“The most important job of our foreign minister is first to stand behind the JCPOA, and not to allow the US and other enemies to succeed,” – Iran’s President Hassan Rouhan 8-20-17
So spoke Iran’s President in regards to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action – also known as the Iranian Nuclear Deal.
Why is it that Iran’s President would feel so strongly about keeping the nuclear deal intact?
On August 22, 2017, Iran’s atomic chief Ali Akbar Salehi shocked the International Community by stating that Iran needs only five days to ramp up its uranium enrichment to 20 percent, a level at which the material could quickly be further enriched for use in a nuclear weapon:
If there is a plan for a reaction and a challenge, we will definitely surprise them. If we make the determination, we are able to resume 20 percent enrichment in at most five days.
Iran gave up its stockpile of 20% enriched Uranium as part of the JCPOA which currently caps Iran’s Uranium enrichment at 5 percent. Uranium enriched to 20 percent can be further enriched in a matter of weeks – to the point where it can be used in nuclear weapons.
Obama’s administration had claimed that Iran would require at least one year to obtain nuclear weapons grade Uranium.
I have written about the Iranian Nuclear Deal before. I thought it terrible then. I think it worse now.
When Obama decided to assume personal leadership of the Iran nuclear negotiations, the Iranian economy was straining under a decades old series of economic sanctions. Rather than support Congressional wishes to further tighten sanctions, thereby maintaining pressure on the ruling Mullahs, Obama decided to loosen economic restrictions as a prelude to his negotiations. The Iranian economy began growing again in 2014 – and so did Iran’s negotiating power.
Obama signed a deal with Iran that allowed the Iranians to hide much of their nuclear activities, lacked any real semblance of enforcement and penalties, ended all economic sanctions, ended embargoes on ballistic missiles – and begins to expire in ten years. On January 2027, Iran can replace and upgrade its centrifuges. Obama himself admitted that Iran will have full nuclear capability almost immediately after the deal expires.
For this we gave the Iranians access to more than $120 billion.
This figure does not count the $1.7 billion cash payment ostensibly made in relation to a failed 1979 arms sale during the Iranian Revolution. In practical terms it was a ransom payment for the release of several of our citizens.
Obama also orchestrated the release of seven Iranian men as part of the deal. At the time, he characterized them as “civilians, businessmen, awaiting trial for mere sanctions-related offenses and violations of the trade embargo”. In reality, these men stood accused by the DOJ as posing a National Security threat. Three were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles. Another was serving an eight-year sentence for conspiring to supply Iran with satellite technology and hardware.
It gets worse.
The Justice Department dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 other Iranian men, all of them fugitives.
Three of the fugitives allegedly sought to lease Boeing aircraft for an Iranian airline that authorities say had supported Hezbollah. A fourth, Behrouz Dolatzadeh, was charged with conspiring to buy thousands of U.S.-made assault rifles and illegally import them into Iran. A fifth, Amin Ravan, was charged with smuggling U.S. military antennas to Hong Kong and Singapore for use in Iran. The biggest fish was Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, who had been charged with being part of a conspiracy that from 2005 to 2012 procured thousands of parts with nuclear applications for Iran via China. That included hundreds of U.S.-made sensors for the uranium enrichment centrifuges in Iran whose progress had prompted the nuclear deal talks in the first place.
The New York Times noted the following regarding the Iran Nuclear Deal; “Mr. Kerry described an Iranian capability that had been neutralized; the Iranians described a nuclear capability that had been preserved.”
The Iranian Nuclear Deal has been called the worst agreement in diplomatic history.
Iran was a major factor in the Syrian Civil War. Iran, as a Shiite-based regime, was deeply concerned over the prospect of Sunni rebels winning the Syrian conflict and establishing a Sunni government in Syria – which would then be aligned with the Sunni government of Saudi Arabia. A Sunni government in Syria would also have made Iran’s ongoing transfer of arms to Hezbollah much more problematic.
Obama capitulated on Syria precisely because Iran was opposed to our intervention.
The Iranian Nuclear Deal was paramount.
Since the signing of the deal, Iran has significantly strengthened its ballistic missile program. On August 13, 2017, while “chanting “Death to America”, Iran’s parliament voted unanimously Sunday to increase spending on its ballistic missile program and the foreign operations of its paramilitary Revolutionary Guard. Some $800 million will be put toward several projects, including the Defense Ministry and its intelligence agencies.” Iran’s missile program will receive $260 million of the funding.
But Iran has already been busy with its missile effort.
Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami of the Revolutionary Guard boasted that “the rate of our missile production is so high that we are faced with the problem of space”.
More troubling, Iran has been building missile complexes in Syria and Lebanon. On August 15, 2017, The Times of Israel reported Iran’s construction of a missile production facility in Syria near the coastal city of Baniyas, north of Tartus. Within striking distance of Israel. The article contains satellite pictures. More can be seen here. As the article notes:
The new facility comes on top of other evidence that Iran is expanding the capacity to build missiles – and probably other weapons components – in western Syria and Lebanon. The number of reports on this is accelerating, and importantly, it keeps identifying more locations.
