Facing facts on Iran

iran-nukesThe deal that the international negotiating team – known as P5+1 (USA, Russia, China, UK, France and Germany) – reached with Iran could certainly go wrong. For example, freed from sanctions and flush with cash, Iran could step up its nuclear program and not get caught. The inspections regime is far from perfect. Alternatively it could go wrong even without Iran cheating on the deal, which only concerns its nuclear program. With all that extra oil wealth, Iran could step up its sponsorship of terrorist groups such as Hizbullah, which could have massive implications for the wider Middle East.

But the deal will probably prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons in the short term. As long as Iran sticks to the deal, it will probably increase break out time – the time it would take Iran to develop nuclear weapons – from a presently estimated two months to about a year. If Iran breaks the deal and starts down that path, the inspections regime which, though imperfect, is rigorous, will probably alert western powers, giving President Obama or his successor time to act.

If Iran is a year away from developing nuclear weapons, and alarm mechanisms will probably alert us to any attempt to do so, then we are safer because of the deal than we were without it. 

Without inspections, we rely on intelligence gathering to alert us to Iranian intentions. And we know that intelligence gathering is flawed. In the 90s, Saddam was two years further advanced on his WMD program than western intelligence thought. In 2003 his program was largely mothballed, contrary to intelligence estimates. This not a reliable source. Estimates that Iran was two months away from developing weapons are hardly reassuring if the margin of error on the estimates is two years. Inspections are an extra check on Iranian behavior, not a replacement to CIA intelligence gathering. They should reduce that margin of error.

Since there is, presumably, still a margin of error, the twelve month break out period set by the agreement is worrying, but not as worrying as the prior situation. 

That doesn’t make this a good deal. It is possible that the deal’s critics – including Republicans and the governments of Israel and Saudi Arabia – are correct that President Obama could and should have secured a better deal. Something which left Iran two years away from nuclear weapons and secured a promise – preferably an enforceable one – to abandon Hizbullah would have been a much better deal. But where is the evidence that such a deal was available?

All the West is doing – aside from putting inspections in place, which is presumably agreed by everyone to be a good thing – is lifting sanctions. And we know that the sanctions were not working. They did not work in Iraq and they have not worked in North Korea. The list of regimes not brought down by sanctions is endless. The list of regimes that have been brought down by sanctions is small to non-existent. 

A president who had not broken his own “red line” in Syria might, just might, have gotten more favorable terms. A president not so obsessed with his “legacy” might have been in less of a rush to settle. But this deal is better than nothing, and if it slows Iranian plans for ten years, it may outlast the current Iranian theocracy.

qlQuentin Langley is a Senior Lecturer in Marketing at the University of Bedfordshire Business School as well as a freelance columnist published in the UK and all parts of the US. He blogs on social media and crisis communications at brandjacknews.com

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    Facing facts on Iran – The Libertarian Press

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