The surprise Nov. 23 agreement reached in Geneva with Iran does little to limit the Islamic republic’s ability to enrich uranium or limit its nuclear breakout capability. For relief from the crippling economic sanctions, Iran promises only to limit centrifuge production; to delay, not dismantle, construction of the Arak plutonium production reactor; and to suspend for six months the enrichment of uranium to 20 percent, near the concentration needed for bomb production.
In this agreement, Iran did not agree to dismantle even one of its more than 19,000 centrifuges. Further, they may keep their current stockpile of low-enriched uranium. With what Iran currently has on hand, the Institute for Science and International Security has estimated that Tehran’s ability to reach a nuclear weapon “breakout point” has shrunk to one month or less. Regretfully, this agreement does little to change that calculus.
There is no limit or cessation of Iran’s work on their multiple-warhead intercontinental ballistic-missile development program, capable of carrying five warheads (three nuclear and two decoys). It is simply not addressed.
Of course, verification that Iran is living up to its promises is key. However, while the frequency of International Atomic Energy Agency inspections has increased, U.N. inspections are limited to just two sites, Fordo and Natanz, where fixed cameras are already installed. U.N. inspectors are denied entry into both Arak and the Parchin military base, where Iran is suspected of having tested nuclear-related explosions. They are also denied access to Iran’s suspected other secret nuclear facilities. With Iran’s continued lack of transparency, the limited verification procedures become suspect. The claim that sanctions can be quickly reimposed if Iran reneges on the agreement is rubbish.
President Obama has presented the agreement as an initial step toward freezing or rolling back Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. It does neither. As long as Iran is permitted to enrich uranium, it will be free to produce as much fissile material as it can. Even if limited to 3.5 percent to 5 percent enriched uranium, this will provide the wherewithal to break out quickly. While both Mr. Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry contend the agreement does not recognize Iran’s right to enrich uranium, they clearly are allowed to continue production. The regime’s lead negotiator, Deputy Foreign Minister Sayed Abbas Araghchi has stated that Iran’s enrichment rights had been recognized by the agreement. Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov quickly backed up Mr. Araghchi’s declaration. The fact is that Iran, as a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, has no inalienable right to enrich uranium. Under the treaty, it is permitted to pursue nuclear power for peaceful purposes, such as energy and medical use. The regime’s claim that it needs a nuclear-power program to provide an alternative energy source is nonsense. Iran’s proven oil reserves are conservatively estimated to last at least another 200 to 300 years. Their gas reserves will add another several hundred years.
If its nuclear-power program is only for peaceful purposes, then why would Iran spend billions of dollars to build underground, reinforced nuclear-infrastructure facilities? Likewise, why would Iran subject itself to crippling economic sanctions if its goal were simply to produce an alternative energy source, which clearly is not needed? Iran’s nuclear infrastructure has but one objective: to produce nuclear weapons.
We can’t keep denying the obvious. With all of Mr. Obama’s domestic issues, why the urgency for this agreement now? Is it a planned distraction so that the deal can be hyped as a key element of his foreign-policy legacy? Actually, it goes much deeper than that. Given the radical background of key administration players involved in these critical negotiations, anything that undercuts U.S. creditability is seen as objectively progressive.
In that sense, Mr. Kerry’s statement that “we are not stupid” is accurate. What we are witnessing is the rollout of a planned agenda that will permit Iran sufficient flexibility to achieve a nuclear-weapons capability. With this agreement, we have succeeded in alienating most of our allies in the Persian Gulf region, as well as our most important ally, Israel. Therefore, it must be concluded that the Obama administration is prepared to accept a nuclear-equipped Iran under the false label of a U.S. “containment” policy. This is mind-boggling.
We must face reality. Iran will continue to be the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism. It has been at war with the United States for more than 34 years and will continue to be. This regime has cost thousands of American lives and countless more injured. Its stated intention — to eliminate our ally Israel and continue war against the United States — must be recognized. The only thing this agreement has accomplished is to provide Iran another six months to perfect its nuclear-weapons program. The Islamic republic is not going to negotiate away its nuclear infrastructure. It can only be eliminated by a military strike. However, this agreement has taken the U.S. military option off the table and has placed the sole burden for eliminating Iran’s nuclear capability on Israel. This is not the way a great power is supposed to behave toward a key ally.
Retired Adm. James A. Lyons was commander in chief of the U.S. Pacific Fleet and senior U.S. military representative to the United Nations.