July 14 marked one year since the Iranian regime and six world powers (P5 +1) reached the historic and controversial nuclear accords, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), begging the question as to whether the world is a safer and more stable place.
President Obama, his administration, and the majority of the Democratic Party presented the accords as the only viable solution to cutting off “every pathway to a nuclear weapon.” However, many foreign policy experts and even legislators who signed onto it, despite having reservations, argue that the accords effectively pave the path to attaining a nuclear weapon, merely providing a legal and legitimate framework within which they can achieve this.
One year in, the Iranian regime has seen some improvement on the financial side, having struck multibillion dollar contracts with France-based Airbus and U.S.-based Boeing.
According to Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD), Iran’s economy grew by 0.7% during the past year and is projected to grow by 3.7% over the next. Further, he points out that inflation is at 8%, down from 80% in 2013, and the Iranian currency stabilized, culminating with an output of hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil a day.
A portion of the regime’s financial success, however, is undoubtedly going towards funding its menacing endeavors in the region, like financing Hezbollah, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – guardians of the Iranian revolution – and Houthi rebels in Yemen, further fueling civil unrest in the region.
Although the Iranian regime presents itself as a leader in the fight against the Islamic State (Daesh), it is largely responsible for the group’s rise and the sectarian violence that has resulted from this. Furthermore, Iran is directly responsible for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s survival.
Throughout the past year, it appears as though Iran has lived up to its end of the agreement: shutting down thousands of centrifuges used for the enrichment of uranium, disabling a heavy-water reactor and exporting its nuclear stockpile.
Yet, under the JCPOA, uranium enrichment research and development activities are permitted to take place exclusively at the Natanz facility at no more than 5,060 centrifuges for the next eight years, and the Parchin and other facilities that are “off-limits” to inspectors are locations where the regime had previously developed its nuclear program. Many speculate that “cheating” could be in the works, some suggesting Iran might already have the bomb.
Throughout it all, Iran continues to be one of the worst abusers of human rights, left unchecked. Only China carries out more executions than Iran. The “Middle Kingdom” has 1.3 billion more people in it.
Following the deal’s passage, President Obama conceded that Iran’s “breakout time” — the amount of time it would take for it to make enough highly enriched uranium to create a nuclear bomb — “would have shrunk almost down to zero.” The deal expires in 10 to 15 years. The regime has continued to pursue both long and short-range ballistic missiles, its sole purpose to deliver a nuclear warhead.
“I respect the President, and I didn’t oppose the deal, but I didn’t think it was ‘a good deal,'” former Vermont governor and former chairman of the U.S. Democratic National Committee Howard Dean told Breitbart News during a conference on the future of the Middle East in Paris this past weekend. “I think we did give away a lot more than we needed to, and I think the Iranians are the largest state-sponsors of terrorism in the world.” While Dean did not oppose the deal, he acknowledged both its pluses and minuses, noting, “I think we’re not going to know, for a few years, whether the deal makes any sense or not. Interestingly, I think the President’s reputation — as a good or not so good president — will depend on what happens with that deal.”
The accords have become a trying testament to President Obama’s embattled legacy. And with the regime threatening to exit the agreement in the midst of firing ballistic missiles, violating international doctrines, remaining the leading state-sponsor of terrorism and suffering one of the worst human rights records in the world, the Obama administration is clinging to the prospect of Iran’s so-called “moderate” President Hassan Rouhani’s success as a critical facet of the JCPOA’s survival.
Barbara Slavin of the Atlantic Council points out that “Rouhani remains the most popular political figure in Iran but less admired than he was a year ago, according to the recent IranPoll.com survey. More ominously, his controversial predecessor Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – who is planning to challenge Rouhani in presidential elections next year — is seeing a rise in popular support.”
As the Associated Press (AP) reported on Wednesday, Rouhani said that if the P5+1 don’t live up to their end of the agreement, the Islamic Republic could reinstate nuclear activities and elements that were terminated as part of the deal.
Secretary of State John Kerry said during Bastille Day celebrations in Paris Thursday that the JCPOA has “made the world safer, lived up to its expectations and thus far produced an ability to create a peaceful nuclear program with Iran.” However, he also noted that “there are always potential for hiccups, for a moment of questioning about one component or another.”
Former Pentagon official and president and CEO of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Michael Makovsky, provided details about some of those “hiccups” in the July 16 edition of The Weekly Standard.
He said the “JCPOA is Tehran’s redoubled radicalism” and that “Rouhani and his colleagues continue to demonstrate just how hardline they all are.” He added:
Last week, Rouhani bragged that the JCPOA “was the cheapest way to achieve Iran’s goals and interests,” including “liberating Palestine.” He also noted that “in seven years, Iran can begin R&D and production of advanced centrifuges that are 25 times faster than existing ones.”
Further, “within 14 years, all meaningful restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program fall away, freeing it to pursue a robust nuclear weapons capability, legally and legitimately. The JCPOA doesn’t cut off Iran’s pathway to nuclear weapons, but paves it.”
While the United States came to the negotiating table from a place of strength and the Iranian regime, from a position of weakness, that dynamic quickly shifted, culminating with the enumerate concessions granted. Now, strapped with more cash than ever, the likelihood of any fundamental change seems to grow more distant with each passing day.
Follow Adelle Nazarian on Twitter @AdelleNaz.