The above headline is a paraphrase of Winston Churchill’s memorable words warning against appeasement during WWII. The parallels to the situation today are hard to ignore after the Western allies P5+1 group signed a deal last night with the Iranians to relax sanctions in exchange for the Iranians halting their nuclear program.
First, here is the (unauthorized) text of “the Joint Plan of Action” via Fars News:
Halting the Progress of Iran’s Program and Rolling Back Key Elements
Iran has committed to halt enrichment above 5%:
· Halt all enrichment above 5% and dismantle the technical connections required to enrich above 5%.
Iran has committed to neutralize its stockpile of near-20% uranium:
· Dilute below 5% or convert to a form not suitable for further enrichment its entire stockpile of near-20% enriched uranium before the end of the initial phase.
Iran has committed to halt progress on its enrichment capacity:
· Not install additional centrifuges of any type.
· Not install or use any next-generation centrifuges to enrich uranium.
· Leave inoperable roughly half of installed centrifuges at Natanz and three-quarters of installed centrifuges at Fordow, so they cannot be used to enrich uranium.
· Limit its centrifuge production to those needed to replace damaged machines, so Iran cannot use the six months to stockpile centrifuges.
· Not construct additional enrichment facilities.
Iran has committed to halt progress on the growth of its 3.5% stockpile:
· Not increase its stockpile of 3.5% low enriched uranium, so that the amount is not greater at the end of the six months than it is at the beginning, and any newly enriched 3.5% enriched uranium is converted into oxide.
Iran has committed to no further advances of its activities at Arak and to halt progress on its plutonium track. Iran has committed to:
· Not commission the Arak reactor.
Unprecedented transparency and intrusive monitoring of Iran’s nuclear program
Iran has committed to:
· Provide daily access by IAEA inspectors at Natanz and Fordow. […]
· Provide IAEA access to centrifuge assembly facilities.
· Provide IAEA access to centrifuge rotor component production and storage facilities.
· Provide IAEA access to uranium mines and mills.
· Provide long-sought design information for the Arak reactor. This will provide critical insight into the reactor that has not previously been available.
· Provide more frequent inspector access to the Arak reactor.
· Provide certain key data and information called for in the Additional Protocol to Iran’s IAEA Safeguards Agreement and Modified Code 3.1.
In return for these steps, the P5+1 is to provide limited, temporary, targeted, and reversible relief while maintaining the vast bulk of our sanctions, including the oil, finance, and banking sanctions architecture. If Iran fails to meet its commitments, we will revoke the relief. Specifically the P5+1 has committed to:
· Not impose new nuclear-related sanctions for six months, if Iran abides by its commitments under this deal, to the extent permissible within their political systems.
· Suspend certain sanctions on gold and precious metals, Iran’s auto sector, and Iran’s petrochemical exports, potentially providing Iran approximately $1.5 billion in revenue.
· License safety-related repairs and inspections inside Iran for certain Iranian airlines.
· Allow purchases of Iranian oil to remain at their currently significantly reduced levels – levels that are 60% less than two years ago. $4.2 billion from these sales will be allowed to be transferred in installments if, and as, Iran fulfills its commitments.
· Allow $400 million in governmental tuition assistance to be transferred from restricted Iranian funds directly to recognized educational institutions in third countries to defray the tuition costs of Iranian students.
Putting Limited Relief in Perspective
In total, the approximately $7 billion in relief is a fraction of the costs that Iran will continue to incur during this first phase under the sanctions that will remain in place. The vast majority of Iran’s approximately $100 billion in foreign exchange holdings are inaccessible or restricted by sanctions.
In the next six months, Iran’s crude oil sales cannot increase. Oil sanctions alone will result in approximately $30 billion in lost revenues to Iran – or roughly $5 billion per month – compared to what Iran earned in a six month period in 2011, before these sanctions took effect. While Iran will be allowed access to $4.2 billion of its oil sales, nearly $15 billion of its revenues during this period will go into restricted overseas accounts. In summary, we expect the balance of Iran’s money in restricted accounts overseas will actually increase, not decrease, under the terms of this deal.
In a slightly delusional-sounding statement, sounding like a character in the Wizard of Oz, Secretary of State Kerry said:
..addressing the press, Kerry said that if Iran’s nuclear program was truly just for peaceful purposes, then it simply needed to “prove it” to the world. He also insisted that the first-step deal would make Israel safer.
How does “simply proving it to the world” jibe with Rouhani’s triumphant claim that “Iran’s nuclear rights have been sealed by the deal” and that Iran will keep on enriching?
