Contributor Post Created with Sketch. Deal With the Devil

 

The short version of the interim deal just struck between the P5+1 countries and Iran is this: Iran gave away almost nothing, got a major financial payoff, and will retain its entire nuclear infrastructure. The US got a check mark on Obama’s legacy ledger, under the column Stuff I Did That Looks Reasonably Good If You’re Myopic Or Uninterested But In Fact Conceals a Seething Cauldron of Awful That Will Probably Not Affect Me Personally, Since I Will Be Out of Office When the Full Magnitude of This Failure Becomes Manifest.

The US also got a new entry in the ever-increasing list of Things John Kerry Has Accomplished, If That’s the Word, of Which He Is Unaccountably Proud.

Here’s a crib sheet on the details of the deal.

On the one side:

  • Iran is not required to halt uranium enrichment.
  • Iran remains in control of all its existing centrifuges.
  • Iran is not required to dismantle its heavy water reactor in Arak.
  • Sanctions against Iran have been eased significantly: $8.5-10 billion in Iranian assets will be released by the US, and sanctions will be lifted on the export of auto parts, gold and precious metals, and aircraft spare parts. Several banks will also be exempted from financial sanctions.

On the other side:

  • Iran has to suspend 20% uranium enrichment for six months and neutralize its stockpile. Uranium enrichment in Iran will be limited to 5%.
  • During that six-month period, Iran will not produce, install, or activate any new centrifuges, and “construction activities” in the Arak reactor will also be suspended.
  • Iran has to allow the IAEA access to its nuclear facilities.

Omri Ceren of the Israel Project points out that President Obama’s goal for this six-month interim period was supposedly to prevent the Iranians from advancing their nuclear program. According to Orde Kittrie, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, this deal — which, if it were to have any teeth at all, would have had to “include stronger provisions relating to enrichment, Iran’s heavy water reactor at Arak, and Iran’s research into nuclear weapons design” — “falls far short of what the President set as the goal of this phase-one deal.” Iran will almost certainly be closer to a uranium bomb at the end of the six months, and according to Omri, they could be closer to a plutonium bomb.

In an extensively sourced email to press, Omri pointed out that the deal is assymetrical: the Iranian concessions are reversible while the American concessions are not:

Iranian concessions are reversible

 – Iran reported won’t be forced to dismantle their centrifuges, such that at the end of six months they can just turn them back on. Even the conversion of 20% enriched uranium to oxide can be easily reconverted to uranium hexafluoride and enriched from there. The only way to put it beyond use is to actually irradiate the stock, but Iran doesn’t have the capacity to do that, even if the regime wanted to. Instead the stock will sit there waiting to be reconverted (link). Danielle Pletka, Vice President of Foreign and Defense Policy Studies at American Enterprise Institute, has assed that “every single step is reversible, every single step will have no meaningful impact on Iran’s capacity to produce a nuclear weapon within weeks or months” (link).U.S. concessions are irreversible – Most straightforwardly, Iran will get to pocket the financial relief they get, using it to stabilize the Iranian economy, bolster its nuclear program, and fund its global terror network. The more significant danger, however, is that chipping away at the sanctions regime completely shatters it. FDD executive director Mark Dubowitz was briefed a few weeks ago by the White House specifically on the question of whether U.S. concessions would be reversible, and he nonetheless assessed that the broad contours of proposed deals “totally eviscerates the sanctions regime” (link). There are multiple scenarios for how limited sanctions relief causes a downward spiral that irreversibly and substantially erodes the regime. The most immediate fear is that major powers and corporations will engage in a feeding frenzy: no one wants to be left behind as Iran’s market opens up, and so everyone tries to get in first. Brookings Institute fellow Michael Doran yesterday pointed to evidence that such a downward spiral was already beginning, with Paris looking to reopen a trade-related attaché office in Tehran next year (link).

Some Iranian concessions are irrelevant to the Phase 1 deal – For example, Iran will reportedly consent to a more aggressive inspection regime during the interim period. More inspections, however, are irrelevant to the central question of whether, six months from now, Iran is closer or farther from a nuclear weapon. With limited exceptions – scenarios for a test run “ruse” at Arak – analysts’ concerns are focused on what Iran will be in a position to do six months from now, not that it will cheat during the interim phase.

