Iran deal risks creating another North Korea
November 24th, 2013
11:17 AM ET

Iran deal risks creating another North Korea

By Michael Rubin, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Michael Rubin is author of Dancing with the Devil: The Perils of Engaging Rogue Regimes, forthcoming in February 2014. You can follow him @mrubin1971. The views expressed are his own.

In the early hours of Sunday morning, in Geneva, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, and foreign ministers from Russia, China, and Europe signed a deal to suspend aspects of Iranian nuclear work in exchange for some sanctions relief. “With this first step, we have created the time and the space in order to be able to pursue a comprehensive agreement…to ensure that Iran does not obtain a nuclear weapon," Kerry told assembled diplomats and journalists.

President Barack Obama was triumphant. “Today, that diplomacy opened up a new path toward a world that is more secure – a future in which we can verify that Iran’s nuclear program is peaceful and that it cannot build a nuclear weapon.”

He should not be so certain. Rather than prevent Iran’s nuclear breakout, historians may mark the Geneva deal as the step that most legitimized Iran’s path to nuclear weapons capability.

Willing to deal is not synonymous with sincere desire to reach a comprehensive settlement. Key to successful reconciliation is truth, and there are many reasons to doubt Iranian intentions, none of which did the Geneva negotiators address. Iranian authorities say they seek nuclear technology to ensure domestic energy security, but as the Bipartisan Policy Center showed, Tehran could achieve that aim for a fraction of the cost and for decades, if not centuries, longer if it chose to invest instead in its pipeline and refinery infrastructure.

More from CNN: 20 questions about the deal

Neither Obama nor Kerry have demanded Tehran clarify past deception. If Iran’s nuclear program has always been peaceful as Tehran claims, then it would have had no need to hide enrichment plants and other facilities from inspectors. It is all well and good to compliment Iran on allowing inspections of key plants once discovered, but a sincere Tehran would not offer transparency only when intelligence services discover subterfuge.

Iran also walked away from previous offers – and even agreements – that would see it guaranteed reactor fuel should it agree that critical reprocessing might occur abroad.  Unfortunately, the current deal rewards Iran for its past defiance and loosens what diplomats once considered the minimum safeguards.

Fear over Iranian intentions is genuine. While Iranian officials say that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has issued a fatwa banning nuclear weapons, the collection of his fatwas on his official websites does not include it. Iranian officials and diplomats citing it have been inconsistent as to its date of issue and contents. Meanwhile, various Iranian officials have threatened to use nuclear weapons, curious statements from a regime that claims they do not seek to develop them.

Indeed, on December 14, 2001, former President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the father of Iran’s post-revolutionary nuclear program, reportedly declared: “The use of an atomic bomb against Israel would totally destroy Israel, while the same against the Islamic world would only cause damage. Such a scenario is not inconceivable.” Just over three years later, Iran Emrooz quoted Ayatollah Mohammad Baqer Kharrazi, secretary general of Iranian Hezbollah, as saying, “We are able to produce atomic bombs and we will do that. We shouldn't be afraid of anyone. The U.S. is not more than a barking dog." On May 29, 2005, Hojjat ol-Islam Gholam Reza Hasani, the Supreme Leader's personal representative in the West Azerbaijan province, reportedly declared possession of nuclear weapons to be one of Iran's top goals. “An atom bomb…must be produced as well,” he said. While some academics have suggested that Iranian leaders never said they hoped to “wipe Israel off the face of the earth,” official translations and banners suggest otherwise.

Past National Intelligence Estimates have further concluded that Iran has researched and experimented with nuclear weapons components, a charge that Iranian officials have always denied. While subsequent estimates suggested that Tehran stopped such work, an Islamic Republic sincere in putting past suspicions behind it would come clean.

More from GPS: Iran deal opponents' concerns misplaced?

True, the deal signed is better than that scuttled by French officials earlier this month. Diplomats have now placed restrictions on Iranian engineers using the pause to install new centrifuges. And negotiators have addressed concern regarding the potential of Iran extracting plutonium from the Arak heavy water plant.

Does it hurt to try with the current deal? Unfortunately, still, the answer is yes.

While Iran has agreed to suspend some enrichment, every concession Tehran has granted is reversible. The legitimacy of six unanimous or near unanimous U.N. Security Council Resolutions demanding Iran cease enrichment as a result of its non-compliance with the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s safeguards agreement can never be restored. The billions of dollars in sanctions relief Iran receives might very well pump new life into Tehran’s nuclear program. After all, when the European Union nearly tripled trade with Iran between 2000 and 2005, the Iranian government responded by spending the preponderance of its hard currency windfall on its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.

