Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Iranian deal: Cause for skepticism, concern and disappointment 
 Sam Yebri    Jewish Journal of Los Angeles  4-8-15

Americans who are Iranian and Jewish cannot help but view the recently announced nuclear understanding between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the P5+1 with skepticism, concern and disappointment.  
First, we are skeptical because there is no “deal.” Nothing was signed in Lausanne, Switzerland, on April 2. There are only two statements: one from the U.S. State Department titled “Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action” and another from the Islamic Republic titled “Iranian Fact Sheet on the Nuclear Negotiations.” The former is in English, the latter is in Farsi, and they do not mirror each other in substance at all. In fact, there are serious and fundamental gaps between the two statements, which are problematic, to say the least. Significant details remain unaddressed, including the pace of sanctions relief, the “process” for surprise inspections and Iran’s advanced nuclear research capabilities. Iranian-American Jews are skeptical because we know the duplicitous and pernicious nature of the Islamic regime firsthand. Look no further than the fact that the Islamic regime lied about every aspect of its nuclear weapons program, built secret fortified underground facilities, violated the non-proliferation treaty and hid its nuclear weapons program for more than two decades.
Second, we are concerned because of the terms of the purported deal. It is a boon for the Islamic Republic. It cannot be disputed that the Islamic Republic agreed to negotiate with the West because years of crippling economic sanctions forced the republic to. Without any credible threat of military force, crippling economic sanctions were the West’s primary leverage, but a powerful one. However, according to the Iranian Fact Sheet (as translated by Harvard’s Belfer Center), “All of the sanctions will be immediately removed after reaching a comprehensive agreement.” Having unfrozen billions of dollars already and now agreeing to lift all U.N. and U.S. sanctions (immediately, according to the Iranians, or in phases, according to the U.S.), the West has lost its leverage, permanently. Those of us who have been active in advocating banking, oil and shipping sanctions understand that they cannot simply be “snapped back” as President Barack Obama insists. Business groups and foreign governments are already negotiating Memorandums of Understanding with the Islamic Republic. As a result, the Islamic Republic stands to gain upward of $250 billion (by some estimates) in sanctions relief during the life of this “deal.”
In light of the duplicitous nature of the Islamic Republic, the P5+1 negotiators appear to be operating under a “trust, then verify” creed, given that the deal does not permanently end or dismantle Iran’s nuclear weapons program.  According to the Iranian Fact Sheet, “None of the nuclear facilities or related activities will be stopped, shut down, or suspended, and Iran’s nuclear activities in all of its facilities including Natanz, Fordow, Isfahan, and Arak will continue.” Not a single centrifuge will be destroyed. Not a single nuclear facility will be shut down — not even the Islamic Republic’s fortified underground facility that it built covertly and illegally at Fordow. 
Even the loudest cheerleaders for this deal concede that, at best, it mothballs the program for 10 years. That assumes the Iranians agree to the terms announced in English by the State Department (big assumption) and it assumes that the Iranians do not violate the deal (dangerous assumption). At worst, the “deal” provides the Islamic Republic with billions upon billions to build nuclear weapons, either immediately in violation of the deal (by simply kicking out the inspectors, which Iranians say have no right to “surprise” inspections) or at liberty under no constraints and without consequence in 10 years. In fact, the most deafening aspect of the Iranian Fact Sheet is in its silence. It makes no reference to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program. There appear to be no Iranian concessions on the most troubling weaponization aspects of the program. 
Finally, we are disappointed that Iran’s dangerous regime is here to stay. That may be disappointing for us Iranian-Americans, but it is tragic for the Iranian people and perilous for Iran’s neighbors. Such a deal guarantees a nuclear arms race in the world’s most volatile region, as the Saudis, Turks and Egyptians soon will race to match the Iranians with a nuclear weapons program. 
The influx of cash, international business and diplomatic legitimacy collectively mean the death knell of any future dissident or Green Revolution. Rather than bankrupt the regime and force it to change its behavior through further economic and diplomatic tools (in the apartheid South Africa model), the West has handed the regime a carte blanche and endless funds to continue to suppress dissent domestically; to butcher women, gays and religious minorities; and to sponsor terrorism against the West. The West effectively will have handcuffed itself from challenging the Islamic Republic on these serious issues, risking threats from Iran that the West has violated the deal.
The regime’s violent suppression of its people and the takeover of four Arab capitals — in Baghdad; Beirut; Damascus, Syria; and Sanaa, Yemen — are taking place with an Iran nearly bankrupt economically and without nuclear weapons. The Islamic Republic’s ambitions — when armed with endless resources and nuclear weapons — is a scary thought, especially for Iran’s archenemies and America’s historic allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia. Even if the deal slows — or, God willing, stops — Iran’s march toward nuclear weapons, history will not judge the negotiations a success when they do nothing to stop the Islamic Republic’s human rights violations, its state sponsorship of terrorism and nuclear proliferation in the Middle East.
Contrary to assertions from the White House, the alternative to these “Parameters of a Joint Plan” was not “war.”  The alternative was — and remains — a better deal that forces the permanent dismantling of Iran’s nuclear weapons program and a change in the behavior of the Islamic Republic before the further lifting of any sanctions or transfer of any assets. It is not too late. Fortunately, we are Americans, and in the finest traditions of American democracy, it is time for a debate.