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Herbert London: What We Will Do For A Deal

Supreme Leader of Iran Ali Khamenei publicly rejected a key component of the nuclear deal when he said: “We don’t accept a 10 year restriction” on the development of nuclear weapons. Moreover, he noted, “all economic, financial, and banking sanctions implemented either by the United Nations Security Council, the United States Congress or the administration, must be lifted immediately when the deal is signed.” Both of these unequivocal statements clearly challenge understandings in the framework.

In addition, the Iranian parliament approved legislation that bans international inspectors’ access to military sites and scientists in any final deal. Secretary of State John Kerry indicated the United States was not concerned with Iran’s past nuclear work. Based on statements of this kind, it would appear as if the U.S. is bending over backwards to consummate some arrangement, but don’t call it a treaty.

However, it is not only concessionary statements that are made. According to a report in Bloomberg View, the U.S. military is sharing a base in Iraq with Iranian backed Shiite militias, militias that have killed American soldiers in the past. American and Iranian cooperation in the war against ISIL has been reported on several occasions, but the sharing of a base means U.S. operations could be compromised by militia spies.

The militias are led by Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, a Hezbollah official closely associated with Quds force head, QassemSuleimani, who is believed to have planned the bombings of the U.S. and French embassies in Kuwait in the 1980’s. To make matters even more contradictory, the Iranian backed militias have been fighting to support Assad in Syria, even though the Obama administration has formally stated Assad has lost legitimacy and must step down to make way for a political transition.

Is it any wonder that former Sunni Allies are perplexed about U.S. policy perspectives? The effort to accommodate Iran suggests a direction that has altered confidence among many Sunni leaders in the Middle East. From their perspective, the U.S. appears to be breathlessly at work to create a deal, any deal as a legacy for President Obama.

There was a recent report that the U.S. is willing to build nuclear facilities in Iran assuming, of course, they are not built to manufacture weapons. But how would we know? Secretary Kerry made reference to “absolute intelligence” about Iranian practices, a point vehemently denied by those with access to Intelligence files.

What is not in question – in fact has never been in question since negotiations began – is the flexibility of the U.S. negotiating team. At this point, the U.S. is prepared to add “incentives” to the deal in the form of technology transfer. The U.S. has used its resources to assist Iranian troops in Iraq and Syria. Secretary Kerry has continued to assert Iranian compliance with the framework despite clear denials from the Supreme Leader. The Secretary has maintained a desire to lift sanctions, assuming he can obtain some concession from the Iranian side.

President Obama has locked himself into an unenviable position. If this arrangement fails, Iran will pursue weapons development unless we deploy military means to stop it. If this deal succeeds, we will sanction an Iran with nuclear weapons, buying some inestimable time for breakout at a price of $100 billion and a loss of influence in the region. Since the goal at the outset was a deal, it is hardly fortuitous that the president is in this Procrustean bed. How he gets out may be a question for the ages.

Herbert London is President of the London Center for Policy Research, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book The Transformational Decade (University Press of America). You can read all of Herb London’s commentaries at www.londoncenter.org

 The views expressed by commentators are solely those of the authors. They do not necessarily reflect the views of this station or its management.

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