Perhaps, diplomats hope that, with some pressure relieved, Iranian officials will now negotiate sincerely during the next six months to resolve its nuclear file permanently. If so, they will be disappointed. By rewarding Iran for decades of defiance, negotiators have now set a precedent by which, whenever Tehran needs cash, it can restart enrichment and then demand billions in payment for temporary suspensions. In effect, Iran has replicated North Korea’s strategy: blackmail for cash and technology.

Second term presidents always seek legacies. President Clinton pushed hard at Camp David II to end the Israel-Palestinian conflict. Palestinian chairman Yasser Arafat walked away, and violence increased exponentially. Likewise, President George W. Bush sought a comprehensive settlement with North Korea. His administration removed North Korea from its list of terror sponsors and lifted some sanctions. In response, Pyongyang redoubled its nuclear and ballistic missile programs and accelerated terrorism against South Korea.

Unfortunately, the Iranian nuclear deal appears to fall into the same pattern. Not every country must be met halfway, and not every compromise is wise. The difference between appeasement and compromise is often determined only in historical hindsight. When historians consider the Geneva deal, they likely will categorize it as the former.

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Topics: Iran

soundoff (138 Responses)
  1. somethingstellar

    It sounds to me like they achieved a whole lot of nothing on our end, and now we are basically paying them to build weapons. Because it never said they would suspend ALL enrichment, just some. And by that, they mean the enrichment that we KNOW of. So basically they can just trickle nuclear weapons in a little slower but have plenty of money to do so. It's a deal with the devil and totally in their favor. They don't even have weapons for us to fear YET and we're still walking around on eggshells? Wonder what life will be like when they're pointing them all at all of our major cities then. Bring back the sanctions! They were in an economical death grip and you let go too soon!

    November 25, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  2. somethingstellar

    It sounds to me like they achieved a whole lot of nothing on our end, and now we are basically paying them to build weapons. Because it never said they would suspend ALL enrichment, just some. And by that, they mean the enrichment that we KNOW of. So basically they can just trickle nuclear weapons in a little slower but have plenty of money to do so. It's a deal with the devil and totally in their favor. They don't even have weapons for us to fear YET and we're still walking around on eggshells? Wonder what life will be like when they're pointing them all at all of our major cities then. Bring back the sanctions! If they're so independent let them prove it!

    November 25, 2013 at 4:24 pm | Reply
    • deep blue

      We aren't giving them money. We are just unfreezing their assets. They are getting access to their money.

      November 27, 2013 at 12:28 am | Reply
  3. ERTWER234534

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    November 25, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Reply
    • Manchester United fan

      HAve you taken your meddies today?

      November 26, 2013 at 11:13 am | Reply
  4. chrissy

    Ok you may be right. Maybe nothing was achieved. But...why is it some countries are allowed to have them, and some are not? IF.....they are ever set off, even just one, ALL of the others in EVERY country will fire theirs as well. So there is NO win win anyway, no matter if there is or isnt an agreement! They should ALL be dismantled even though we all KNOW there is NO feasable chance of that EVER happening!!!

    November 25, 2013 at 4:34 pm | Reply
    • Joseph McCarthy

      Well said, chrissy. How true that is!

      November 25, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Reply
    • nairobi

      in my community, i can think of many people who would be responsible with a gun. i can also think of some who definitely should not have one. countries are like people, some can handle nuclear bombs and some can't. nuclear bombs can be used as an instrument of peace or war. i'm thinking countries like North Korea and Iran would more likely use them for war purposes or to bully their neighbors.

      November 26, 2013 at 10:12 am | Reply
    • s~

      not all countries are equal, Chrissy

      November 26, 2013 at 10:41 am | Reply
    • JustSaying

      Mutual assured destruction, or mutually assured destruction (MAD). The thing that is keeping the world from going into World War 3. That's the reason that some countries have it and others don't. The ones who have nukes are less likely because they still love looking at the sky. Others like N. Korea and Iran are just too unstable. The N.K dude doesn't care about his people, and the Iranian one thinks that if he wipes out the US and "the west" he is going to heaven. Is that a good answer for you?