Meanwhile, Iran Watch noted various violations of the Iran Nuclear Deal:
Little-noticed biannual reporting by the UN Secretary General alleges that Iran is repeatedly violating these non-nuclear provisions. Thus far, the United States has responded to such violations with sanctions and designations of Iranian and foreign entities supporting Tehran’s ballistic missile development. However, the UN and its member states have not responded.
Iran Watch drew this conclusion:
Contrary to the hope that the JCPOA would mitigate Iran’s destabilizing posture in the region, the agreement has had no moderating effect on Iranian behavior. Iran’s decision to ignore the restrictions set forth in Annex B of UNSCR 2231 have long been clear. In its official response to UNSCR 2231’s passage, Tehran promised to “strengthen its defense capabilities” and rejected “the legitimacy, validity or enforceability of the sanctions and restrictive measures” adopted by the United Nations.
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon adviser and expert on rogue regimes notes, “Every time the Islamic Republic has cash, it chooses guns over butter. What the [nuclear deal] and subsequent hostage ransom did was fill Iran’s coffers, and now we see the result of that. Neither their basic philosophy nor their commitment to terrorism have changed.”
Iran’s efforts are being furthered not only through UN inaction, but also directly through infrastructure loans. A Russian bank agreed to provide a $1 billion loan to electrify the rail network between the cities of Garmsar and Gorgan. The Export-Import Bank of China (EXIM) also signed a $1.5 billion deal to finance the electrification of a high-speed rail line between the Iranian cities of Tehran and Mashhad.
Iran was supposed to be funding it’s $25 billion infrastructure plan with proceeds from the JCPOA – not from international loans. Each dollar borrowed is a dollar freed for Iran to utilize in its missile program.
Recently, congressional members obtained photos that show Iran using its commercial airline to ferry fighters to Syria:
Iran’s use of commercial aircraft for military purposes violates international agreements as well as Iranian commitments under the JCPOA. Iran Air has engaged in Iran’s illicit transport of military goods and personnel to Syria since implementation of the” nuclear deal.
The JCPOA directly prohibits Iran from using commercial air carriers for military purposes.
The Basel Institute on Governance just released its 2017 Basel Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Index – an annual ranking assessing 146 countries regarding money laundering/terrorism financing risks. The country with the highest risk score, placing it number one on the list was…Iran.
Meanwhile, Iran has signed – or will sign – as much as $60 billion in oil and gas deals with foreign partners. These agreements were allowed under the JCPOA and serve two purposes. First, they provide ongoing cash streams to the Iranian regime. Secondly, they serve as a bulwark of political pressure against taking any actions against Iran – allowing Iran greater freedom to engage in ongoing violations of the Nuclear Deal. The deal effectively created global lobbyists to help prevent snapback.
Let’s return to Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program.
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, recently visited the headquarters of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in an attempt to press Iran on Ballistic Missile tests. The IAEA monitors nuclear activity in general – and Iranian activity in regards to the JCPOA.
As noted by a CBS News article, “the issue is the interpretation of the nuclear agreement, and whether launching ballistic missiles is, in fact, a violation of it”.
The U.S., France, Germany and the UK argue the Ballistic Missile tests are a violation as noted in a letter sent by Ms. Haley to the Chair of the Iran Sanctions Committee:
On July 27, 2017, Iran launched a Simorgh space launch vehicle, inconsistent with UNSCR 2231. The Simorgh is a space launch vehicle system that, if configured as a ballistic missile, would have a range of well over 300 kilometers (km) and has enough payload capacity to carry a nuclear warhead.
Prior to the JCPOA, Iran’s ballistic missile activities were barred by a series of UN resolutions backed by American and international sanctions.
Obama assured Americans that only items pertaining to nuclear activities would be covered in the agreement. But the JCPOA was specifically structured with ambiguous language regarding ballistic missiles. Buried deep within the original agreement, in Annex B, paragraph 3 (page 99 of 104 total) resides the following caveat:
3. Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology, until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day or until the date on which the IAEA submits a report confirming the Broader Conclusion, whichever is earlier.
Away from the fact this was intentionally buried, there are several problems with the provision’s wording.
“Iran is called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles”. This is not the same as forbidden.
“activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons” – designed being the key word. In other words, technical capabilities are to be ignored since the missile wasn’t specifically designed to carry nuclear warheads – as Iran does not currently possess them.
“until the date eight years after the JCPOA Adoption Day” – regardless of any interpretations, Iran can do whatever it wants in 2023.
In sum, Iran has advanced its ability to revitalize its Uranium enrichment abilities under the agreement – to the point where the agreement itself is almost meaningless. The agreement also provides enough ambiguity to allow Iran to simultaneously develop a Nuclear Ballistic Missile delivery system – while calling it something else. Meanwhile, Iran had economic sanctions lifted, received an enormous influx of cash and has been the recipient of significant foreign investment.
Small wonder that Iran’s President wants the JCPOA to stay in place. Iran reaps all its benefits while moving ahead with their capabilities. When and if the time suits them, Iran can simply abandon the JCPOA.
No wonder President Trump is frustrated.
The Iranian Nuclear Deal has proven to be all that its critics alleged.
The worst agreement in diplomatic history.
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