A predominantly one-topic blog: how is it that the most imminent and lethal implication for humankind - the fact that the doctrine of "Mutually Assured Destruction" will not work with Iran - is not being discussed in our media? Until it is recognized that MAD is dead, the Iranian threat will be treated as a threat only to Israel and not as the global threat which it in fact is.
A blog by Mladen Andrijasevic
Thursday, April 9, 2015
The Iran Deal and Its Consequences
Mixing shrewd diplomacy
with defiance of U.N. resolutions, Iran has turned the negotiation on its head.
GEORGE P. SHULTZ
ByHENRY KISSINGER and GEORGE
The announced framework for an agreement on Iran’s
nuclear program has the potential to generate a seminal national debate.
Advocates exult over the nuclear constraints it would impose on Iran. Critics
question the verifiability of these constraints and their longer-term impact on
regional and world stability. The historic significance of the agreement and
indeed its sustainability depend on whether these emotions, valid by
themselves, can be reconciled.
Debate regarding technical details of the deal has thus
far inhibited the soul-searching necessary regarding its deeper implications.
For 20 years, three presidents of both major parties proclaimed that an Iranian
nuclear weapon was contrary to American and global interests—and that they were
prepared to use force to prevent it. Yet negotiations that began 12 years ago
as an international effort to prevent an Iranian capability to develop a
nuclear arsenal are ending with an agreement that concedes this very
capability, albeit short of its full capacity in the first 10 years.
Mixing shrewd diplomacy with open defiance of U.N.
resolutions, Iran has gradually turned the negotiation on its head. Iran’s
centrifuges have multiplied from about 100 at the beginning of the negotiation
to almost 20,000 today. The threat of war now constrains the West more than
Iran. While Iran treated the mere fact of its willingness to negotiate as a
concession, the West has felt compelled to break every deadlock with a new
proposal. In the process, the Iranian program has reached a point officially
described as being within two to three months of building a nuclear weapon. Under
the proposed agreement, for 10 years Iran will never be further than one year
from a nuclear weapon and, after a decade, will be significantly closer.
The president deserves respect for the commitment with
which he has pursued the objective of reducing nuclear peril, as does Secretary
of State John Kerry for
the persistence, patience and ingenuity with which he has striven to impose
significant constraints on Iran’s nuclear program.
Progress has been made on shrinking the size of Iran’s
enriched stockpile, confining the enrichment of uranium to one facility, and
limiting aspects of the enrichment process. Still, the ultimate significance of
the framework will depend on its verifiability and enforceability.
Negotiating the final agreement will be extremely
challenging. For one thing, no official text has yet been published. The
so-called framework represents a unilateral American interpretation. Some of
its clauses have been dismissed by the principal Iranian negotiator as “spin.”
A joint EU-Iran statement differs in important respects, especially with regard
to the lifting of sanctions and permitted research and development.
Comparable ambiguities apply to the one-year window for a
presumed Iranian breakout. Emerging at a relatively late stage in the
negotiation, this concept replaced the previous baseline—that Iran might be
permitted a technical capacity compatible with a plausible civilian nuclear
program. The new approach complicates verification and makes it more political
because of the vagueness of the criteria.
Under the new approach, Iran permanently gives up none of
its equipment, facilities or fissile product to achieve the proposed
constraints. It only places them under temporary restriction and
safeguard—amounting in many cases to a seal at the door of a depot or periodic
visits by inspectors to declared sites. The physical magnitude of the effort is
daunting. Is the International Atomic Energy Agency technically, and in terms
of human resources, up to so complex and vast an assignment?
In a large country with multiple facilities and ample
experience in nuclear concealment, violations will be inherently difficult to
detect. Devising theoretical models of inspection is one thing. Enforcing
compliance, week after week, despite competing international crises and
domestic distractions, is another. Any report of a violation is likely to
prompt debate over its significance—or even calls for new talks with Tehran to
explore the issue. The experience of Iran’s work on a heavy-water reactor
during the “interim agreement” period—when suspect activity was identified but
played down in the interest of a positive negotiating atmosphere—is not
Compounding the difficulty is the unlikelihood that
breakout will be a clear-cut event. More likely it will occur, if it does, via
the gradual accumulation of ambiguous evasions.