As to local response: Israel is disgusted that the Americans caved so completely and abysmally, and are making noises about rethinking the American-Israeli relationship. (They can’t, really, but there’s a growing chorus that wishes they could.) The Iranian mullahs, meanwhile, haven’t felt this beautiful since 1979, and are crowing that their “right” to enrich uranium has now formally been recognized. 

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  1. Israel P. Inactive

    There is no question that, if no one interferes, this will end Iran’s quest for a bomb. Like breaking the tape ends a race.

    I’m wondering how much the 2014 US elections will play into Netanyahu’s calculations.

    Does Obama figure that if we (Israel) have to attack before those elections, it will create enough of a mess that he will benefit electorally? Will vulnerable Republicans and marginal hopefuls be hoping that Netanyahu waits until after the elections to strike? Would he do that? Can he afford to?

    Will Obama’s friends in Teheran try to provoke Netanyahu to do something before the elections to help Obama? Was this payback baked into the cake?

    (I’m thinking about the politics rather than the military questions. At least I more or less understand the politics.)

    • #1
    • November 24, 2013, at 4:36 AM PST
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  2. Israel P. Inactive

    Oh, and Judith, I’m not so sure about the title. Both sides of the deal are on the Devil’s side.

    • #2
    • November 24, 2013, at 4:38 AM PST
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  3. Nick Stuart Inactive

    John Kerry is smiling. What else could matter?

    • #3
    • November 24, 2013, at 6:20 AM PST
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  4. Tom Davis Member
    Tom DavisJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    It appears that Mr. Obama is trying to change the subject from Obamacare, Census Office lies, etc.

    • #4
    • November 24, 2013, at 6:52 AM PST
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  5. Israel P. Inactive
    Tom Davis: It appears that Mr. Obama is trying to change the subject from Obamacare, Census Office lies, etc. · 0 minutes ago

    That may explain the timing, but not the substance. This was on his agenda all along, with exactly this result.

    • #5
    • November 24, 2013, at 6:54 AM PST
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  6. Flapjack Member
    Israel P.
    Tom Davis: It appears that Mr. Obama is trying to change the subject from Obamacare, Census Office lies, etc. · 0 minutes ago

    That may explain the timing, but not the substance. This was on his agenda all along, with exactly this result. · 30 minutes ago

    Indeed, but the time was right to “wag the dog.”

    • #6
    • November 24, 2013, at 7:28 AM PST
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  7. Zafar Member

    I just read a Haaretz article which calls it a reasonably good deal for Israel, given real options.

    http://tinyurl.com/kejhvxv

    “Netanyahu says the deal he has criticized so much indicates the United States, United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany are deluding themselves, but he is doing the same thing. The prime minister’s comments about the Iran deal are a mix of spin, partial information and assessments based on nothing but wishful thinking. The “good deal” Netanyahu is talking about is one in which Iran gives in on more. But the most likely place for that to happen is in Netanyahu’s imagination. The idea that with a little bit more pressure Iran would wake up one morning and announce it was dismantling the last of its centrifuges is not realistic.”

    ///

    In your opinion, to what else should Iran have committed, and what could Israel/the West have realistically given Iran as part of a bargain which would have been valuable enough to motivate them?

    [article behind paywall, so I don’t know how easy it is to access. otoh haaretz is an excellent paper, well worth paying for.]

    • #7
    • November 24, 2013, at 7:34 AM PST
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  8. BrentB67 Inactive

    Israel P, I don’t think this factors in the 2014 US election. In the short run I think our elections are almost solely focused on domestic policy. 

    What was Saudi Arabia’s participation in this, if any?

    • #8
    • November 24, 2013, at 7:38 AM PST
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  9. Crow's Nest Inactive

    Ruinous naivety. I expect an IAEA media charade to move forward in Iran, while substantively the Iranian enrichment effort continues apace.

    Standby for a Saudi announcement in the days to come.