      November 27, 2013 at 12:45 am | Reply
  5. Mr Anderson

    All this rhetoric for what amounts to nothing. Regardless of whether they come to an agreement or not, Iran WILL eventually possess a nuke. However, I think everyone is overestimating the direct threat they pose. Whatever they end up producing probably won't be very sophisticated and probably very low yield. They'll never be able to create a stockpile even remotely as large as that possessed by the super powers. Russia would never allow it. Finally, if they were stupid enough to actually fire one off at Israel, it would be tantamount to suicide. The Israelis have a pretty sophisticated missile shield. It's pretty unlikely Iran would be able to successfully pull it off. They certainly aren't a direct threat to the U.S.
    The only real threat I see Iran posing is if they sold a nuclear device to an extremist group. Those are the people we should be scared of. They have zero regard for their own lives or the lives of others. The would have no problem driving it into a densely populated city and setting it off.

    November 25, 2013 at 5:47 pm | Reply
    • MrDRR

      When that bomb arrives in parts over time and is assembled in NYC.. remember they are no threat.. thanks

      November 25, 2013 at 10:01 pm | Reply
    • Drew W.

      This is silly only speaking of the Iranian NK Weapons Threat as being delivered by Missiles / ICBMs. Saying USA is too far away and Israel has a missile shield. Don't you realize the Militant Muslim Terrorist Groups (often funded by IRAN, such as HEZBOLLAH translation "head of Allah") often use other means to bomb buildings and cities, such as Truck Bombs? They don't need a Missile, just a Barge or ship off the coast of California or going up Chesepeake Bay near Wash. DC, carrying their bomb. IRANIAN Leadership previously attacked US Embassies and took hostages long ago, or did you forget. They are now inhibited by normal behavior.

      November 26, 2013 at 7:08 am | Reply
  6. ERMD

    The silver lining in attacking Iraq and destroying Saddam Hussein is that others know not to mislead the inspectors. Kaddafi saw what he needed to do. Now Syria appears to be transparent in destroying its chemical weapons. If Iran plays cat and mouse with the UN inspectors, they are inviting the military response every one is trying to avoid.

    November 25, 2013 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  7. Mor

    "I have returned from Germany with peace for our time."

    Neville Chamberlain, 1938

    November 25, 2013 at 8:07 pm | Reply
    • banasy©

      You do understand that Germany and Iran are two entirely different scenarios, right?
      Why do people keep this comparison up?

      November 25, 2013 at 8:15 pm | Reply
      • bobcat2u

        Probably because they are seeing things that are not there. Or more likely it's because they heard that talk at their favorite watering hole and were unable to see that it's all drunken BS

        November 25, 2013 at 8:28 pm |
      • ann

        Actually pre-war Germany and this Iran are very similar – as are the appeasement strategies of the West then, and now.

        November 25, 2013 at 10:46 pm |
    • Joe the man

      “the settlement of the Czechoslovakian problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all Europe may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the German Chancellor, Herr Hitler, and here '"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time."

      Neville Chamberlain

      “the settlement of the Iranian Nuke problem, which has now been achieved is, in my view, only the prelude to a larger settlement in which all the middle east may find peace. This morning I had another talk with the Iranian President, Ruhani, and here '"My good friends, for the second time in our history, a United state "War Hero" Secretary of State has returned from Geneva bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time."

      John kerry

      November 26, 2013 at 4:11 pm | Reply
  8. bobcat2u

    is giving Iran 7 billion dollars. People, people ,people. We are not giving them money. We are easing sanctions on them so they can draw up to 7 billion dollars of THEIR money. What is so hard to understand about that.

    November 25, 2013 at 8:19 pm | Reply
    • bobcat2u

      Part of my post vanished. What I was saying is :
      After visiting many different site, I find people are jumping up an down hollering about how the US is "giving" Iran 7 billion dollars. That is not what's happening.
      Please read post above for the completion of my post.

      November 25, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Reply
      • nairobi

        yes, they are making money now. my guess is that they'll use the money to fund their nuclear program.

        November 26, 2013 at 9:52 am |
    • sanderdog1

      And why should we give them their money for doing nothing?

      November 26, 2013 at 11:46 am | Reply
  9. octavius boils

    Why are such a large percentage of reporters on this issue jewish? They have a built-in bias in favor of israel

    November 25, 2013 at 8:24 pm | Reply
    • sanderdog1

      Perhaps it concerns them that Iran has plans to wipe them out.

      November 26, 2013 at 11:45 am | Reply
  10. MrDRR

    iIran with usa blessing is on their way now to build their bomb. Hiding the enrichment from the inspectors is a simple matter.. IIran is a big place.. with lots of potential for above and below ground activities. When the brilliant white flash, followed by llots of searing heat arrives.. just before you kiss you a.. good bye.. Send a "thank you" to Obama and his pack of idiots.

