Iran’s Victory Lap

When shouting “Death to America” gets billions of dollars flowing into your coffers.

Iran’s rulers are laughing all the way to the bank as they contemplate the many billions of dollars that will soon begin to flow into their coffers. When not shouting “Death to America” and “Death to Israel,” they are also laughing at us for being out-maneuvered by Iran’s negotiators on every one of their key demands.

“The structure of the sanctions that the US had built based on the UN Security Council’s resolutions was destroyed,” Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told a meeting of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations in Tehran on August 3rd, according to the “semi-official” Fars news agency. “And like the 1990s, when no other country complied with the US sanctions against Iran, no one will accept the return of the sanctions (in the future).”

Zarif is right. Once the sanctions relief genie is out of the bottle, it will be impossible to re-impose international sanctions on any meaningful scale. In addition to Russia and China, the European countries thirsting to do business with Iran will become so heavily invested in Iran’s economy that they will almost certainly not agree to any “snap-back” of UN or European Union sanctions.

Iran will be free to use its windfall to fund its vast global terrorist network. A “senior official” in the Obama administration admitted as much when, as quoted in The Times of Israel, he said on August 4th that the United States never regarded the issues of Iran’s sponsoring of terrorism and its calls for Israel’s destruction to be part of the negotiation of the nuclear deal. He said that “our approach is always to compartmentalize and deal with the nuclear issue, because we see it as the most important threat and the one that we can address through the P5+1 [U.S., United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and Germany] negotiations. But we’re not going to address those other areas of Iranian behavior.”

Compartmentalizing means effectively handing over hundreds of billions of dollars through practicably irreversible sanctions relief to the world’s largest state sponsor of terror, no questions asked. Compartmentalizing also means allowing three American hostages to continue languishing in Iranian prison cells, while a fourth American is unaccounted for. President Obama himself said that insisting on the immediate release of these hostages, including a pastor and a journalist, might have mucked up the negotiations. The “issues are not connected,” he said. Besides, Obama claimed, “if the question is why we did not tie the negotiations to their release, think about the logic that that creates. Suddenly, Iran realizes, you know what, maybe we can get additional concessions out of the Americans by holding these individuals…”

Now, as a result of Obama’s feckless negotiating strategy, we have the worst of both worlds. Following Obama’s decision not to tie the negotiations to the hostages’ release, the hostages remain in Iranian jails. Yet Iran got even more concessions as the negotiations reached the finish line.

Unlike the Obama administration and its P5+1 negotiating partners, the Iranian negotiators compartmentalized the negotiations, limiting discussions solely to nuclear-related issues, only when it suited their needs. And they refused to compartmentalize, when refusing to do so suited their needs. Thus, Iran would not entertain any discussion of its armed support for various non-state jihadist groups. It also rejected linking the release of the American hostages to the completion of the nuclear deal. However, Iran insisted very late in the negotiations that the UN Security Council embargo on Iran’s purchase and sale of conventional arms and the embargo on Iran’s missile purchases, sales and development be lifted unconditionally.

Obama caved. Lifting the conventional weapons embargo should have nothing at all to do with a deal concerning Iran’s nuclear enrichment, research and development program, if compartmentalization were truly the negotiating principle applicable to both sides. Yet Obama agreed to a formula that would lift the arms embargo unconditionally in no more than 5 years and the missile embargo in no more than 8 years.

In an effort to try and justify this unconscionable concession, Secretary of State John Kerry claimed that keeping the arms embargo in place at all was a “victory.” He told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that Iran had “a very legitimate argument” for lifting the UN embargo immediately. The rationale is that all the relevant Security Council resolution purportedly required for lifting the embargo was that Iran enter into the nuclear negotiations, which they did. Either Kerry did not read Security Council Resolution 1747 (2007) dealing with the arms and missile embargoes or he deliberately misrepresented what the resolution said.

The 2007 arms embargo resolution refers to a requirement set forth in prior Security Council Resolution 1737 (2006), which stated that “Iran shall without further delay suspend…all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, to be verified by the IAEA.” The 2007 arms embargo resolution further stated unequivocally that the Security Council “shall suspend the implementation of measures if and for so long as Iran suspends all enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, as verified by the IAEA, to allow for negotiations in good faith in order to reach an early and mutually acceptable outcome.”

In other words, Iran’s suspension of all of its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities, including research and development, is a precondition for the suspension of the Security Council arms embargo and missile embargo that are still in place. Simply agreeing to negotiate and to reduce the number of centrifuges still spinning is not enough. Iran has not suspended all of its enrichment-related and reprocessing activities. They don’t have to now, because the Obama administration agreed, along with its negotiating partners, to no longer require Iran to completely suspend such activities.

“After 12 years of struggling with the Islamic republic, the result is that they have to bear the turning of thousands of centrifuges in the country,” Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei said, referring to the United States and its P5+1 negotiating partners.

It gets even worse. Iran’s leaders are exploiting Kerry’s publicly stated understanding of the legitimacy of Iran’s position that it is entitled to immediate relief from the arms embargo just for showing up at the negotiating table. They are not even willing to wait the 5 years for the unconditional lifting of the arms embargo and 8 years for the lifting of the missile embargo that Kerry had characterized as a “victory” for the Obama administration.

Iran’s deputy foreign minister and nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said recently that Iran would “buy weapons from wherever possible” and “provide weapons to whomever and whenever it considers appropriate.” Last Saturday he said that Iran would continue providing weapons to Hezbollah, Iran’s terrorist proxy operating in Lebanon and Syria with its jihadists also planted in various countries around the world.

Javad Zarif, Iran’s smooth talking foreign minister who outfoxed Secretary of State John Kerry at every turn, insisted that any restrictions on Iran’s missile program set forth in the Security Council resolution were “non-binding.”

In short, Iran banked the last minute concession offered by the Obama administration on the conventional arms and missile embargoes and then twisted the concession around to assert – with a nod from Kerry – that they are now entitled to do whatever they want with regard to conventional arms and missiles.   

Essentially, all that we have gotten in return is Iran’s commitment to delay for no more than 15 years its capacity to build nuclear bombs with virtually no break-out time. The verification system to be implemented in the meantime is full of loopholes. And even if Iran decides not to jump start its ballistic missile program immediately, including through purchases from North Korea, Iran will be free after 8 years of any requirement for Security Council approval in order to procure items, materials, goods and technology that could contribute to the development of nuclear weapon delivery systems.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s boast on Twitter back in January 2014 is even more on point today: “world powers surrendered to Iranian nation’s will.”