August 18, 2015 | Commentary on Nuclear Forces and Strategy, Iran

Why the Iran deal makes war more likely

Do you think opposition to the Obama administration’s deal with Iran is strictly a partisan issue? Hardly. Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York recently joined half a dozen Democrats in the House of Representatives who have voiced doubts about the agreement.

Who can blame them? It flunks the most basic litmus test imaginable. After all, what’s the point of the deal? It is — or should be — to prevent Iran from building its own nuclear weapon. And by that metric, the deal doesn’t begin to measure up.

Indeed, it may even make the situation worse:

• The deal allows Iran access to advanced technologies that will allow it to build a nuclear weapon. Of course, that’s not the stated purpose of said technology, but the fact remains that the deal will put modern computers into Iran’s hands — ones that it can use to advance its nuclear-weapon science.

• The deal lets Iran expand its terrorist activity. How? In the short term, by releasing $150 billion of its money, which has been frozen in overseas accounts. And in the long term, it can expect tens of billions more as oil sanctions are lifted. Does anyone honestly think the No. 1 state sponsor of terrorism won’t use this money to fund more terrorist activity?

• The deal has no real verification measures. Sure, there are inspections, but under the administration’s deal, Iran can delay them, enabling them to hide contraband materials and even take its own environmental samples. Considering Iran’s history of cheating and reneging on nuclear agreements, this is a huge problem. And as they feign compliance, they can continue to do work critical to its nuclear weapons program.

• The deal encourages an arms race in a dangerous region. There’s no way the Arab states and Turkey are going to sit idly by while Iran expands its nuclear reach. They’ll likely demand the same nuclear-enrichment capabilities.

• The deal lifts sanctions on Iranians responsible for American deaths. This rogues’ gallery includes such individuals as Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, who trained and commanded Hezbollah fighters in Lebanon at the time of the Beirut barracks bombing. This attack claimed the lives of 241 U.S. Marines, sailors and soldiers.

Some lawmakers, laboring under the mistaken impression that no alternative exists, may be tempted to give the administration a pass anyway, despite these problems. That would be a serious mistake.

They can start by blocking the current agreement. They shouldn’t fall for the administration’s rhetoric to the effect that this agreement is all that stands between us and war. As we’ve just seen, the deal actually makes war more likely.

After that, we can impose unilateral economic sanctions. “By refusing to lift its economic sanctions,” according to foreign policy experts James Phillips, Luke Coffey and Michaela Dodge, “the U.S. could prevent Tehran from financing its military buildup, terrorist network, or nuclear program with hundreds of billions of dollars of sanctions relief.”

Two follow-up steps are also important. For one, we need to restore credibility in the Middle East. We can’t hope to defuse such a tense situation without rebuilding key relationships in the region, starting with Israel. The next administration can best keep weapons from proliferating by expanding security cooperation, enhancing missile defenses, and working closely with our Middle East partners.

Secondly, we need to keep all options on the table. In the end, what will keep Iran from building a nuclear weapon is the enduring threat of U.S military force. Congress should express support for preventive military action if Iran continues its quest for nuclear weapons.

President Obama has said that critics of the Iran deal are either “ideological” or “illogical.” As we’ve seen, they’re neither. They just want an agreement that will keep us safe. The Iran deal is no deal. It’s time to try again.

- Ed Feulner is founder of the Heritage Foundation (

About the Author

Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D. Founder, Chairman of the Asian Studies Center, and Chung Ju-yung Fellow
Founder's Office

This piece originally appeared in The Washington Times