    November 25, 2013 at 9:59 pm | Reply
    • Rob S

      How was Iran's ability to build a nuclear bomb any different (or any harder) before this temporary agreement was signed? Iran had no inspections and no transparency. If hiding the enrichment is so easy and you're convinced the Iranians will breach the agreement, then it doesn't matter what the terms of the agreement are and whether we enter one – we're in the same place, no?

      November 26, 2013 at 11:22 am | Reply
  11. MJ

    It's sad that the President is more willing to cede the U.S. anti-nuke policy to Iran, a state sponsor of terror, than he is to negotiate with Republicans on healthcare, or anything else for that matter.

    November 25, 2013 at 10:12 pm | Reply
    • ann

      "You'll be able to keep your doctor."
      "Iran will not be able to get nuclear weapons."

      These lines will be forever attached to Obama. Personally, I pray both are true, but as we have seen already, many Americans have lost their doctors. And sadly, with North Korea as a recent example of what happens when you trust the wrong regime, I feel the second is bound for the heap of lies as well.

      November 25, 2013 at 10:50 pm | Reply
    • David Martin

      Well said!

      November 26, 2013 at 10:55 am | Reply
  12. chrissy

    Oh gees @ MJ, it is a WELL KNOWN fact that the term "negotiating republican" is an oxy moron! Meaning there is no such thing! Particularly if they are a member of the congressional stooges! He has tried to negotiate with them for years! It simply cant be done!

    November 25, 2013 at 10:26 pm | Reply
    • nairobi

      President Obama plays hardball just as much as Republicans in Congress. President pretty much has had it his way...and it seems as if there is no improvement. President has done a good job of blaming Republicans when he doesn't get his way...and eventually, the Republicans give in. "My way or the highway" applies more with President Obama than the Republicans.

      November 26, 2013 at 10:16 am | Reply
  13. chrissy

    And if i were him i would rather wrestle with crocodiles! Or be thrown in a snake pit. The odds of winning would be greater with those two scenarios!

    November 25, 2013 at 10:28 pm | Reply
  14. are122

    Obama couldn't even get one American hostage released. Very much like Carter. Iran has learned a lot from North Korea.

    November 25, 2013 at 10:32 pm | Reply
    • ann

      It's unconscionable that the US didn't insist on American hostages being released (being held in Iran for being Christian and praying in private homes.)

      November 25, 2013 at 10:52 pm | Reply
    • deep blue

      Your right. If we had sold them a nuke, we could get all the hostages released we wanted, and we could funnel the money into Syria behind Congress's back. You know, just like Reagan.

      November 27, 2013 at 12:32 am | Reply
  15. chrissy

    Ok so he aint superman @ are122, FYI that was established quite awhile ago! And what great thing have you done recently? Or any of us posting even? The answer of course is nothing! So yep hes a mere mortal like the rest of us. But the exception with him and many people here: he cares and hes TRYING to make a difference! More than could be said about his predicessor! And if he didnt have that romper room congress continuelly plunging and twisting those knives in his back, i betcha he could get a whole lot more accomplished!!

    November 25, 2013 at 10:47 pm | Reply
  16. slim_69

    Boy, this author can see the future (deal will fail, Iran will cheat, etc)! I wish geniuses like him could supply some answers, instead of just cynical, simplistic criticism.

    I'm relieve to see many reasonable comments here.

    Seems simple to me: this is a first step, for Iran to prove its sincerity. After 6 mos (or a year?), we can judge the results and adjust sanctions as necessary. To the geniuses who say wait for a permanent deal – no one knows how long that might take (if ever), and no guarantee that Iran wouldn't keep working on a bomb during negotiations!! Why is that a good strategy?!

    Finally, we should not let Netanyahu make our decisions for us! Israel is an ally, but not always on the same page with us.

    November 25, 2013 at 11:00 pm | Reply
    • nairobi

      you haven't been paying attention to the last 20 years or so in dealing with Iran. they've had many chances to be sincere. don't think for a second that they'll be sincere now just because of this silly deal. a manipulator will continue to manipulate to get what they want.

      November 26, 2013 at 10:25 am | Reply
  17. chrissy

    Lol spot on @ slim_69! Have ya ever noticed how negative the majority of people are? Good grief...shoot me please if i EVER become that negative!!

    November 25, 2013 at 11:12 pm | Reply
    • nairobi

      you are negative...toward those who think this deal with Iran is bad.

      November 26, 2013 at 10:19 am | Reply
  18. thecunningstunt

    11:17 AM ET
    Iran deal risks creating another North Korea.