“No matter what interpretations are given, Iran’s right to enrichment has been recognized,” said Rouhani, who later posed with family members of nuclear scientists whose slayings in recent years Iran has blamed on Israel and allies.
He said that in a final deal, Iran’s nuclear enrichment will be able to proceed “similar to the past.”
Despite Israel’s huge concerns (and not only Israel), there are experts who perceive this sorry deal as complicating Iran’s drive for the bomb:
By halting Iran’s most sensitive enrichment of uranium, Sunday’s interim accord is designed to stop the expansion of Iranian atomic activities and buy time for negotiations on a final settlement of the decade-old nuclear dispute.
However, Iran will for now retain thousands of centrifuges refining uranium – albeit only to concentrations far below that needed for nuclear weapons – and a stockpile that could potentially be used for bombs if processed much more.
“The short-term deal accomplishes a great deal,” nuclear proliferation expert David Albright of the US Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) said.
For example, he said, it would eliminate Iran’s stock of uranium gas refined to a fissile purity of 20 percent, a source of deep concern for the West as it represents a relatively short technical step away from bomb-grade material.
Under the agreement, Iran must halt this higher-grade enrichment and also dilute or convert its existing reserve of such uranium to a form that is not suitable for further enrichment, according to a US fact sheet.
Once this is done, the breakout time – how long it would take Iran to produce sufficient highly-enriched uranium for one atomic bomb – would lengthen from at least 1-1.6 months to at least 1.9-2.2 months if the Iranians used all their installed centrifuges, Albright said in an e-mail.
“This may seem a small increase, but with the IAEA daily checking the camera film at Natanz and Fordow, this increase in breakout times would be significant,” he said, referring to the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency.
With all due respect to the esteemed expert, lengthening Iran’s breakout time from 1-1.6 months to 1.9-2.2 months means they will need – gasp! – a whole extra 0.3 to 1.2 months! Why, that’s a minimum of 9 extra days, and maybe as many as 37 extra days!
Who do they think they are kidding? Do they take us for fools? As for the IAEA leaping into action, excuse me while I choke over my keyboard. The only time any international agency leaps into action is when Israel takes steps to defend itself.
As was entirely predictable, PM Binyamin Netanyahu called the nuclear deal a historic mistake:
Directly contrasting US President Barack Obama who praised the agreement as opening a “new path toward a world that is more secure,” Netanyahu – speaking at the weekly cabinet meeting — said the world has become more dangerous as a result.
“What was agreed last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake,” he said. “Today the world has become much more dangerous because the most dangerous regime in the world took a significant step to getting the most dangerous weapon in the world.”
For the first time, he said, the leading powers of the world agreed to uranium enrichment in Iran, while removing sanctions that it has taken years to build up in exchange for “cosmetic Iranian concession that are possible to do away with in a matter of weeks.”
Netanyahu said the consequences of this deal threaten many countries, including Israel. He reiterated what he has said in the past, that Israel is not obligated by the agreement.
Other Israeli ministers lined up to condemn the agreement with Yair Lapid appositely calling it a choice “between the plague and cholera”.
“This deal sacrifices the long term interests of the West in exchange for the short term gain of getting Iran to agree not to cross the nuclear threshold for a few months,” he said.
Israel’s previous threats and tough words prodded Barack Obama to try and assuage Israeli concerns, though judging by the above reactions, he will not meet with much success. He didn’t have much success in his own backyard on Capitol Hill:
There was some outright scorn about the deal in Washington.
Republican Senator Mark Kirk, a member of the Senate Banking Committee, said he shared Obama’s goal of finding a diplomatic solution to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapons capability but felt the terms of the deal were too lenient.
Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio said the deal “shows other rogue states that wish to go nuclear that you can obfuscate, cheat and lie for a decade, and eventually the United States will tire and drop key demands.”
Now we just have to wait and see whether Netanyahu has the intestinal fortitude to go it alone and act against America’s express wishes in order to defend Israel’s vital and existential interests. We must hope and pray that he does, and that our ever-divided Knesset will unite for once in these very dangerous times and give Netanyahu the domestic political backing that he will need if he is to act.
Above all we should remember another of Churchill’s immortal words in reaction to Neville Chamberlain’s shameful “peace in our time” speech in 1938, whose parallel to today’s situation is glaring:
Britain and France had to choose between war and dishonour. They chose dishonour. They will have war.
And let us hope and pray that history will not repeat itself.