The P5+1 powers have, as expected, reached a “framework agreement” on a nuclear deal with Iran. And, as suspected, the agreement allows Iran to retain its enrichment facility at an underground bunker. It also allows Iran to maintain a small amount of enriched uranium, and will offer the regime sanctions relief as soon as it can show it is keeping its end of the bargain. As to information about possible military dimensions of Iran’s program, there is nothing but an agreement to talk further.
The deal is a near-complete capitulation by President Barack Obama. It has one redeeming feature: Iran has agreed to dismantle the heavy water nuclear reactor at Arak. Secretary of State John Kerry obtained a few other concessions, and the administration’s apologists are pointing to the fact that there are several pages of details as if that makes the whole process worthwhile. Obama taunted his critics, saying that a deal was surely better than war, which he suggested was the only alternative.
But the question at stake is not whether there will be war with Iran. There already is. Iran’s Houthi proxies ousted a government in Yemen that had provided the most important foundation for Obama’s policy of attacking Al Qaeda terrorists who threaten the United States. The Iranians are also propping up Bashar al-Assad in Syria, whom the Obama administration is at least theoretically committed to deposing. And though it is fighting ISIS in Iraq, Iran is taking over what the U.S. once defended.
The question, simply, is not whether there will be war, but whether Iran will be able to obtain a nuclear weapon. And while President Obama promised Thursday that the framework agreement closes off all paths to a bomb, that is simply not true. Iran maintains a significant amount of control over international inspections. It has been forgiven for its past cheating, and allowed to maintain significant nuclear assets. And it may have other secret nuclear facilities, including military ones yet unknown.
The negotiations took place as if in a vacuum, separate from the role Iran is playing in the region—as if its ongoing “non-negotiable” pledges to destroy Israel did not matter, as if Iran were not supervising the slaughter of innocents in Syria, or trying to bomb an embassy in Uruguay. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned against the deal until the last moment, then greeted news of the agreement by describing it as “detached from wretched reality.” Many in the region will likely agree.
There is only one way to close off Iran’s path to a bomb, and that is to depose the regime. The region wants them gone. The Iranian people want them gone. And the mullahs nearly were gone, six years ago. But Obama preserved them by refusing to intervene on behalf of the pro-democracy movement. He preserved the Ayatollahs for this moment, for the gesture of a grand bargain. The Iran deal is Munich II—though the Israelis, at least, will refuse to play the role of the Czechoslovakians.