Is There a Silver Lining in the Iran Deal?
Let us begin by stipulating what seems to be obvious to everybody but John Kerry: The agreement with Iran is a very, very bad deal.
It will certainly allow the Iranians to complete the development of fission weapons (if they don’t already have them -- they’ve had the fissionable material and A.Q. Khan’s design for quite some time now). It will lift all of the sanctions, including the embargo on conventional arms (I thought this was a nuclear deal?). There can be no inspections of Iranian military sites (which was rather the point, wasn’t it?), and access to those sites which Iran claims to be civil will be “managed” by an approvals process running up to 24 days (by which time, what is likely to be left to inspect?). Also, Iran will gain access to 150 billion very fungible dollars, easily used for the care and feeding of terrorists of Tehran’s choice.
That they will continue to choose them is beyond question. As Benjamin Netanyahu noted in a tweet the same day the agreement was signed, Khamenei again threatened to destroy Israel; indeed, as the negotiations were going on, he was leading crowds in shouting, “Marg bar Amrika” (“Death to America”), vowing to tame American “arrogance.”
There is no doubt that the deal greatly strengthens the Khomeinists’ hand. So what do we do now?
Most conservative commentators, and certainly the full array of pro-Israel organizations in the U.S., are gearing up for a full-court press to gain a bipartisan rejection of the agreement after the 60-day review provided in a law pushed through Congress by Senator Robert Corker. Most of the Republican presidential hopefuls have denounced the agreement and vowed to cancel it upon election. AIPAC, in particular, known to be historically very confrontation-averse with regard to the American presidency (with good reason, since only twice before has the organization engaged in such confrontation, with mixed, if not pyrrhic, results), is ready for a showdown with the Obama administration.
A congressional rejection, especially if it was decisively bipartisan, would make repudiation in January 2017 easier, to be sure. But a year and a half after the agreement’s signing, it would have little besides symbolic value. Obama may be many things, but he is not stupid (contrary to a few of the more obtuse pundits on the right), and he has managed to out-maneuver Congress and to snooker Bob Corker.
The 60-day review period for this “executive agreement” (Obama has been very careful not to call it a “treaty,” since he knew it would be rejected out of hand by the Senate) plays directly into the president’s hands. The UN will have approved the agreement long beforehand, and that will be the end of all of the UN resolutions which form the legal underpinning and give any force to the sanctions regime. It will be followed almost immediately by an unseemly rush of European firms into the Persian bazaar to secure lucrative contracts to upgrade all sorts of Iranian capabilities from the mid-1970s to the 21st century in one fell swoop. They aren’t going to give those up again so easily, barring some Iranian action on par with the hostage crisis of 1979.
The United States, in that case, will be diplomatically isolated and embarrassed, and Israel will have spent tremendous amounts of political capital and prestige to accomplish nothing much.
So let’s consider another approach. Let’s look for a silver lining in the very dark cloud of this agreement, in particular a chink in the Iranian armor which (I’m sure) was inadvertent, and overlooked.