The historic agreement signed by the P5+1 and the government of Iran marks a turning point in America’s relations with the world. It reverses the momentum of nearly fifteen years of constant warfare and puts us on a path to peace.
In terms of our relations in the Middle East, the agreement means the United States government has finally decided to pursue an independent foreign policy: Washington is no longer taking its marching orders from Tel Aviv. The Vienna accord is, in effect, our declaration of independence – and it came not a moment too soon.
As the Obama administration packs up shop in Washington, and the reform regime of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani weathers attacks from Iranian hardliners, the window of opportunity was beginning to close: this was the last chance for peace in the Middle East.
The more than one hundred pages of the agreement outline an accord rich in technical complexity – which none of its critics have had time or inclination to examine. That hasn’t stopped them from denouncing it as a “bad deal,” and a “sell out,” echoing Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu almost word for word. Practically frothing at the mouth, presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) said the deal is “akin to declaring war on Israel.”
Graham is right that war has been declared, but he has the aggressor all wrong: it is Israel that has declared war on the United States. This conflict has been ongoing for many months: we have seen it played out in the headlines, from Joe Biden’s ambush in Jerusalem to Bibi’s and John Boehner’s ambush of the President in going behind the White House’s back to arrange the Prime Minister’s speech to a joint session of Congress. Now, finally, an American President has said “Enough!” – and fired back. From all indications, he’s scored a direct hit.
So what’s in the Vienna accord?
The key provisions are the verification procedures described in the agreement, and these are virtually foolproof. The “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” calls for:
“[A] long-term IAEA presence in Iran; IAEA monitoring of uranium ore concentrate produced by Iran from all uranium ore concentrate plants for 25 years; containment and surveillance of centrifuge rotors and bellows for 20 years; use of IAEA approved and certified modern technologies including on-line enrichment measurement and electronic seals; and a reliable mechanism to ensure speedy resolution of IAEA access concerns for 15 years.”
What’s not to like? IAEA inspectors will be on the scene: if the Iranians try to cheat, they’ll be caught in no time at all.
What about the sanctions issue? All sanctions are being lifted – but only after the IAEA verifies that Iran has held to its side of the bargain (See points 18 and 19 of the Plan of Action).
The two essential elements of any Iranian nuclear weapons program have been effectively nullified by this agreement.
First, in order to create a nuclear weapon Tehran would require highly enriched uranium. In signing the deal, the Iranians have agreed to reduce their stockpile of uranium by 98 percent. In addition, they’ve agreed to not go over an enrichment of 3.67 percent, far below the level required to produce a workable weapon.
Secondly, the Iranians would need a large number of sophisticated centrifuges in order to produce that highly enriched uranium. Under the terms of the deal, Tehran has agreed to reduce the number of centrifuges from almost 20,000 to 6,104 of the most outmoded models, a restriction put in place for a decade.
IAEA inspectors will have access to all Iranian nuclear facilities and any Iranian military base where there is reason to suspect illicit activities: in case of a disagreement between the parties on access, a mediation board has been set up, and its decisions are final.
The Arak nuclear reactor is being dismantled and rebuilt in accordance with the requirements set forth in the Plan of Action: once this process is completed under international supervision it will be impossible for that reactor to produce weapons-grade material.
As for the Fordow nuclear facility, Iran will “refrain from any uranium enrichment and uranium enrichment R&D and from keeping any nuclear material” at this site.
In short, all possible paths to an Iranian nuclear weapon have been blocked. Since any violation will be quickly detected, and given that the alternative is almost certainly the rapid development of an Iranian nuclear arsenal, there is no reason for any rational person to oppose this agreement.
The problem, however, is that its opponents aren’t rational people – they’re Israeli sock-puppets who, for reasons of their own, are determined to sabotage the deal no matter what. They oppose it precisely because it is practically foolproof, and we can see this in the text of the Plan of Action itself:
“Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons…
“Successful implementation of this JCPOA will enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the relevant articles of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in line with its obligations therein, and the Iranian nuclear programme will be treated in the same manner as that of any other non-nuclear-weapon state party to the NPT…
“The E3/EU+3 and Iran acknowledge that the NPT remains the cornerstone of the nuclear non-proliferation regime and the essential foundation for the pursuit of nuclear disarmament and for the peaceful uses of nuclear energy.”
Note the legal framework upon which the agreement rests: the Nonproliferation Treaty, signed by 191 nations. Only four United Nations member states have refrained from becoming a party to this foundational treaty: Pakistan, India, Sudan – and Israel. The Vienna agreement underscores Israel’s outlaw status in the nuclear realm: Tel Aviv’s defiance stands in stark contrast to Tehran’s willingness to come in from the cold and join the community of nations in opposing the spread of nuclear weapons. From this point on, tremendous pressure will be brought to bear on the Israelis to come clean and agree to a similarly foolproof regime – which they will never do.
This is the real reason for Israel’s adamant opposition to the deal: their desire to maintain nuclear hegemony in the region. Now that Iran’s nuclear program has been brought to heel by international pressure, the Israelis are afraid that international pressure on them to do the same will commence. They are right to be afraid, just as the rest of the world is right to be afraid of the fact that Netanyahu’s finger is on the nuclear button: he could vaporize Tehran with a single command.
This is where the real danger of war – nuclear war – is situated: in Tel Aviv, not Tehran. And that horrific fact was brought home in Netanyahu’s furious response to the news out of Vienna: “Israel is not bound by this deal with Iran, because Iran continues to seek our destruction. We will always defend ourselves.” Buttressing this thinly-disguised threat, the Washington Post reported Bibi’s hard-line coalition partner Naftali Bennett’s response: “‘Israel will defend itself,’ Bennett warned, vowing that military action is still an option for the Jewish State.”
And Israel’s war against America has a nonmilitary aspect, as well, with Israel’s deputy foreign minister Tzipi Hotovely declaring: “The State of Israel will employ all diplomatic means to prevent confirmation of the agreement.”
Yet the Israel lobby, weakened after a series of defeats, hasn’t got the votes in Congress to overturn the Vienna deal. Congress has 60 days to review the agreement, and you can bet they’ll be making a lot of noise in those two deafening months, but this time Israel’s American fifth column has been checkmated – and that marks another seismic shift.
Years ago, when Patrick J. Buchanan described Congress as “Israeli-occupied territory,” he was right on the mark: these days, however, it’s quite a different story. The Israel lobby’s unreasonableness, its dogmatic shrillness, and the viciousness with which it pursues its perceived enemies has created a backlash that has ultimately proved to be their undoing. Their hubris has undermined their legendary power – along with the objective fact that US and Israeli interests have diverged. All their tantrums and threats will come to naught, because in the end the American people don’t want to go to war with Iran – and certainly not in order to please Israel’s partisans.
With a single blow, President Obama has neutralized the threat of war with Iran that has been hanging over us for years – and obliterated Israel’s death-grip on our Middle East policy as well as our domestic politics. For that he deserves more than a mere Nobel Prize.
NOTES IN THE MARGIN
You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.
I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).
You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.