Iran nuclear deal reached

It's being called "historic" and a "landmark" agreement by some.  Others, like Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, believe that it is "historic," all right – "a bad mistake of historic proportions," he said.

But the deal to curb Iran's nuclear weapons program in exchange for the lifting of sanctions is based largely on the premise that Iran will be a good global citizen and can be trusted to hold up its end of the deal.  Iran has yet to prove either assumption.


"I believe this is an historic moment," Zarif, who was educated in the United States and developed a warm rapport with Kerry, told a news conference. "Today could have been the end of hope on this issue, but now we are starting a new chapter of hope. Let's build on that."

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini, who acted as coordinator for the powers, said: "It is a decision that can open the way to a new chapter in international relations and show that diplomacy, coordination, cooperation can overcome decades of tensions and confrontations.

"I think this is a sign of hope for the entire world."

Hatred of the United States has been a defining trait of Iran's ruling system, on display last week when it marked the last Friday of the Ramadan fasting month with an annual day of protests, crowds chanting "Death to Israel!" and "Death to America!".

Obama first reached out to Iranians with an address in 2008, only weeks into his presidency, offering a "new beginning".

Iran has long denied it is seeking a nuclear weapon and has insisted on the right to nuclear technology for peaceful means, although Western powers feared the enriched uranium that it was stockpiling could be used to make a bomb. Obama never ruled out using military force if negotiations failed.

Iran's IRNA news agency said billions of dollars in frozen funds would be released under the deal, and sanctions on its central bank, national oil company, shipping and airlines would now be lifted.

Lost in the back-patting is the cold, hard fact that President Obama has been saying for two years that sanctions would be lifted "gradually" over "several years."  The purpose of this timetable was to make sure Iran was holding up its end of the deal.  The president even told us in April when the framework agreement was reached that Iran had agreed to the timetable.

But this release from the semi-official news agency of Iran reveals just how much Obama caved in to Iranian demands:

“We were following four objectives in these negotiations..During today’s agreement and under this Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, all the four objectives have been achieved,” Rouhani said in a televised address on Tuesday after the conclusion of talks between Iran and the P5+1 countries.

He enumerated the objectives as Iran’s ability to go ahead with its nuclear activities, lifting of “cruel and inhumane sanctions”, annulment of all “illegal” sanctions adopted by the UN Security Council against Iran and the exit of Iran’s nuclear dossier from the Security Council. 

Rouhani said the sanctions regime imposed on the Islamic Republic was never successful, adding that the bans only targeted the Iranian nation.

The Iranian president added that resistance of the Iranian nation guaranteed their victory in the nuclear talks.

"Today, we are at an important juncture in the history of our country and our revolution and the situation in the region," Rouhani said.

He said some powers had had some illusion over the past 12 years regarding Iran, however, “a new page has been turned and a new chapter has begun.”

"Iran will honor the agreement, if the other sides abides by it," the Iranian president said, adding that the Iranian nation always keeps it promises.

Rouhani said as a result of the talks, all sanctions imposed in Iran including financial, banking ones will be fully lifted and not suspended.

For his part, President Obama has begun his snow job of Congress, intimating that anyone who opposes the deal is a war-monger:

As the American people and Congress review the deal it will be important to consider the alternative. Consider what happens in a world without this deal. Without this deal, there is no scenario where the world joins us in sanctioning Iran until it completely dismantles its nuclear program. Nothing we know about the Iranian government suggests that it would simply capitulate under that kind of pressure and the world would not support an effort to permanently sanction Iran into submission.

We put sanctions in place to get a diplomatic resolution and that is what we have done. Without this deal there would be no agreed-upon limitations for the Iranian nuclear program. Iran could produce, operate and test more and more centrifuges. Iran could fuel a reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb and we would not have any of the inspections that would allow us to detect a covert nuclear weapons program.

In other words, no deal means no lasting constraints on Iran's nuclear program. Such a scenario would make it more likely that other countries in the region would feel compelled to pursue their own nuclear programs, threatening a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region of the world.

It would also present the United States with fewer and less effective options to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.

Amazingly, the president disagrees 100% with the Iranian claim that sanctions will be lifted immediately:

As Iran takes steps to implement this deal, it will receive relief from the sanctions that we put in place because of Iran's nuclear program, both America's own sanctions and sanctions imposed by the United Nations Security Council. This relief will be phased in. Iran must complete key nuclear steps before it begins to receive sanctions relief.

Either the sanctions will be phased in or they will be lifted immediately.  Which is it? 

This shows that the president's claims about what is in this agreement won't stand up against what Iran believes is in it.  That much is certain.  There is a fundamental difference between the two sides about an understanding of what the deal says.  This isn't exactly unprecedented.  Nuclear deals with the Soviet Union were often marked by differences of opinion over some of the details.

The difference here is that major provisions in the agreement are going to be disputed, especially relating to what technology Iran can use to enrich uranium and when and where the IAEA can inspect Iranian nuclear facilities.  Congress will look very closely at these two provisions and probably request clarification from Iran regarding their understanding of them.  The inspections are especially critical.  The president is claiming in his statement that "[i]nspectors will have 24/7 access to Iran's nuclear facilities. Iran will have access to Iran's entire nuclear supply chain, its uranium mines and mills, its conversion facility and its centrifuge manufacturing and storage facilities." 

That simply isn't true, according to the Iranians.  There will be controlled access to Iran's facilities, with the IAEA having to seek permission for any inspections.  Again, this is not some minor point of contention.  This is the guts of the deal, and the Iranians are contradicting the president's understanding of the agreement.

Congress will probably vote to reject the deal, but the president will veto the resolution.  Since it will take two thirds of both houses of Congress to overturn the veto, it will be very difficult for Congress to stop this agreement.  Democrats, even if they oppose the deal, will be under enormous pressure to vote to uphold the president's veto.  Can 11 Democratic senators withstand the heat and vote with Republicans?  It will probably be very close.