The Real Danger of the Iran Deal

“To wage war, three things are necessary: money, money, and yet more money.”

– Gian-Jacopo Trivulzio, marshal of France, 1499

Spoiler Alert: I will now reveal the actual contents of the Obama administration’s proposed agreement with the Tehran regime. Here it is:

In exchange for pretending to halt its nuclear bomb program for one year, Iran will be given the funds it needs to take over Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Afghanistan. Once that is done, the bomb program will be able to proceed on a greatly expanded scale, without credible threat of interference.

It is in this light that the deal needs to be evaluated.

All of the critiques of the deal which point out that its text would allow Iran to develop an atomic bomb ten years from now are true enough, but miss the barn entirely. What matters is not what it says it will allow ten years from now, but how its acceptance will affect the balance of forces between Iran and its opponents one year from now. Because it is the balance of forces, and not the text, that will determine what either side is able to do.

Obama’s agreement has been compared to both the failed North Korean anti-proliferation accords and the Munich Agreement. While there is a superficial resemblance to the North Korean agreements, since they also fecklessly allowed an outlaw nation to develop nuclear weapons, Munich is in fact the much better analogy. The reason for this is that the North Korean regime is bordered on all sides by stronger powers. It is thus contained. There is no credible threat that North Korea can conquer Russia, China, Japan, or even South Korea. The Norks can yell and scream and wave their bombs around, but they are not going anywhere. Iran, on the other hand, is surrounded by weaker powers and is very much on the march. This is why the Munich comparison is so apt.

The problem with the Munich Agreement was not merely that it encouraged Hitler, but that it enabled Hitler. By giving away Czechoslovakia, Chamberlain not only silenced Hitler’s domestic opposition, he threw away 35 Czech divisions and handed the Germans control of the superb Czech armaments industry. Furthermore, he exposed Poland’s entire southern border to Nazi attack, thereby rendering that country indefensible. With Poland thus offered for sacrifice, the Soviets saw no reason why they shouldn’t cut a deal with Hitler and take their share. The stage was thus set for war, and not only war, but war with a Nazi juggernaut that had been greatly empowered.

We face a similar situation today with Iran. As a result of the American withdrawal from Iraq, the decisions of the current administration to use its influence to support the installation of an Iranian proxy regime in Baghdad and to refrain from opposing the Iranian proxy regime in Damascus and its forces in Lebanon, and the planned U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the way is now clear for the establishment of a new Persian Empire stretching from the Mediterranean Sea to the Hindu Kush. The Tehran regime does not need atom bombs to accomplish that goal. But they do need money. By releasing $150 billion within a year, freeing up their oil industry for unlimited exports, and opening up the world market to their purchasing agents, the Obama treaty will give the Iranians the stuff they need to prevail.

But won’t the treaty at least significantly delay Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear arsenal? Not at all. Here is why.

According to the treaty, Iran is being allowed to keep thousands of uranium-separation centrifuges. It doesn’t need to destroy them, just not use them to make bomb-grade material. Now the excuse that Iran needs its own enrichment capability to make reactor fuel (~4% enriched U-235) is clearly false. If all Iran wanted was reactor-grade material, it could easily buy it – at much lower cost than it can make it itself – from Russia or France. So the only purpose of having these centrifuges is to be able to make bomb-grade (~90% enriched) uranium.

Furthermore, the treaty allows Iran to stockpile reactor grade U-235. Once you have that, you have done more than three quarters of the work required to upgrade natural uranium (0.7% enriched) to bomb grade. It is true that the treaty limits Iran’s stockpile of reactor-grade material to 300 kg, and it would take about 600 kg of reactor grade feedstock to produce a bomb. So it might seem that that the Iranians will be kept about 300 kg short of what they need to make a weapon. However, if stored as uranium oxide, that amount of reactor fuel would occupy a volume of one cubic foot, and could easily be hidden in the trunk of a car. The treaty gives Iran 24 days’ notice before any inspection. Kept in the back of a couple of pickup trucks, enough reactor-grade fuel to make a nuclear arsenal could be spirited miles away from suspect location in 24 minutes.

Therefore, under the treaty Iran will be given the funds it needs to achieve strategic dominance over the region, making any effective action against it impossible. Furthermore, its purchases abroad will create a network of corporate vendors who would oppose any suggestion of such action, or even the reimposition of sanctions. While this is going on, Iran will also be using its centrifuges to create a stockpile of reactor-grade material that it will be able to rapidly turn into an atomic arsenal once its position is sufficiently impregnable.

The choice, then, before Congress is as follows: It can agree to Obama’s deal and provide the tribute needed to establish a nuclear-armed fanatical Islamist Persian Empire dominating a region containing 80 percent of the world’s oil reserves. Or, it can reject the deal, and tighten sanctions, with a goal of not only slowing the mullahs march of conquest, but of bringing down the regime and setting its subjects free.

Dr. Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Energy,  a senior fellow with the Center for Security Policy, and the author of Energy Victory. The paperback edition of his latest book, "Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism" was recently published by Encounter Books.