Iran Has Red Lines -- Too Bad the U.S. Doesn't

The Senate has passed the Corker-Cardin bill to ensure Congressional oversight of any deal the president concludes with Iran. The vote was 98-1 for language that permits the agreement to become operative unless Congress votes against it. Sen. Tom Cotton was the lone holdout, believing the Senate should have to vote in favor of the president’s agreement in order for it to become operative. This was solely an internal American political battle, and it is clear that the Iranians are not taking the American machinations the least bit seriously.

Deal or no deal, just days before the vote, Major General Hassan Firouzabadi, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces outlined Iran's red lines.

  • To block “infiltration” of "Iran's defense and security affairs under the pretext of nuclear supervision and inspection… Iranian military officials are not allowed to let the foreigners go through the country's security-defense shield and fence.”
  • "Iran's military officials are not at all allowed to stop the country's defense development and progress on the pretext of supervision and inspection and the country's defense development and capabilities should not be harmed in the talks."
  • "Our support for our brothers in the resistance (Hizb’allah, Assad, Yemeni Houthis, Hamas) in different places should not be undermined."
  • A final deal should be a “comprehensive one envisaging the right for Iran to rapidly reverse its measures in case the opposite side refrains from holding up its end of the bargain.”
  • “Iran's national security necessitates guaranteed irreversibility of the sanctions removal and this is no issue for bargaining, trade, or compromise."
  • "Implementation…should totally depend on the approval of the country's legal and official authorities and the start time for the implementation of undertakings should first be approved by the relevant bodies.”
  • Iran would not be limited in transferring its nuclear know-how to other countries of its choosing.

Sen. Tom Cotton’s earlier letter to the mullahs does appear to have had an impact on the general, who said it would be, “an unforgivable mistake” to make an agreement with "an administration that cannot and/or is not allowed to comply with its undertakings."

The Iranian red lines sound like a joke -- on President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry. They’re negotiating what they think/believe/claim is a deal that will restrain the Iranians in their pursuit of nuclear weapons capabilities. The Iranians -- calling the Americans untrustworthy—are negotiating a deal to ensure they can continue their nuclear program; transfer nuclear knowhow to whoever they wish; continue their missile program; continue to arm/train/support terrorist organizations; and receive immediate, total and irreversible sanctions relief.

Which country is more likely to succeed in its endeavor? Furthermore:

  • Firouzabadi called for UN sanctions to be “decisively annulled,” while UN Ambassador Samantha Power was fantasizing about America’s ability to determine the future of Iran sanctions. “We are going to secure an arrangement that allows for snap back in New York [United Nations] that does not require Russian or Chinese support, so we are not looking at a situation where in order to snap back we would have to do a new, separate resolution as we did in 2010.”  

Has she told the Russians or the Chinese?

  • Firouzabadi warned that the IAEA should not be entitled to inspect anything except enrichment facilities. That means Parchin, a military complex where --according to Western experts -- Iran tests and develops long-range missiles, would be off limits. Parchin was last inspected by the IAEA in 2005, and inspectors backed by the UN Security Council have demanded to be allowed to return. They have been refused. Despite that, Secretary of State Kerry told Israel’s Channel 10, “We will have inspectors in there every single day. That’s not a 10-year deal. That's forever. There have to be inspections.”

Until the end of time.

  • Firouzabadi asked the P5+1 to help Iran in its “nuclear disarmament efforts” in the Middle East and “pave the ground for international inspection of the centers of the nuclear-armed states and dismantlement of such nuclear weapons.” This refers to Israel’s presumed nuclear capability.

It is worth recalling here that in 2010, Obama accepted the first Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review document that singled out Israel as a proliferating country. A contemporaneous Washington Post story noted, “the latest draft of the text was a take-it-or-leave-it document… Many diplomats had expected U.S. officials to withhold approval of the final document because of the mention of Israel." President Bush had previously instructed the U.S. delegation leave the conference rather than leave Israel alone among the wolves. President Obama decided otherwise and now the Iranians want him to act on that document.

If there is an actual agreement between Iran and the P5+1, and when Congress gets the text, there will be one more chance to try to create a deal that serves American interests, or to decisively ensure that there is no deal. National Security Adviser Susan Rice told an audience this spring that, “A bad deal is worse than no deal.” She was echoing Israel’s Prime Minister Netanyahu. Anything the two of them can agree on sounds like something a bipartisan Congress can approve.

Then it will only be a matter of facing down the Iranians.