Initially, it is important to note the evolution of Iranian issues since US lawmakers imposed destabilizing sanctions on the Islamic Republic for its nuclear program. Originally, diplomacy with Iran was supposed to be based on a pure barter: America (and its allies) ending their nuclear weapons sanctions in exchange for Iran ending its domestic nuclear program.
After that, the United States ceded to Iran the right to obtain its own nuclear reactors, but not by developing domestic capabilities to enrich nuclear fuel, which is also the primary component of nuclear weapons. Then the United States ceded to Iran the right to enrichment, but under strict restrictions. At another point, the United States abdicated to Iran [about a date] the end of strict enrichment restrictions, at some point in the future. This new and less extensive agreement, which excludes the possibility of Iran becoming a country on the threshold of nuclear weapons in the future, may still be in the interest of the United States. But one should begin any analysis by recalling the terms Washington has made from the original intent of US sanctions and diplomacy.
A careful reading of the text indicates that there are potential major gaps in it, even in the strength of the new system identified by the agreement. Here are three of them: When will the inspectors enter suspicious sites? According to my understanding of reading the agreement, Iran has 24 days to delay any group of inspections.
While it may take more than 24 days to clean a massive underground uranium enrichment facility, there are many illegal activities that Iran can hide within a 24-day notice.
What are the consequences of Iranian violations? According to my understanding of reading the agreement, there is only one penalty for any violation, whether big or small, and it is referring Iran to the UN Security Council in order to “re-impose” international sanctions. This is like saying that any crime, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, receives the death penalty. In the real world, this means that there will be no penalties for anything less than a major crime. What does it mean to “re-impose sanctions” in practice? Suppose the UN Security Council orders the imposition of sanctions. According to my understanding of reading the agreement, all contracts signed by Iran until then will be exempt and free from sanctions. That is, we can expect a rush to sign contracts between one country and another and with the private sector, some of which are real and many are hypothetical, all of which are designed to protect Iran from the impact of imposing possible sanctions, thereby weakening the impact of sanctions.
But the problem with imposing sanctions is getting worse. The agreement includes an expression that Iran sees the imposition of sanctions as a declaration of its liberation from all obligations and restrictions imposed under the agreement. In other words, the violation must be really large in order for the UN Security Council to destroy the agreement and impose the sanctions, which effectively gives Iran a license for all kinds of small and medium violations. These and other gaps are essential. So it deserves careful scrutiny by lawmakers in the US Congress and clear answers from the administration. But concerns about the deal are much larger. This deal with Iran also includes a significant reversal of all “nuclear related” sanctions, whether those imposed by the United Nations, the European Union or the United States. This includes all sanctions in the areas of energy and transportation and financial and commercial sanctions. In fact, the agreement includes page after page of the names of the persons and companies whose assets will “unfreeze.”
In addition, the easing of sanctions includes, in the fifth year, the lifting of the ban on conventional weapons against Iran, and in the eighth year, the lifting of restrictions on the delivery of ballistic missile components to Iran. In addition, there is a major obligation in the agreement prohibiting its signers from “re-introducing or re-imposing sanctions,” while later in the text it is stated that they are prohibited from “imposing discriminatory regulatory and procedural conditions instead of the penalties and restrictive measures covered by the [agreement].” Does this mean that the United States will stand idly by and not apply these sanctions against Iran because of its other aggressive activities, from terrorism to human rights violations? It seems that the United States, at the very least, has not sufficiently clarified its intention to maintain sanctions for these non-nuclear purposes. In fact, Iran may think that it is the only country in the world against which a long list of sanctions can not be applied against any crime that it may commit, which would only welcome the bad behavior Washington hopes to avoid.
The agreement with Iran goes even further. On top of refraining from punishing Iran for bad behavior, the United States and its partners are committed to helping Iran develop in the areas of energy, finance, technology, and trade. This deal does not mean that the United States and Iran are now partners, but rather the situation is far from it. However, it does send tremors across the region about their potential partnership. Iran does not have to pay the price for this huge strategic gain by giving up resort to terrorism, sabotage and other problematic policies.
The only price Iran pays for this huge strategic gain is to delay its nuclear ambitions. Perhaps even with all these problems, the agreement may achieve what the US President Barack Obama’s administration has promised to achieve, that is, to prevent Iran’s multiple paths to the nuclear bomb, at least for the next decade.
Perhaps achieving this goal deserves the many sacrifices and concessions that Washington made along the path that it has led to this agreement. Before submitting this provision, the US administration must clarify the clear defects and complexities of the agreement. Equally important is the need for this administration to provide more clearly the rationale for the strategic balance, or perhaps strategic competition between the United States’s old allies and its new potential ally, which this agreement appears to imply.