The Heritage Foundation

Factsheet #151 on Iran

August 5, 2015

August 5, 2015 | Factsheet on Iran

Top Five on the Iran Deal: Why the Iran Deal Won’t Prevent War

Iran is the world’s #1 state sponsor of terrorism. Americans agree it should not have a nuclear weapon. President Obama’s Iran deal does not prevent Iran from doing so—and, in fact, the deal makes the prospects for war more likely. If approved, the Obama Administration’s controversial Iran deal would dismantle the sanctions that forced Tehran to the negotiating table.

Top Five: What Happens if the U.S. Decides to Unravel Sanctions and Approve the Deal?

1. This Deal Leaves Iran’s Nuclear Infrastructure Largely Intact and Allows Iran Access to Advanced Technologies to Build a Nuclear Weapon. Iran will have access to modern computers that can advance its nuclear-weapon science. Iran can retain uranium enrichment capabilities it has lied about for years, which means it can quickly expand its enrichment activities when restrictions on the number of centrifuges expire or Iran quits the deal. Meanwhile, Iran continues to develop ballistic missiles.

2. This Deal Releases Billions of Dollars to the #1 State Sponsor of Terrorism. Tehran will benefit by the release of about $150 billion of its money that has been frozen in overseas accounts (about a third of its GDP). In the years ahead, the Iranian economy will be boosted by tens of billions of dollars more through a surge of oil revenues as oil sanctions are lifted. Much of this money will go to fund terrorist activities in the region. Iran will undoubtedly contribute to increasing instability in the Middle East.

3. Others Have Cause to Mistrust Iran. Verification and compliance issues are a symptom of global mistrust of Iran’s intentions with respect to its nuclear program. Even if these issues are resolved, Iran can delay inspections and will even take its own environmental samples. Iran has a history of cheating, lying, and reneging on nuclear agreements. Even feigning compliance, however, Iran can continue work critical to its nuclear weapons program.

4. This Deal Accelerates an Arms Race in the Most Dangerous and Volatile Region in the World. Arab states and Turkey are likely to demand the same nuclear enrichment capabilities as a prudent counterweight to Iran’s expanding nuclear capabilities. The end result could be accelerated nuclear technologies proliferation. Lifting restrictions on arms sales will boost Iran’s conventional capabilities, further contributing to instability in an already volatile region. Just proposing the deal has already contributed to a conventional arms race in the region.[1]

5. This Deal Lifts Sanctions on Iranians Responsible for American Deaths. Iran has a long history of supporting violence and terrorism within the Middle East, as well as around the world. Some of the worst bad actors de-sanctioned by the deal include:

  • Qasem Soleimani, a high-ranking general in the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps;
  • 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; and
  • Hossein Salami, the current second-in-command of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Salami recently claimed Iran would welcome war with America.[2]

A Different Path Forward to Control the #1 State Sponsor of Terrorism

Not participating in the Iran deal would be beneficial for U.S. national interests. Sanctions slowed down Iran’s nuclear program in the past, and would continue to do so. The Administration should not be lifting them. The President should work to convince others to maintain them, rather than convincing Americans to accept his flawed deal. The Administration can:

Impose Unilateral Economic Sanctions. By refusing to lift its economic sanctions, 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. The continuation of sanctions would be an important factor in constraining Iran’s ability to advance its nuclear program or threaten the U.S. and its allies.

Restore U.S. Credibility in the Middle East. The U.S. must rebuild its key relationships in the Middle East. The end result would be less pressure for a cascade of nuclear proliferation, particularly if the next U.S. Administration signals its willingness to expand security cooperation, enhance missile defenses, and work closely with Middle East partners.

Keep All Options on the Table. The U.S. should ensure that Iran is permanently deterred from building a nuclear weapon by the enduring threat of U.S. military force. This deterrent would be greater if Congress followed up on its rejection of the Vienna Agreement with a resolution expressing support for preventive military action should Tehran continue on its path to nuclear weapons.[3]

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Show references in this report

[1] James Phillips and Michaela Dodge. “Recent Heritage Foundation Publications on the Iran Nuclear Agreement,” Heritage Foundation Issue Brief No.4436, July 20, 2015, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/07/recent-heritage-foundation-publications-on-the-iran-nuclear-agreement.

[2] Michaela Dodge. “Meet 7 Dangerous Iranians Who Will No Longer Be Sanctioned,” The Daily Signal, July 23, 2015, http://dailysignal.com/2015/07/23/meet-7-dangerous-iranians-who-will-no-longer-be-sanctioned/.

[3] James Phillips, Luke Coffey, and Michaela Dodge. “The Iran Nuclear Agreement: Yes, There is a Better Alternative,” Heritage Foundation Issue Brief No. 4444, July 24, 2015, http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2015/07/the-iran-nuclear-agreement-yes-there-is-a-better-alternative.