Some supporters of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), popularly known as the Iranian nuclear deal, argue that it is better to have some inspections in Iran as opposed to none. However, an agreement with Tehran should also take into account long-term consequences. Unfortunately, the JCPOA is an example of myopic thinking that contains serious weaknesses which will morph into future international security problems.
The Iranian nuclear deal has increased the time needed for Tehran to create a nuclear weapon from about two to three months to at least one year with a possible duration of ten years. However, President Barack Obama has acknowledged that Iran’s breakout time will be almost zero after the first decade or so. After the eighth year of the agreement Iran will be able to conduct advanced centrifuge research, and have few limitations on the speed of enrichment after the fifteenth year. Iran will eventually be allowed to produce as much nuclear fuel as desired. President Obama claims that the spread of nuclear weapons in the region has been stopped yet that will only last temporarily.
Clearly, Tehran is accepting restrictions on its nuclear program now in turn for looser restrictions in the future. Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper confirmed at a 2012 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that, “Iran has the scientific, technical and industrial capacity to eventually produce nuclear weapons, making the central issue the political will to do so.” After restrictions are lifted, Tehran will likely restart its nuclear program again.
Iran is the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism – the last thing Tehran needs is a nuclear program that will boost its capability to cause harm. Tehran supports the Assad regime in Syria, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran also supplied roadside bombs that accounted for at least 500 American deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. As stated by Senator John McCain the agreement puts “far too much hope on the belief that somehow the Iranian government will fundamentally change in the next several years. This is delusional and dangerous.” Given Iran’s history of evasions, stonewalling, and illegal procurements Congressman Ed Royce, Chairman, House Committee on Foreign Affairs, has highlighted that, “Iran has cheated on every agreement they’ve signed.” Naturally, American leaders worry that Iran may develop a covert nuclear program.
Tehran would not be able to procure components to develop a nuclear weapon at known nuclear sites since they will be monitored for the duration of the agreement. Iran would have to create new facilities or obtain material from the black market. According to the nuclear deal, inspections of suspicious non-negotiated sites can be granted after an arbitration panel decides whether Tehran must give the International Atomic Energy Agency access within twenty-four days. Depending on the direction, friction, and complexity of discussions, the length of time Iran would have to hide equipment and material could extend well beyond that time period.
Countries near Iran are worried for their safety. Tehran has long desired to dominate the Middle East and now Iran will be able to fund proxy wars with the lifting of sanctions and release of frozen funds, extending its regional influence. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has declared that the agreement threatens Israel’s survival. To prepare for a potential crisis in Iran, Israel welcomes partnerships in offensive cyber-research and operations and Israel and Greece completed a joint training exercise which included Greek combat planes and Israeli jet fighters. Luckily, Souda Bay on the island of Crete is also strategically located in the eastern Mediterranean and its facilities allow for projection of power into the Middle East.
The JCPOA will also spark an arms race with Iran’s neighbors. Saudi Arabia wants to buy 600 new Patriot missile interceptors to support defense missions and promote stability. Many more Middle Eastern allies are expected to arm themselves in response to the Iran deal, likely with the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense that shoots down short, medium, and intermediate ballistic missiles in their terminal phase. In the near future, the lack of restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program may cause Tehran’s neighbors to develop their own nuclear arsenals to counter Iranian nuclear attacks, threats and blackmail.
Security concerns do not stop in the Middle East. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov stated that Moscow and Tehran have ambitious plans for the development of Iranian nuclear power — Russia has helped Iran build and operate nuclear reactors for many years. Russian President Vladimir Putin also voiced expectations for the elimination of the Romanian and Polish sites of the European Phased Adaptive Approach now that Iran’s nuclear program is “regulated.” Russia’s aggressiveness such as its invasion of Ukraine and violation of the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty demonstrates America must persist with the implementation of missile defenses regardless of Moscow’s desires.
After looking at details of the agreement, it is easy to understand why many members of Congress are enraged with the Iranian nuclear deal. America gave so much to Iran to reach a compromise while Iran gave so little in return. Many expected the agreement to require Iran to dismantle its nuclear program and not allow the country to enrich uranium, as President Obama promised in his reelection campaign. It took several years to get the Iranian government’s attention with international sanctions and if Washington was more patient Tehran would have compromised on more issues. The P5+1 countries (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the U.S.) should have increased sanctions or waited longer so negotiations could have begun at a stricter starting point to include getting rid of Iran’s nuclear program and the release of American hostages.
The Iranian nuclear deal will create many security problems. Iran may begin a covert nuclear weapons program and Tehran’s neighbors will purchase more missile defense systems and develop nuclear arsenals to deter against the future nuclear power of Iran. Moscow even expects America to eliminate the European segment of missile defenses which it views as a threat to Russian security. Tehran knows what it is doing: it has chosen temporary restrictions on its nuclear program in turn for looser restrictions in the future.
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