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Analysis: US Lifts Economic Sanctions against Iran

Note: The opinions and comments stated in the following article, and views expressed by any contributor to In Homeland Security, do not represent the views of American Military University, American Public University System, its management or employees.

By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security

President Barack Obama signed an executive order lifting economic sanctions against Iran, after the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Secretary of State John Kerry verified Iran had complied with the international nuclear agreement.

Iran now will recoup and receive over $100 billion in frozen assets, and have the ability to sell its crude oil on the international market.

Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “Iran has honored its commitment to alter, in fact dismantle, much of its” nuclear operation, Kerry said Vienna. “All of Iran’s paths toward a nuclear weapon have been stopped. … Today marks the first day of a safer world.”

President Obama reiterated the statement by Secretary Kerry, “Yesterday marked a milestone in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Iran has now fulfilled key commitments under the nuclear deal.”

The president continued, “Over more than a decade, Iran had moved ahead with its nuclear program, and, before the deal, it had installed nearly 20,000 centrifuges that can enrich uranium for a nuclear bomb. Today, Iran has removed two-thirds of those machines. Before the deal, Iran was steadily increasing its stockpile of enriched uranium — enough for up to 10 nuclear bombs. Today, more than 98 percent of that stockpile has been shipped out of Iran — meaning Iran now doesn’t have enough material for even one bomb. Before, Iran was nearing completion of a new reactor capable of producing plutonium for a bomb. Today, the core of that reactor has been pulled out and filled with concrete so it cannot be used again.”

Included in lifting the sanctions against Iran, Tehran has agreed to release five Americans held in Iranian custody, including Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian, which coincides with the U.S. releasing several Iranians held for their involvement in violating international sanctions against the regime.

Now after the IAEA verified Iran had been in compliance with the nuclear agreement signed last summer, the question missing from the coverage, how did the agency verify Tehran was in compliance? Did the agency interview any of the Iranian scientists involved in past or current nuclear weapons work? This would have been problematic since Iran refused access to any of their scientists involved.

Part of the agreement gives Tehran 24 days of advanced notice to certain sites—hardly the “anytime, anywhere” inspections that the administration had been touting.

In a report conducted by the Congressional Research Service on December 7th 2015, reported that when the National Council of Resistance on Iran (NCRI), an Iranian exile group, revealed information during a press conference (some of which later proved to be accurate) that Tehran had built nuclear-related facilities that it had not revealed to the IAEA. The United States had been aware of at least some of these activities, according to knowledgeable former officials. Prior to the NCRI’s revelations, the IAEA had expressed concerns that Iran had not been providing the agency with all relevant information about its nuclear programs, but had never found Tehran in violation of its safeguards agreement.

The real question is how do we know what the baseline of their nuclear programs is, or basically how close did they come in developing a nuclear weapon?

It’s hard to verify the extent of compliance when we don’t know what their baseline level of production was or the full extent of all locations of their nuclear facilities and instillations. One only has to remember Iran was insistent, no inspections of military sites or of its most controversial instillations.

The other aspect of verifying compliance by the IAEA, who was part of the verification team, since Tehran insisted “No Americans” will be part of any inspection team, and was Iran allowed to self-inspect itself? Remember Congress was not allowed to view any of the controversial side deals once the agreement was signed last summer.

The administration is touting this as breakthrough in diplomacy, but how does lifting of the sanctions play throughout the Sunni Arab world? President Obama has touted, he wants the Sunni Arab nations to play a greater role in defeating ISIS, but his singular focus on this agreement will make his task far more difficult if not near impossible.

Once the agreement expires in fifteen years as Foreign Affairs commented, Iran will be free to build as many nuclear installations as it wants, accumulate as much enriched uranium as it wishes, and enrich that uranium to whatever level it deems necessary. In essence, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) establishes Iran as a threshold nuclear power today and paves the way for an eventual Iranian bomb.

How will Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States respond, as the United Arab Emirates in 2009, had renounced its nuclear uranium enrichment as part of its civilian nuclear agreement with the United States, will they reconsider that pledge, how will this impact other Sunni countries?

The Sunni Arabs, especially Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States view the threat from ISIS as secondary to the real threat which emanates from Iran. It doesn’t make a difference how we see things, from Saudi Arabia’s vantage point they feel they are being surrounded by Iran from all sides.

Saudi Arabia is involved in a war of attrition against Iranian backed Houthis rebels in Yemen, a Shiite dominated government in Baghdad heavily influenced by Tehran, Iranian support of the Syrian government of President Bashar Hafez al-Assad, and finally its continued support of its proxy forces of Hamas and Hezbollah.

The other unanswered and unknown question is how will Iran spend over $100 billion in unfrozen assets? The president believes that in a rational manner Tehran will utilize this capital and invest it back into the Iranian economy which has been crippled by sanctions and falling oil prices.

This impact of unfreezing of over $100 billion dollars will now be unleashed into its economy, but one also has to understand that Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a major player in the Iranian economy, one in which the Obama administration has reluctantly failed to identify as terror organization.

The IRGC is an arm of the regime most responsible for terrorism, aggression, and responsible for the majority of U.S. causalities in Iraq. Foreign Affairs reported that this group boasts substantial business holdings in a range of areas, including the automotive sector, telecommunications, energy, construction, engineering, shipping, and air transportation. With sanctions lifted any country and or business entity will be free to establish commercial ties with the group.

The real question how will Iran use its unfrozen assets, will it join the family of nations or will it continue to be the terror state it always has been and continue to ferment terror throughout the region. Finally, did this agreement prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon or did we just delay the inevitable?

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