    • #9
    • November 24, 2013, at 7:40 AM PST
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  10. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Judith Levy, Ed.

    On the other side:

    • Iran has to suspend 20% uranium enrichment for six months and neutralize its stockpile. Uranium enrichment in Iran will be limited to 5%.
    • During that six-month period, Iran will not produce, install, or activate any new centrifuges, and “construction activities” in the Arak reactor will also be suspended.
    • Iran has to allow the IAEA access to its nuclear facilities….

    Do we understand what happens after the “six months”? Is that just the time it takes for the “neutralization” to occur? After that Iran just commits to 5% enrichment, “period“? (Oh, that word will never mean what it used to now, will it.) Also, inspections I guess.

    Wonder if someone can dial up a Saudi Arabian representative and get his (don’t need to say, “his/hers“, do I?) take on this arrangement.

    • #10
    • November 24, 2013, at 7:42 AM PST
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  11. The Mugwump Inactive
    Israel P.: I’m wondering how much the 2014 US elections will play into Netanyahu’s calculations.

    Given that an Iranian bomb would be an existential threat to Israel, my bet is that Netanyahu orders a strike based on the military necessity to truncate or delay the Iranian nuclear program. A discussion within Israeli intelligence has already determined a hard line beyond which the Iranians will not be allowed to proceed. The exact time and date for such an attack will be decided by conditions on the ground.

    The problem is aggravated by the understanding within Israel that President Obama simply can’t be trusted. It doesn’t seem likely that Mr. Netanyahu would give the U.S. advanced warning. But the U.S. will get drawn into the conflict as soon as the Iranians attempt to close the Strait of Hormuz. The question then becomes who else gets drawn into the conflict. The Arab states of the Persian Gulf? Probably. As VDH often says, sometimes the choices are between bad and worse.

     

    • #11
    • November 24, 2013, at 7:50 AM PST
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  12. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Judith Levy, Ed.

    …stitute, has assed that “every single step is reversible, every single step will have no meaningful impact on Iran’s capacity to produce a nuclear weapon within weeks or months” (link)…

    Some Iranian concessions are irrelevant to the Phase 1 deal

     – For example, Iran will reportedly consent to a more aggressive inspection regime during the interim period. More inspections, however, are irrelevant to the central question of whether, six months from now, Iran is closer or farther from a nuclear weapon. With limited exceptions – scenarios for a test run “ruse” at Arak – analysts’ concerns are focused on what Iran will be in a position to do six months from now, not that it will cheat during the interim phase.

    I don’t quite understand how Iran can be much further along towards a nuclear weapon in six-, or even sixty-months, than it is now, if it doesn’t have increased stocks of highly enriched uranium or plutonium, which presumably are foreclosed if this agreement is honored. As far as designing the bomb, they have had over a decade of preparation so, I would imagine, they must have all the parts and design in place, no?

    • #12
    • November 24, 2013, at 7:51 AM PST
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  13. Manfred Arcane Inactive

    PS. To follow up my previous comment, one area where they can enhance their nuclear weapon capability while this regime is in place – is in the delivery mechanism. In particular, they have a ways to go fully develop ballistic missiles for delivery of such weapons beyond Israel, (sorry, but they can reach Israel with what they have now, I think), to Europe first, then the US.

    Also, they may be wanting to advance their ability to miniaturize nuclear weapons. Smaller weapon makes weaponizing missiles easier (sadly makes putting it on a ship and sailing it into an Israeli harbor that much easier also – I am sorry to have to say that. But works the same for US harbors also, I hasten to add.)

    • #13
    • November 24, 2013, at 8:00 AM PST
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  14. Stan Hjerleid Inactive

    Iran smiling all the way to the bank.

    • #14
    • November 24, 2013, at 8:06 AM PST
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  15. BrentB67 Inactive
    Manfred Arcane: Alright, I am feeling really diabolical this morning, so let me try and conceive a scenario where Israel can turn the tables here.

    Wonder, (yes, this is before my morning constitutional of caffeine) would it make sense for Israel to go to Saudi Arabia and make it the following offer::::

    “Recognize our state (Israel) and we (Israel) will help you to develop a nuclear deterrence against Iran (bomb and missiles both) – without the US having any say in the matter. We will further aid you in developing a nuclear power industry.”

