Dov S. Zakheim | Don’t Buy Obama’s Hype on Iran

Dov S. Zakheim, National Interest:

President Obama got his wish: he can point to an agreement with Iran that, he claims, is the first step toward normalization of the two countries’ relations. He clearly believes that by engaging Tehran, he can both prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons and transform it into a force for stability in the Middle East.

The trouble is that no other state in the region, with the exception of that portion of Syria still under the control of Bashar al-Assad, and the Sh’ia-dominated government in Baghdad, has any confidence that Obama is correct on either count.

The so-called framework agreement, which actually is far more detailed than most observers expected, still has to win Ayatollah Khamenei’s formal approval. Moreover, the American interpretation of that agreement may not be the same as Iran’s, and most likely will differ in critical details. The overall tone of the agreement, as presented by the White House, is one that implies Iranian capitulation on almost every major issue. For example, Iran seemingly caved on the question of new research and development, as well as on the matter of shipping enriched material out of the country. Yet only a few days ago, these were major sticking points for the Iranian negotiators, and no doubt remain as such for the more hardline elements in Tehran. The Iranians also wanted the immediate removal of all sanctions, yet the agreement does not address any sanctions other than those related to Tehran’s nuclear activities. Did Khamenei actually agree to such arrangements? It is hard to tell.

Moreover, the White House asserts that the agreement posits that all previous Security Council resolutions regarding enrichment, Arak, Fordow and transparency would be lifted if Iran complies with its provisions, but then the Security Council would pass a new resolution restricting the transfer to Iran of “sensitive technologies and activities.” But what are those activities? Will Iran accede to a Western definition of what those technologies and activities might be? And will Russia and China in particular actually vote for a new Security Council resolution of any kind?

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