluded Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action regarding Iran’s nuclear program is indeed historic. Proponents believe that it will prevent an Iranian bomb and make “the world and the region—including Israel—more secure.” Critics think that it is a catastrophe that legitimizes Iran’s nuclear program, shreds global non-proliferation standards, menaces the security of our allies, and emboldens Iranian aggression. Obama administration officials concede that no one “believes it is an ideal solution,” but President Barack Obama maintains that this deal “is our best option by far.” What must proponents believe in order to support this deal?
1. Supporters must believe, as the president does, that the deal would “strengthen the hands of more moderate leaders in Iran.” U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power said that after the deal is signed, “you’ll start to see a shift in Iran’s posture” on Syria. Moderates in Iran, the administration repeatedly asserts, will steer the sanctions relief windfall toward social welfare rather than terrorism. By agreeing to lift the U.N. arms and ballistic missile embargoes, Obama must believe that Iran’s nuclear and terror appetites will wane in just a few short years.
Yet, as Obama admits, “Iran clearly engages in dangerous and destabilizing behavior in different countries across the region,” sponsoring proxies in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Gaza. For further proof of the regime’s fanaticism, see Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s nine-point plan to annihilate Israel that he posted to Twitter. Executions in the country have also increased under President Hassan Rouhani’s government. It appears that an Iranian “moderate” sponsors terror, supports ethnic cleansing, and executes citizens.
2. Advocates must believe that Obama will fight Iranian aggression as if there were no nuclear deal. The administration seems to have realigned its entire Middle East policy to entice Iran to sign the dotted line. In Syria, Obama’s policy is helping Bashar al-Assad stay in power. In Iraq, not only are U.S. forces providing airpower for Iranian-sponsored ground offensives, but they are also sharing a base with Iranian-backed Shiite militias. In Yemen, the administration is grudgingly backing Saudi Arabia’s war yet pressuring the Saudis to end their offensive. In defending the Iran deal, Obama vowed that “Iran will be and should be a regional power.”
Last summer’s conflict in Gaza was a preview of how the Obama administration would likely respond to the next conflagration. The State Department was “appalled” by Israel’s “disgraceful shelling” of a Gazan school used by Hamas, lecturing Israel that it “must do more to meet its own standards and avoid civilian casualties.” Obama even suspended arms shipments to Israel—weeks later, he approved the same Hellfire missiles to the Hezbollah-dominated Lebanese government. In its ceasefire efforts, the administration empowered Hamas’s sponsors, Turkey and Qatar.
3. Enthusiasts must believe the administration can decisively detect and swiftly punish Iranian cheating. The administration expects that the deal’s inspections and constraints will give it the insight and time necessary to make Iran heel. Lamentably, demands for “anytime, anywhere” inspections have become “where necessary, when necessary” after intense Iranian objections.
Obama officials also admit that Iran will likely get away with some cheating. Colin Kahl, national security adviser to Vice President Joe Biden, said that stiff enforcement is “not a credible threat because then they can do a small violation and it puts us in a position where we have to tear the entire arrangement down to punish them for it.” Former Iran negotiator Richard Nephew said that, after the deal is in effect, Iran will have “ongoing, undeclared nuclear activities detected,” including undeclared projects and illicit procurements related to its clandestine weapons program. Moreover, under the deal itself, U.N. sanctions would only be re-imposed after 80 days and would not apply retroactively.
4. Proponents must endorse the concept of preemptive American military action to stop an Iranian nuclear breakout. The president has repeatedly said that sanctions alone will not end Iran’s nuclear program, making it doubtful that renewed economic coercion would do so either. If nuclear-related sanctions took seven years to coax Iran to the negotiating table, then not even the most stringent sanctions could halt Iran’s march to the bomb in less than the deal’s supposed 12-month breakout time, the amount of time it would take Iran to make a bomb if it broke the agreement.
The deal the administration believes averts war only works if the U.S. is willing to go to war to enforce it. Yet the White House has argued opponents present war as the only other option, and the president has said that “a military solution will not fix” Iran’s program. To support this deal, opponents of military action today must become proponents of military action tomorrow to stop an Iranian breakout.
In other words, to support this deal, one must simply believe.