    Dah, ya think?

    November 25, 2013 at 11:31 pm | Reply
    • Rascal262

      No, since China isn't directly on the other side of Iran.

      November 27, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Reply
  19. Sparrows345

    The precedence for this was set by George Bush in 2002 when he declared "North Korea will not be allowed to re-process plutonium." Within 6 months they did exactly that, removing the seals from the reactor and kicking ou the inspectors. Nothing was done. Also under Bush, Pakistan was rewarded for their proliferation. No wonder Obama thinks this is okay, pleasing the "more the merrier" crowd who think the more who have nukes the better and somehow less chance for accidents and miscalculation.

    November 26, 2013 at 12:23 am | Reply
  20. SOHAN

    Iranian Oil supply to Europe and Asian countries should restart at any cost. It is good to see that things are getting better in Iran's relationship with the west. There is no benefit for both sides with threats of war and sanctions.

    November 26, 2013 at 5:09 am | Reply
  21. Chuckles

    ERROR 404...Agreement not found

    November 26, 2013 at 7:55 am | Reply
  22. Circus Circus

    A new N Korea being created? Nope. Vastly different situation, country, culture, history, society, form of govt. That was easy.

    November 26, 2013 at 8:53 am | Reply
    • nairobi

      nobody said anything about the people and culture. they are similar because they both have or will use the creation of a nuclear bomb to get what they want from the west. North Korea has done with for years. Iran is just beginning.

      November 26, 2013 at 10:22 am | Reply
      • Rascal262

        North Korea has their sponsor/protector China standing right behind them on the border, Iran doesn't.

        November 27, 2013 at 1:50 pm |
  23. Joe Hill

    We should have just let them starve. The leaders of that country are nothing but thugs and terrorist that lie worse than Obama

    November 26, 2013 at 9:20 am | Reply
    • WERTWERT32452345

      Thank you, Joe. This is the most ignorant comment here yet! I bet that you never finished grade school, did you? Judging by your comment above, it doesn't appear that way!

      November 26, 2013 at 10:01 am | Reply
      • nairobi

        nothing he said was wrong or incorrect. they are thugs because they violently crack down on their own people. i classify that as thuggery when they kill their own people because they want more democracy. calling them terrorist isn't that far off the mark either, especially since they are one of the highest sponsors of terrorism. they are liars because they've been hiding the truth of their nuclear program for years.

        November 26, 2013 at 10:32 am |
      • nairobi

        he shouldn't have said the starving part. even bad people needs to eat.

        November 26, 2013 at 10:33 am |
      • Joseph McCarthy

        Tell me nairobi, are they truly any worse than the right-wing politicians in Washington? Somehow I don't think so! Look at our own foreign policies since 1950, will you? You'll then see what I mean.

        November 26, 2013 at 11:18 am |
  24. BigTex1

    Thanks, Mr Rubin, for more of the AIPAC propaganda. Maybe we should do what is right for America this time. Please tell your AIPAC buddies to take Naftali Bennett and get out of Washington. We are aware that Israel does not like the deal, maybe we would care if they signed the NPT and declared their illegal nukes.

    November 26, 2013 at 9:51 am | Reply
  25. Jeff G.

    Israel has much to gain from an ever-present security threat. Sadly this is now the main obstacle to peace in the region.

    November 26, 2013 at 10:19 am | Reply
  26. Evenstar

    Trusting a regime like Iran that has spewed anti west rhetoric for decades is asking for trouble down the road. This isn't just a mistake, it is a monumental mistake!

    November 26, 2013 at 10:59 am | Reply
  27. sanderdog1

    Iran's President told his people Iran received a good deal. They get relief from sanctions which will help the regime stay in power. Happy people do not revolt even against tyrants. I believe their President. Not so much do I believe our President anymore. Iran is determined to do us harm. Bad deal.

    November 26, 2013 at 11:44 am | Reply
  28. Avi

    Both the US and Iran have to find middle ground on this issue as they have more common aims in the region than at first obvious. I'am thinking- preventing the taliban and from getting too big in afghanistan post 2014, weakening the al qaeda and the Saudi inspired wahabbi cult from which it draws its strength. Iran needs to stop its nuclear weapons program if it has one and quit the rhetoric on Israel. The US needs to build trust and stop treating Iran as a rogue state which after Ahmedinijad it no longer appears to be. A softer Iran replacing Saudi Arabia in the US-Israel-Saudi troika will rid the middle east of its pain. But beware the Sunni backlash...

    November 26, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Reply
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