By John Ubaldi
Contributor, In Homeland Security
Former National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft gave President Obama a much needed boost by endorsing his Iran nuclear agreement, and pressed Congress to endorse it.
Scowcroft, the elder statesman of U.S. foreign policy, and one of the few who enjoys bipartisan support for his sage international experience, has also served two Republican presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Bush.
Writing an op-ed in The Washington Post Sunday, Scowcroft stated that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) meets the key objective, shared by recent administrations of both parties that Iran limit itself to a strictly civilian nuclear program with unprecedented verification and monitoring by the International Atomic Energy Agency and the U.N. Security Council. Iran has committed to never developing or acquiring a nuclear weapon; the deal ensures that this will be the case for at least 15 years and likely longer, unless Iran repudiates the inspection regime and its commitments under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and Additional Protocol.
The difficult aspect of Scowcroft’s argument with regard to verification and monitoring took a setback last week when The Associated Press reported that Iran would be able to inspect the controversial Parchin nuclear site.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reacted bitterly to this report and categorically denied that this would be the case. Whether the report is true or not just adds fuel to the fire, as no one has seen the secret side agreements between the IAEA and Iran.
President Obama wants Congress to vote on this agreement without seeing all the secret side agreements that were negotiated between IAEA and Iran. Individual lawmakers would have to make a tough choice to support the agreement without fully knowing what’s in the side agreements. This puts them in a difficult predicament.
Scowcroft mentioned in his op-ed that “If the United States could have handed Iran a ‘take it or leave it’ agreement, the terms doubtless would have been more onerous on Iran. But negotiated agreements, the only ones that get signed in times of peace, are compromises by definition. It is what President Reagan did with the Soviet Union on arms control; it is what President Nixon did with China.”
At the time of the agreements with China, and most notably with Russia, are different then the agreement with Iran. Russia and China were already nuclear powers at the time President Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan began and solidified agreements with China and Russia respectively.
The position the president placed the United States in by first going to the United Nations has complicated matters. Scowcroft is right in saying “Let us be clear: There is no credible alternative were Congress to prevent U.S. participation in the nuclear deal. If we walk away, we walk away alone.”
Even if the United States voted against this agreement, the Europeans, Russia and China have already begun sending teams of business negotiators to Tehran to begin solidifying their respective countries business interests.
If Iran doesn’t comply with the agreement at any time during the process, Russia and China have publicly stated that they will veto any re-imposition of sanctions; basically snap back inspections, as President Obama stated, is dead on arrival.
Russia has already signed an agreement to send Iran a sophisticated package of S-300 anti-air and missile defense systems, a clear violation of past sanctions against Iran. Even in the agreement, the conventional arms embargo against Iran will be lifted after five years, and eight years for ballistic missile weapons.
Scowcroft commented that Israel’s security, an abiding U.S. concern, will be enhanced by the full implementation of the nuclear deal. Iran is fully implementing the interim agreement that has placed strict limits on its nuclear program since January 2014, while the final agreement was being negotiated. If Iran demonstrates the same resolve under the JCPOA, the world will be a much safer place. And if it does not, we will know in time to react appropriately.
Continuing in his comments he said, “let us not forget that Israel is the only country in the Middle East with overwhelming retaliatory capability. I have no doubt that Iran’s leaders are well aware of Israel’s military capabilities. Similarly, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members have impressive conventional militaries, and the United States is committed to enhancing their capabilities.”
He is correct about Israel’s military capabilities, but a military strike against Iran’s nuclear infrastructure would be vastly different from the one conducted against Iraq’s Osirak nuclear facility in 1981, and against Syria’s al-Kibar nuclear facility in 2007.
Iran has numerous nuclear facilities, and any military action would have to be highly coordinated, and at greater distance then previous attacks Israel conducted in the past.
Any military operation is always followed by unforeseen consequences that military planners never account for; history is ripe with unintended consequences.
There are still unforeseen consequences of this agreement that only time will tell. No one knows how Iran will act once sanctions are lifted and they receive an infusion of billions of dollars. Will they use this to assist their proxy forces throughout the Middle East? Will they continue to prop up Assad in Syria? The U.S. wants to defeat ISIS, but will Iran continue to exert strong influence on the Shiite dominated government in Baghdad, further alienating the Sunni minority who we desperately need to defeat ISIS? Will they use this infusion of capital to modernize their armed forces?
One has to remember that Iran’s Qud Force Commander, Maj. General Qassim Suleimani, traveled to Russia at the beginning of the month, which the State Department stated was a clear violation of the United Nations travel ban, imposed because of Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. What was the purpose of this trip?
We will have to see what the future is for this agreement and how engaged the U.S will be in the region…so far it’s not looking good!