    Before you become entirely scandalized by this suggestion, note that there are software fixes that might be conceived to prevent the missiles from ever being pointed at Israel…guidance components, for example.

    … well, kind of radical, I agree…Still, Saudi’s will get nukes (yes?) if Western obstruction to this Iranian program keeps going south, so maybe “dance with the devil you know, rather than the one you don’t know.” · in 4 minutes

    I would not be shocked to find out that conversation has already happened.

    • #15
    • November 24, 2013, at 8:07 AM PST
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  16. Manfred Arcane Inactive

    Alright, I am feeling really diabolical this morning, so let me try and conceive a scenario where Israel can turn the tables here.

    Wonder, (yes, this is before my morning constitutional of caffeine) would it make sense for Israel to go to Saudi Arabia and make it the following offer::::

    “Recognize our state (Israel) and we (Israel) will help you to develop a nuclear deterrence against Iran (bomb and missiles both) – without the US having any say in the matter. We will further aid you in developing a nuclear power industry.”

    Before you become entirely scandalized by this suggestion, note that there are software fixes that might be conceived to prevent the missiles from ever being pointed at Israel…guidance components, for example.

    … well, kind of radical, I agree…Still, Saudi’s will get nukes (yes?) if Western obstruction to this Iranian program keeps going south, so maybe “dance with the devil you know, rather than the one you don’t know.”

    • #16
    • November 24, 2013, at 8:11 AM PST
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  17. Zafar Member

    And Iran is attacking Saudi why?

    • #17
    • November 24, 2013, at 8:27 AM PST
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  18. KC Mulville Inactive

    I’m trying to decide which side has the least credibility.

    • #18
    • November 24, 2013, at 8:39 AM PST
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  19. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Zafar: And Iran is attacking Saudi why? · 14 minutes ago

    don’t ask me, ask the saudiis

    • #19
    • November 24, 2013, at 8:42 AM PST
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  20. KC Mulville Inactive

    Uh oh – scary thought.

    End of filibuster + controversial deal. No, the one has nothing to do with the other, does it? 

    Where was Valerie Jarrett born? (Answer: Iran.)

    • #20
    • November 24, 2013, at 8:47 AM PST
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  21. Richard Fulmer Member
    Zafar: And Iran is attacking Saudi why?
    1. Iran is Shiite, Saudi Arabia is Sunni. 2. Iran seeks Middle Eastern hegemony.3. Iranian control of Saudi oil would enhance its power in the world.
    • #21
    • November 24, 2013, at 8:59 AM PST
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  22. Israel P. Inactive
    Manfred Arcane: Alright, I am feeling really diabolical this morning, so let me try and conceive a scenario where Israel can turn the tables here.

    Wonder, (yes, this is before my morning constitutional of caffeine) would it make sense for Israel to go to Saudi Arabia and make it the following offer::::

    “Recognize our state (Israel) and we (Israel) will help you to develop a nuclear deterrence against Iran (bomb and missiles both) – without the US having any say in the matter. We will further aid you in developing a nuclear power industry.”

    Before you become entirely scandalized by this suggestion, note that there are software fixes that might be conceived to prevent the missiles from ever being pointed at Israel…guidance components, for example.

    … well, kind of radical, I agree…Still, Saudi’s will get nukes (yes?) if Western obstruction to this Iranian program keeps going south, so maybe “dance with the devil you know, rather than the one you don’t know.” · 49 minutes ago

    Saudi Arabia will get its bomb from Pakistan. Probably waiting in a warehouse somewhere.

    • #22
    • November 24, 2013, at 9:04 AM PST
    • Like
  23. Scott Abel Inactive
    Israel P.: There is no question that, if no one interferes, this will end Iran’s quest for a bomb. Like breaking the tape ends a race.

    I’m wondering how much the 2014 US elections will play into Netanyahu’s calculations.

