Nuclear Iran: the Sanctions Delusion
The Obama Administration, and its critics, are mistaken that Iran's nuclear negotiations are motivated primarily by economic sanctions.
Since revolutionary Iran's seizure of the U.S. Embassy in 1979, every presidential administration has imposed on Iran new and ever more stringent economic sanctions restricting trade and seizing financial assets. Most recently, in 2010 and 2013, President Obama imposed the latest round of economic sanctions, advertised as the most stringent ever, that include prohibiting banking transactions in the rial, Iran's currency, and even restricting importation of Iranian caviar.
Historically, economic sanctions have had little or no discernible effect on altering Iran's dangerous behavior, such as its world leadership of international terrorism and its development of nuclear weapons. Analyst A.E. Torbat concludes, "overall, the sanctions' economic effect... has been significant, while its political effect has been minimal."
Mistakenly, the Obama Administration and its critics both assume that Iran's primary reason for initiating negotiations over its nuclear program is the coercive success of economic sanctions. Much energy is being expended, uselessly, debating whether the threat of additional economic sanctions will finally compel Iran to give up its aspiration to become a nuclear weapons state. The short answer is -- economic sanctions did not bring Iran to the negotiating table in the first place.
The Syrian Debacle
Rather than economic sanctions, it was President Obama's surrender during the Syrian chemical weapons crisis that moved Iran to negotiate with a president who converted the United States from the world's only superpower into a paper tiger.
Washington is notorious for its short memory. The Obama Administration and the press appears to have amnesia about the events of August 31, 2013 and afterwards, that Iran obviously and correctly interpreted as a strategic opportunity to roll President Obama in nuclear negotiations.
President Obama, during his 2012 campaign and later, repeatedly and vociferously threatened military intervention and regime change against Syrian dictator Bashar Assad, if Assad used chemical weapons. Assad crossed Obama's "red line" by nerve gassing thousands of civilians, killing 1,000, including 400 children, on August 21, 2013.
Ten days later Obama canceled planned military strikes. He hastily retreated to a "negotiated solution" -- arranged by Assad's chief ally, Russian President Vladimir Putin -- announced by the president in the Rose Garden on August 31. Details of a deal to "disarm" Syria of its chemical weapons were worked out by September 15.
Forty-three days after Obama's internationally televised humiliation by Syria and Russia, twenty-eight days after the Syrian chemical weapons deal, on October 13, Iran offered to negotiate its nuclear program. This after years of refusing negotiations.
"The sanctions are working" became the mantra of the West.
However, the above chronology, and the farce that is the alleged "chemical disarmament" of Syria, indicates Iran saw nothing to lose and everything to gain from negotiating with the weakling in the White House.
The Pretended Disarming of Syria
Undoubtedly noticed by Iran, Obama's much ballyhooed chemical agreement with Syria is technologically and militarily fraudulent. Even if Assad ultimately allows destruction of all chemical weapons, an outcome increasingly doubtful, Syria can quickly reconstitute chemical arms.
Chemical weapons are called "the poor man's atomic bomb" for a reason. They are cheap and easy to make. Commonplace chemicals used for peaceful purposes can be converted to weapons.
According to the Defense Department study "The Military Critical Technologies List: Weapons of Mass Destruction" (1998), "Classic agents can be manufactured using existing chemical infrastructure and most have legitimate commercial uses... phosgene is manufactured internally within chemical plants throughout the world for use as a chlorinating agent... A reasonable sized phosgene facility could be purchased with the investment of $10-14 million... Similarly, hydrogen cyanide is currently manufactured worldwide as an intermediate in the manufacture of acrylic polymers and could be... manufactured with about the same investment..."
DOD warns, "Any nation with a sophisticated chemical industry has the potential to produce chemical weapons..." Syria's chemical weapons, if they ever do go away, will be back.
Russian Chemical and Nuclear Cheating
Moreover, according to the same Pentagon study, Russia, the broker of Obama's chemical disarmament deal with Syria, is itself a cheater on the Chemical Weapons Convention: "...public revelations in 1995 by scientist V. Mirzayonov and in 1996 by a former head of the Russian demilitarization program indicate recent Russian development of binary systems for new and novel classes of nerve agents."
Russia is also cheating on the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty, arguably the most important treaty as it eliminated an entire class of nuclear weapons. See Mark Schneider's excellent new report "Confirmation of Russian Violation and Circumvention of the INF Treaty". The Obama Administration has been a coconspirator with Moscow in concealing Russia's cheating on the INF Treaty, fearing revelation might derail planned U.S. deep nuclear reductions.