When inevitable disagreements arise over the scope and
intrusiveness of inspections, on what criteria are we prepared to insist and up
to what point? If evidence is imperfect, who bears the burden of proof? What
process will be followed to resolve the matter swiftly?
The agreement’s primary enforcement mechanism, the threat
of renewed sanctions, emphasizes a broad-based asymmetry, which provides Iran
permanent relief from sanctions in exchange for temporary restraints on Iranian
conduct. Undertaking the “snap-back” of sanctions is unlikely to be as clear or
as automatic as the phrase implies. Iran is in a position to violate the
agreement by executive decision. Restoring the most effective sanctions will
require coordinated international action. In countries that had reluctantly
joined in previous rounds, the demands of public and commercial opinion will
militate against automatic or even prompt “snap-back.” If the follow-on process
does not unambiguously define the term, an attempt to reimpose sanctions risks
primarily isolating America, not Iran.
The gradual expiration of the framework agreement, beginning
in a decade, will enable Iran to become a significant nuclear, industrial and
military power after that time—in the scope and sophistication of its nuclear
program and its latent capacity to weaponize at a time of its choosing. Limits
on Iran’s research and development have not been publicly disclosed (or perhaps
agreed). Therefore Iran will be in a position to bolster its advanced nuclear
technology during the period of the agreement and rapidly deploy more advanced
centrifuges—of at least five times the capacity of the current model—after the
agreement expires or is broken.
The follow-on negotiations must carefully address a
number of key issues, including the mechanism for reducing Iran’s stockpile of
enriched uranium from 10,000 to 300 kilograms, the scale of uranium enrichment
after 10 years, and the IAEA’s concerns regarding previous Iranian weapons
efforts. The ability to resolve these and similar issues should determine the
decision over whether or when the U.S. might still walk away from the
The Framework Agreement
and Long-Term Deterrence
Even when these issues are resolved, another set of
problems emerges because the negotiating process has created its own realities.
The interim agreement accepted Iranian enrichment; the new agreement makes it
an integral part of the architecture. For the U.S., a decade-long restriction
on Iran’s nuclear capacity is a possibly hopeful interlude. For Iran’s
neighbors—who perceive their imperatives in terms of millennial rivalries—it is
a dangerous prelude to an even more dangerous permanent fact of life. Some of
the chief actors in the Middle East are likely to view the U.S. as willing to
concede a nuclear military capability to the country they consider their
principal threat. Several will insist on at least an equivalent capability.
Saudi Arabia has signaled that it will enter the lists; others are likely to
follow. In that sense, the implications of the negotiation are irreversible.
If the Middle East is “proliferated” and becomes host to
a plethora of nuclear-threshold states, several in mortal rivalry with each
other, on what concept of nuclear deterrence or strategic stability will
international security be based? Traditional theories of deterrence assumed a
series of bilateral equations. Do we now envision an interlocking series of
rivalries, with each new nuclear program counterbalancing others in the region?
Previous thinking on nuclear strategy also assumed the
existence of stable state actors. Among the original nuclear powers, geographic
distances and the relatively large size of programs combined with moral
revulsion to make surprise attack all but inconceivable. How will these
doctrines translate into a region where sponsorship of nonstate proxies is
common, the state structure is under assault, and death on behalf of jihad is a
kind of fulfillment?
Some have suggested the U.S. can dissuade Iran’s
neighbors from developing individual deterrent capacities by extending an
American nuclear umbrella to them. But how will these guarantees be defined?
