Bolton: 'Abject Surrender by US'
See also: Israel: Iran deal a 'historic mistake'
See also: Obama taking a tough stand on Iran deal - with Congress
See also: Iran nuke deal: Wait for details
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton knows a thing or two about negotiating with Iran. So it's not surprising that he would take the position that the deal reached last night with the West amounted to "abject surrender."
Negotiations for an "interim" arrangement over Iran's nuclear weapons program finally succeeded this past weekend, as Security Council foreign ministers (plus Germany) flew to Geneva to meet their Iranian counterpart. After raising expectations of a deal by first convening on November 8-10, it would have been beyond humiliating to gather again without result. So agreement was struck despite solemn incantations earlier that "no deal is better than a bad deal."
This interim agreement is badly skewed from America's perspective. Iran retains its full capacity to enrich uranium, thus abandoning a decade of Western insistence and Security Council resolutions that Iran stop all uranium-enrichment activities. Allowing Iran to continue enriching, and despite modest (indeed, utterly inadequate) measures to prevent it from increasing its enriched-uranium stockpiles and its overall nuclear infrastructure, lays the predicate for Iran fully enjoying its "right" to enrichment in any "final" agreement. Indeed, the interim agreement itself acknowledges that a "comprehensive solution" will "involve a mutually defined enrichment program." This is not, as the Obama administration leaked before the deal became public, a "compromise" on Iran's claimed "right" to enrichment. This is abject surrender by the United States.
Even the Obama administration stuck with the "no enrichment" position - until last night. The breathtaking speed with which Kerry abandoned long standing US policy, and the sentiments of the world expressed through several security council resolutions, is remarkable - nearly unprecedented as far as I can recall.
In exchange for superficial concessions, Iran achieved three critical breakthroughs. First, it bought time to continue all aspects of its nuclear-weapons program the agreement does not cover (centrifuge manufacturing and testing; weaponization research and fabrication; and its entire ballistic missile program). Indeed, given that the interim agreement contemplates periodic renewals, Iran may have gained all of the time it needs to achieve weaponization not of simply a handful of nuclear weapons, but of dozens or more.
Second, Iran has gained legitimacy. This central banker of international terrorism and flagrant nuclear proliferator is once again part of the international club. Much as the Syria chemical-weapons agreement buttressed Bashar al-Assad, the mullahs have escaped the political deep freezer.
Third, Iran has broken the psychological momentum and effect of the international economic sanctions. While estimates differ on Iran's precise gain, it is considerable ($7 billion is the lowest estimate), and presages much more. Tehran correctly assessed that a mere six-months' easing of sanctions will make it extraordinarily hard for the West to reverse direction, even faced with systematic violations of Iran's nuclear pledges. Major oil-importing countries (China, India, South Korea, and others) were already chafing under U.S. sanctions, sensing President Obama had no stomach either to impose sanctions on them, or pay the domestic political price of granting further waivers.
Bolton points out the key to the entire deal; once begun down the road of negotiations, the west will be extremely reluctant to admit defeat and go back to the sanctions regime. The Iranians are counting on that which means they will try to finesse the deal - getting away with anything they can while trying not to step over a line that would nix the deal.
I don't know if the deal as as bad as Bolton thinks it is. Perhaps the worst thing about it is that any hope of heading off an Iranian nuclear weapon will depend on the good graces of the Iranian government and not any agreement that would limit their ability to bring that nightmare about.