Five former advisors on Iran caution Obama on nuclear deal

Five former Iran advisors to President Obama have penned a letter listing their concerns over the nuclear deal being negotiated in Vienna.  The advisors list several red lines that they believe the administration cannot cross in order to get a realistic deal that would limit Iran's nuclear program.

New York Times:

The letter gets to the heart of some of those areas, all of which are still under negotiation and, in some cases, in bitter dispute. For example, the negotiations that ended in April resulted in vague statements about how inspections would work, beyond an understanding that Iran would sign an International Atomic Energy Agency convention giving inspectors broad rights to investigate suspicious sites. But Ayatollah Khamenei, along with his commanders, immediately ruled out allowing foreigners to visit military sites.

The letter, referring to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said inspections “must include military (including I.R.G.C.) and other sensitive facilities. Iran must not be able to deny or delay timely access to any site anywhere in the country.”

Similarly, while Mr. Kerry said last week that it was not necessary to make Iran account for evidence of past effort to work on weapons designs, because the United States and its allies already had “absolute knowledge” of those activities, the former advisers view the long-sought answers to those questions as vital.

The inspectors, they write, must be able “to take samples, to interview scientists and government officials, to inspect sites, and to review and copy documents as required for their investigation of Iran’s past and any ongoing nuclear weaponization activities.” The letter adds, “This work needs to be accomplished before any significant sanctions relief.”

On another delicate issue in the talks, the letter calls for “strict limits on advanced centrifuge R&D, testing, and deployment in the first 10 years,” and for measures to prevent “rapid technical upgrade” when those limits expire.

Some limits were negotiated in April, but the details remain to be resolved.

Perhaps the hardest part from an Iranian perspective is the insistence in the letter that the United States publicly declare — with congressional assent — that even after the expiration of the agreement Iran will not be permitted to possess enough nuclear fuel to make a single weapon.

The letter continued, “Precisely because Iran will be left as a nuclear threshold state (and has clearly preserved the option of becoming a nuclear weapon state), the United States must go on record now that it is committed to using all means necessary, including military force, to prevent this.”

Each and every one of those points has been summarily rejected by Iran.  Kerry has already backed down on the issue of Iran's previous efforts to make a bomb, despite the advisors saying it was vital that we know what they were up to and how far along they were.  And any inspection regime that fails to include military installations wouldn't be worth a fig.  We can't inspect military installations that may be involved in building a military weapon?  Absurd.

Once those sanctions are lifted, the idea that they could be "snapped back" into place is nonsense.  The Iranians know this, which is why they want the sanctions lifted immediately rather than over a period of years as President Obama has promised. 

The New York Times doesn't believe there should be any absolute red lines:

But as often happens in negotiations, the mechanics of the trade-offs to get a deal often conflict with the negotiating objectives. Inside the White House of late, there has been what one senior official called “vigorous debate” over the risks of walking away — which would free Iran to return to full-scale production — versus accepting a deal whose specifics still leave some officials uncomfortable.

Those "trade-offs" are now likely to include every point conceded to Iran in order to get a deal.  Not a trade-off, but surrender.

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