What factors will govern their implementation? Are the guarantees extended
against the use of nuclear weapons—or against any military attack, conventional
or nuclear? Is it the domination by Iran that we oppose or the method for
achieving it? What if nuclear weapons are employed as psychological blackmail?
And how will such guarantees be expressed, or reconciled with public opinion
and constitutional practices?
For some, the greatest value in an agreement lies in the
prospect of an end, or at least a moderation, of Iran’s 3½ decades of militant
hostility to the West and established international institutions, and an
opportunity to draw Iran into an effort to stabilize the Middle East. Having
both served in government during a period of American-Iranian strategic
alignment and experienced its benefits for both countries as well as the Middle
East, we would greatly welcome such an outcome. Iran is a significant national
state with a historic culture, a fierce national identity, and a relatively
youthful, educated population; its re-emergence as a partner would be a
But partnership in what task? Cooperation is not an
exercise in good feeling; it presupposes congruent definitions of stability.
There exists no current evidence that Iran and the U.S. are remotely near such
an understanding. Even while combating common enemies, such as ISIS, Iran has
declined to embrace common objectives. Iran’s representatives (including its
Supreme Leader) continue to profess a revolutionary anti-Western concept of
international order; domestically, some senior Iranians describe nuclear
negotiations as a form of jihad by other means.
The final stages of the nuclear talks have coincided with
Iran’s intensified efforts to expand and entrench its power in neighboring
states. Iranian or Iranian client forces are now the pre-eminent military or
political element in multiple Arab countries, operating beyond the control of
national authorities. With the recent addition of Yemen as a battlefield,
Tehran occupies positions along all of the Middle East’s strategic waterways
and encircles archrival Saudi Arabia, an American ally. Unless political
restraint is linked to nuclear restraint, an agreement freeing Iran from
sanctions risks empowering Iran’s hegemonic efforts.
Some have argued that these concerns are secondary, since
the nuclear deal is a way station toward the eventual domestic transformation
of Iran. But what gives us the confidence that we will prove more astute at
predicting Iran’s domestic course than Vietnam’s, Afghanistan’s, Iraq’s,
Syria’s, Egypt’s or Libya’s?
Absent the linkage between nuclear and political
restraint, America’s traditional allies will conclude that the U.S. has traded
temporary nuclear cooperation for acquiescence to Iranian hegemony. They will
increasingly look to create their own nuclear balances and, if necessary, call
in other powers to sustain their integrity. Does America still hope to arrest
the region’s trends toward sectarian upheaval, state collapse and the
disequilibrium of power tilting toward Tehran, or do we now accept this as an
irremediable aspect of the regional balance?
Some advocates have suggested that the agreement can
serve as a way to dissociate America from Middle East conflicts, culminating in
the military retreat from the region initiated by the current administration.
As Sunni states gear up to resist a new Shiite empire, the opposite is likely
to be the case. The Middle East will not stabilize itself, nor will a balance
of power naturally assert itself out of Iranian-Sunni competition. (Even if
that were our aim, traditional balance of power theory suggests the need to
bolster the weaker side, not the rising or expanding power.) Beyond stability,
it is in America’s strategic interest to prevent the outbreak of nuclear war
and its catastrophic consequences. Nuclear arms must not be permitted to turn
into conventional weapons. The passions of the region allied with weapons of
mass destruction may impel deepening American involvement.
If the world is to be spared even worse turmoil, the U.S.
must develop a strategic doctrine for the region. Stability requires an active
American role. For Iran to be a valuable member of the international community,
the prerequisite is that it accepts restraint on its ability to destabilize the
Middle East and challenge the broader international order.
Until clarity on an American strategic political concept
is reached, the projected nuclear agreement will reinforce, not resolve, the
world’s challenges in the region. Rather than enabling American disengagement
from the Middle East, the nuclear framework is more likely to necessitate
deepening involvement there—on complex new terms. History will not do our work
for us; it helps only those who seek to help themselves.
Messrs. Kissinger and Shultz are former
secretaries of state.