It has been hard to keep up with the cascade of U.S. concessions in the negotiations with Iran, because there has been no natural stopping point. If you think virtually any deal is better than no deal, you need to keep making the concessions necessary to get it. If you have allowed Iran to get within a few months of a bomb and think extending the breakout period a few more months is a good deal, the concessions have to come. If you think a one-sided détente with Iran is strategic brilliance, you are less troubled by the concessions than by the fact that — if you don’t make them — your brilliant strategy will fail. We await the details of the coming deal, but the larger picture was made clear in the Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing last week, in the following exchange between Chairman Bob Corker and Ray Takeyh, Senior Fellow for Middle East Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations:
TAKEYH: … [T]he primary priority of [Iran] today is the projection of power in the Middle East. The Islamic Ali Khamenei is the most successful imperialist in the history of modern Iran. The Shah never had control of the Iraqi state … He never was a material player in Syria … Previously Iranian regimes were never main players in Lebanon … And of course in the Persian Gulf, the battered alliances of the United States make that particular sub-region a bit more susceptible to Iranian subversion. Imperialism is financially costly. The [Iranian] economy of 2013 could not have sustained the imperial surge Iran that has embarked upon … [T]his agreement enables both consolidation of power at home, the imperial surge in the region, as well as establishes a pathway for industrialization, upon which they can decide whether they have a nuclear weapon or not.
CORKER: So if I could paraphrase you … it allows them to meet their short term goals of consolidation …
TAKEYH: It allows them to exploit remarkable opportunities that they have in the region.
CORKER: … and still reach their longer-term goals of being a nuclear threshold country within a short amount of time.
TAKEYH: Yes, sir.
In his prepared testimony, Takeyh stated that while Iran has sustained its essential red lines, the U.S. has “systematically abandoned the sensible prohibitions that have long guided its policy,” and that the “impending agreement, whose duration is time-limited and sets the stage for the industrialization of Iran’s enrichment capacity, places Tehran inches away from the bomb.”
In the same hearing, David Albright, President of the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS), told the committee that the deal will establish “a new norm” – one that “legitimizes uranium enrichment despite the lack of need for the enriched uranium and a history of non-compliance and non-cooperation with the IAEA.” And good luck trying to inspect Iran’s military complex at Parchin, the suspected site of previous high-explosive testing linked to nuclear weapons development — assuming the U.S. doesn’t concede that, too. Here is what Albright told the committee about Parchin:
Since the IAEA asked to visit this site in early 2012, Iran has reconstructed much of it, making IAEA verification efforts all but impossible. Tehran has undertaken at this site what looks to most observers as a blatant effort to defeat IAEA verification. Because of such extensive modifications, the IAEA, once allowed access, may not be able to resolve all its concerns. Thus, access to Parchin alone is no longer sufficient to resolve the issues underlying the IAEA’s original request to access this site.
Albright told the committee that his organization has been calculating breakout timelines for many years in collaboration with centrifuge experts at the University of Virginia, and that for the prospective agreement with Iran, the administration’s estimate is too optimistic: “Our timelines [at ISIS] are less than 12 months.”
So, after all the concessions; after trashing UN resolutions that prohibit Iran’s nuclear program and substituting a UN resolution that permits it; after giving the Iranian regime the financial resources to consolidate its rule at home and its expansion abroad; after approving an industrial-grade nuclear program with early relief from sanctions; after agreeing to a sunset provision that will eliminate the key provisions of the agreement; after leaving Iran’s ballistic missile program and terror-sponsoring activities off the table and completely unaffected; and after destroying the respect for American leadership in Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other U.S. allies (not only in the region, but in those watching from other areas of the world as well), the real breakout time is not even going to be a year.