July 14, 2015
Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint issued the following statement regarding the Vienna Agreement on Iran’s nuclear program:
If allowed to stand, the Vienna agreement announced today will make the world a much more dangerous place. It completely fails to cut off Iran’s path to nuclear weaponry. Indeed, it moves the world one step closer to a regional nuclear arms race and possibly a nuclear war.
The Obama Administration entered negotiations with the goal of dismantling at least some Iran’s nuclear facilities. But the only things this agreement dismantles are the economic sanctions that have restrained the regime’s nuclear program.
Under this deal, Iran’s vast nuclear infrastructure remains largely intact. Moreover, the “freeze” on uranium enrichment is both temporary and partial. That’s not a freeze; it’s a slight chill at best.
Nor is there much assurance that Iran will abide by even these scaled back conditions. Tehran has a long and continuing history of violating UN-sanctioned restrictions on its nuclear and missile programs. The agreement should, therefore, stipulate rigorous verification procedures. Instead, the Administration’s verification demands devolved from the “inspections anytime, anywhere” to “inspections sometimes, in some places."
Meanwhile, Tehran remains free to continue its research and development programs for both centrifuges and intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Compounding the problem, the deal also gives Tehran plenty of money to ramp up these—and other—destabilizing activities. The agreement gives Iran an immediate “signing bonus” of up to $50 billion in sanctions relief. It calls for the gradual release of about $150 billion now frozen in overseas accounts—an amount more than six times that of Israel’s annual defense budget. Over time, the sanctions relief will pour tens of billions more into the regime’s treasury, courtesy of surging oil revenues.
The regime will use much of this windfall to fund Hezbollah, Hamas, the Shia insurgency in Yemen, and Shia militias in Iraq—further destabilizing the entire region. Leveraging its new-found wealth to escalate the Middle East’s ongoing wars, Iran could gain hegemony over Iraq and Yemen and win effective control of their important oil resources and oil supply routes.
Because this agreement puts so much wind in the sails of Tehran’s regional ambitions, it will leave others in the region no choice but to react strongly. The Administration hopes to assuage their fears by ramping up conventional arms sales to some allies. But fueling a conventional arms race won’t make the region more stable.
And Iran’s Arab neighbors and Turkey will want greater firepower than that, anyway. They recognize that—even at best—this agreement is only temporary. As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has noted, it does not block Iran’s pathway to a nuclear weapon, but paves the way toward an Iranian nuclear weapons arsenal. The restrictions on uranium enrichment would sunset automatically in 10 to 15 years—leaving Tehran a clear field for its final sprint to nuclear power status.
For self-preservation, our allies will want that same status. In the end, this agreement will blow up the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, triggering a nuclear arms race among multiple countries in what is already the world’s most volatile and dangerous region.
In sum, this agreement fails to achieve—even on paper—the fundamental national security goals identified earlier by the Administration negotiators. Instead of stopping Iran’s drive to become a nuclear power, it puts the regime on a glide path to nuclear power status and the economic wherewithal to assure that it gets there. Concurrently, it will fuel nuclear proliferation and further destabilization—compounding rather than alleviating an already toxic security environment.