The United States has led negotiations since 2003 to stop Iran from building nuclear weapons. A nuclear Iran, whose Muslim theocratic leaders have advocated an anti-Western concept of world order for 35 years, would have profound consequences for global nonproliferation policy and the stability of the Middle East. In 2003 came the revelation Iran had been secretly constructing a uranium-enrichment facility at Natanz and a heavy-water reactor at Arak. As former secretaries of state Henry A. Kissinger and George P. Schultz state in a December 8 Wall Street Journal opinion piece, “The heart of the problem is Iran’s construction of a massive nuclear infrastructure and stockpile of enriched uranium far out of proportion to any plausible civilian energy production rationale.”
These seasoned diplomats are sympathetic with the Obama administration’s attempt to reach a non-nuclear Iran status through diplomacy, but warn, “The record of this decade-plus negotiating effort combines steadily advancing Iranian nuclear capability with gradually receding international demands.” This sounds much like the atmosphere of the 1930s that resulted in the naïve Munich Agreement of September 30, 1938. British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain proclaimed “Peace for our time,” when the pact only gave Britain time to rearm for the inevitable confrontation with Hitler. This time, the six-month interim agreement reached on November 24 by the U.S. and six allies (Britain, Germany, France, Russia and China) with Iran’s puppet duo of Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and so-called moderate, newly elected President Hasan Rouhani, appears to allow Iran to exhale from under the crushing weight of effective economic sanctions and hoodwink the West by limiting its uranium enrichment program to 5 percent. However, everyone knows that percentage can be quickly escalated in a few months to produce weapons-grade material.
An Iranian insider has articulated what Obama should know. While the West and Zarif/Rouhani are “elated” over the interim agreement, “there is another Iran, where government officials are generally unsmiling and Twitter is banned. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and his Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps rule this land, not Mr. Zarif or his nominal boss, President Hasan Rouhani. It is in this Islamic Republic where the results of President Obama’s nuclear diplomacy will be tested.”
The Kayhan newspaper is the Iranian news outlet that most closely reflects the views of the supreme leader and the country’s hard-line establishment. The editor of Kayhan, Hossein Shariatmadari is directly appointed by Khamenei. Payam Fazlinejad, a Kayhan writer and senior researcher and lieutenant of Mr. Shariatmadari’s, spoke with Sohrab Ahmari, a Wall Street Journal editor, at the end of November. Fazlinejad’s reading of the Geneva agreement mixes triumphalism and hard-nosed skepticism: “We need to be able to have an accurate view of what occurred and then assess it against the positions of the supreme leader and his guidance. But as a general matter, if the right to enrich is accepted, which it has been, then everything that we have wanted has been realized.”
Iranian hard-liners not at the negotiating table insist the Islamic Republic has a right to enrich uranium up to 99 percent. They further insist the six-month deal and the final agreement still to come must “take into account that the supreme leader’s support for the negotiations and agreement has been conditional and by no means absolute. The leader instructed us that if the rights of the Iranian nation and the principles of the revolution are respected and the negotiating team stands up to the overbearing demands of the United States and the global arrogance, then he would support their work. On the other hand, if the agreement denies Iran’s absolute right to enrich, then it is from our view essentially void.”
Fazlinejad warns against perceiving any diplomatic agreement over Iran’s nuclear program as a first step toward broader rapprochement between Washington and Iran: “The nature of the opposition of the Islamic revolution with the regime of liberal democracy is fundamentally philosophical. It’s an ideological difference. It is not a tactical enmity, or one that has to do with temporary interests, which can be shifted and the enmity thus done away with…. So in contrast to all the punditry of late in the international media, which says that these negotiations are a step toward peace between Iran and the United States – those who take this view are completely mistaken.”
That doesn’t sound like fertile fodder for halting Iran’s nuclear weapons program through diplomacy. Iran’s theocratic militants have vowed jihad against the capitalist order – plain and simple. They desire to destroy Israel and create a Shiite empire in the Middle East. This is the greatest threat to the Sunni Arab world and why Israel and Saudi Arabia have become, for the first time, partners in a shared interest. Israel is a nuclear power and the Saudis have the money to become one. Both may strike if American rapprochement allows Iran to gain the position of a nuclear threshold power.
It is realistic to believe there are two options here – containment of Iran’s imperial ambitions or war. If diplomacy is to succeed, it may be wise for Obama and his six allies to remember Ronald Reagan’s pointers on how to negotiate effectively. Remember, it took Reagan seven-years to reach the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty with Mikhail Gorbachev on December 8, 1987, that eliminated around 1,500 Soviet nuclear weapons aimed at Western Europe. First, be realistic; no rose-colored glasses. Recognize opportunities when they are there, but stay close to reality. Second, be strong and don’t be afraid to up the ante. Indeed, strengthen, not weaken, economic sanctions against Iran. Third, develop your agenda. Know what you want so you don’t wind up negotiating from the other side’s agenda. It seems the Geneva interim agreement plays into Iran’s hands by permitting uranium enrichment to 5 percent instead of demanding no enrichment. What is not well known, is the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, including Russia and China, have offered Iran, since 2003, to put forward programs of technical assistance and nuclear fuel for a verifiably civilian Iranian nuclear program. Fourth, on this basis, engage. And remember: The guy who is anxious for a deal will get his head handed to him. Unfortunately, Obama was/is anxious for a deal, not only to shift attention from the bumbling of Obamacare, but to regain faith from allies that he can exert American power in the Middle East and East Asia and reverse the perceived policy of U.S. retreat all over the world.
Former Sen. Sam Nunn, currently CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, said on November 11: “An agreement with Iran that allows us to test and verify Iran’s claim it has no intention of producing nuclear weapons is absolutely essential.” Kissinger and Schultz further state, “if Iran has no intention of producing nuclear weapons, then Tehran should cease all uranium enrichment and immediately allow international inspections for verification. Nuclear materials for power and research facilities are readily available and have been offered to Iran for such purposes for years.” The two have a fall back position that sanctions will be lifted when an existing Iranian enrichment facility can supply what is needed for purely civilian use and all other enrichment facilities and the heavy-water reactor in Iran are destroyed under international inspection.”
Such containment is the only solution, short of war. It may be a cliché, but Reagan, Kissinger and Schultz hold this to be true: Trust by verify –“The preservation of the global nuclear nonproliferation regime and the avoidance of a Middle East nuclear arms race hang in the balance.”