Negotiating the Islamic Bomb
Iran, far from being coerced by economic sanctions into nuclear negotiations, regards those negotiations as U.S. surrender to an Islamic Bomb. U.S. policymakers must understand that Iran sees itself as negotiating from strength, not from weakness in order to escape sanctions. Because of the above history, the White House is perceived as the weakling.
Iran knows from Syria's chemical deal that Obama is willing to deceive the American people with an elaborate fiction in order to avoid military confrontation and save political face.
Iran knows from Russia that the Obama Administration not only tolerates nuclear treaty violations -- but helps conceal cheating.
Iran's leaders assert that they conceded nothing and that the U.S. conceded everything in Geneva by acknowledging Iran's right to enrich uranium. Uranium enrichment is the technological key to nuclear weapons.
The preamble of the Geneva interim agreement does acknowledge Iran's right to enrich: "This comprehensive solution would enable Iran to fully enjoy its right to nuclear energy for peaceful purposes under the relevant articles of the NPT in conformity with its obligations therein. This comprehensive solution would involve a mutually defined enrichment program with practical limits and transparency measures to ensure the peaceful nature of the program."
The language of the Geneva interim agreement is essentially identical to that of the Clinton Administration's Agreed Framework that failed spectacularly to prevent North Korea from becoming a nuclear weapons state.
Suspiciously, the most transparent administration in history is concealing the negotiating record and a secret side text called a "non-paper" that is restricted even to congressional scrutiny.
The Syrian chemical deal and interim nuclear agreement with Iran have alienated the most important U.S. allies in the Middle East. Small wonder Iran agreed to negotiate!
August 31--Day of Infamy?
August 31, 2013, the day of President Obama's Rose Garden speech canceling military operations against, and instead embracing negotiations with, Syrian mass murderer Assad, appears to be regarded by much of the world as the moment the United States ceased to be a superpower. Obama's military retreat in Syria emboldened America's adversaries to extremely provocative acts, seemingly testing the will of the fallen superpower. For example:
North Korea crossed another Obama "redline" by restarting the Yongbyon nuclear reactor to make plutonium for more nuclear weapons, in brazen defiance of international agreements.
China broadcast on state run television and newspapers a documentary on how the Peoples Liberation Army would wage a nuclear war against the United States, specifying which U.S. cities would be blasted and exactly how, and detailing plans to kill millions of Americans with nuclear fallout patterns. China also practiced military operations against Taiwan, challenged U.S. allies over territorial claims, and established an illegal "air defense zone" in a bid to gain control over the western Pacific.
Russia backed Syria against the United States all through the chemical weapons crisis and afterwards, the Russian Navy sailing to Tartus the largest fleet deployment since the Cold War, including ships armed with tactical nuclear weapons, and airlifting arms and munitions to support the Assad regime. Moscow doubled its spending on nuclear weapons and announced the deployment of new generations of strategic missiles designed to penetrate U.S. missile defenses. As of this writing, the world waits to see if the Russian Army will march into Ukraine.
Sixteen years ago on another August 31, in 1998, North Korea tested its first intercontinental missile, foreshadowing a dangerous new future when such rogue regimes could threaten nuclear missile strikes against the United States. That future arrived in December 2012 when North Korea successfully orbited a satellite over the South Pole, apparently practicing a nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack that would strike the U.S. from its blindside in the south, where there are no ballistic missile early warning radars or missile interceptors. Three months later, in March 2013, North Korea threatened nuclear missile strikes against the U.S. and its allies.
Iran has orbited several satellites on similar south polar trajectories, helped by their ally North Korea. If Iran does not yet have nuclear weapons, they will be the first nation that went through the vast trouble and expense of developing long-range missiles without first having nuclear warheads to make them militarily useful.
Iranian warships will soon begin patrolling U.S. coasts. Former UN Ambassador John Bolton writes, "Iran doesn't fear the United States, our allies, or international sanctions.... if Iran completes its nuclear weapons program, their ships in the Atlantic could be carrying nuclear tipped missiles."
But not to worry. President Obama reassures the American people that Iran's mullahs have endorsed a fatwah against nuclear weapons. The president should read "Treatise On The Use Of Weapons Of Mass Destruction Against Infidels" that finds the nuclear mass destruction of infidel women and children not only permissible--but obligatory.
And Mr. President, Iran's anti-nuclear fatwah notwithstanding, a nuclear EMP attack that causes a protracted national blackout killing millions, because the holocaust would be an indirect collateral consequence of technological collapse, would be perfectly Shariah compliant use of the Islamic bomb.
Dr. Peter Vincent Pry is Executive Director of the EMP Task Force, served in the House Armed Services Committee and the CIA, and is author of Electric Armageddon and Apocalypse Unknown available from CreateSpace.com and Amazon.com