    Does Obama figure that if we (Israel) have to attack before those elections, it will create enough of a mess that he will benefit electorally? Will vulnerable Republicans and marginal hopefuls be hoping that Netanyahu waits until after the elections to strike? Would he do that? Can he afford to?

    Will Obama’s friends in Teheran try to provoke Netanyahu to do something before the elections to help Obama? Was this payback baked into the cake?

    (I’m thinking about the politics rather than the military questions. At least I more or less understand the politics.) · 4 hours ago

    Edited 4 hours ago

    If the Israelis time a strike by the American election calendar, they are insane. Politics is local.

    • #23
    • November 24, 2013, at 9:14 AM PST
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  24. BrentB67 Inactive
    KC Mulville: I’m trying to decide which side has the least credibility. · 35 minutes ago

    The referee aka The United Nations/IAEA

    • #24
    • November 24, 2013, at 9:15 AM PST
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  25. Manfred Arcane Inactive

    That rumor is going the rounds, but right now, it is just that, no?

    Israel P.
    Manfred Arcane: Alright, I am feeling really diabolical this morning, so let me try and conceive a scenario where Israel can turn the tables here.

    Wonder, (yes, this is before my morning constitutional of caffeine) would it make sense for Israel to go to Saudi Arabia and make it the following offer::::

    “Recognize our state (Israel) and we (Israel) will help you to develop a nuclear deterrence against Iran (bomb and missiles both) – without the US having any say in the matter. We will further aid you in developing a nuclear power industry.”

    Before you become entirely scandalized by this suggestion, note that there are software fixes that might be conceived to prevent the missiles from ever being pointed at Israel…guidance components, for example.

    … well, kind of radical, I agree…Still, Saudi’s will get nukes (yes?) if Western obstruction to this Iranian program keeps going south, so maybe “dance with the devil you know, rather than the one you don’t know.” · 49 minutes ago

    Saudi Arabia will get its bomb from Pakistan. Probably waiting in a warehouse somewhere. · 15 minutes ago

    • #25
    • November 24, 2013, at 9:21 AM PST
    • Like
  26. Manfred Arcane Inactive
    Israel P.: There is no question that, if no one interferes, this will end Iran’s quest for a bomb. Like breaking the tape ends a race.

    ???

    Am I reading this correctly? You think that Iran is forsaking it’s quest for the bomb?

    • #26
    • November 24, 2013, at 9:24 AM PST
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  27. Tom Meyer, Common Citizen Contributor

    You know, there’s a parallel universe where I could say:

    Judith, you’re reading this all wrong. I’m sure the administration is just playing nice at the negotiating table to give the Iranians a false sense of security while we sharpen our knives and prepare to go for the jugular.

    But, like I said, that’s a parallel universe.

    • #27
    • November 24, 2013, at 9:30 AM PST
    • Like
  28. Israel P. Inactive
    Manfred Arcane
    Israel P.: There is no question that, if no one interferes, this will end Iran’s quest for a bomb. Like breaking the tape ends a race.

    ???

    Am I reading this correctly? You think that Iran is forsaking it’s quest for the bomb? · 12 minutes ago

    Once it has one – now a foregone conclusion – it will no longer need a quest.

    And another thing. People have to challenge the supporters of this deal to go on record regarding what would be considered failure.

    • #28
    • November 24, 2013, at 9:39 AM PST
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  29. raycon and lindacon Inactive

    Strong evidence that the world has learned nothing since 1939.

    • #29
    • November 24, 2013, at 9:43 AM PST
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  30. Manfred Arcane Inactive

    So you believe that Iran is going to “break out” after a time, using this event to just sabotage the sanctions regime? Or is there another motive?

    Israel P.
    Manfred Arcane
    Israel P.: There is no question that, if no one interferes, this will end Iran’s quest for a bomb. Like breaking the tape ends a race.

    ???

    Am I reading this correctly? You think that Iran is forsaking it’s quest for the bomb? · 12 minutes ago

    Once it has one – now a foregone conclusion – it will no longer need a quest.

    And another thing. People have to challenge the supporters of this deal to go on record regarding what would be considered failure. · 6 minutes ago

    • #30
    • November 24, 2013, at 9:48 AM PST
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