Iran action plan is no step forward
January 15th, 2014
08:57 AM ET

Iran action plan is no step forward

By Maseh Zarif, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Maseh Zarif is deputy director at the American Enterprise Institute’s Critical Threats Project. The views expressed are the writers’ own.

Obama administration officials have been preening since the announcement that the November 2013 “Joint Plan of Action” (JPA) deal with Iran will be implemented beginning January 20.  But the credibility of the deal – and the negotiators that struck it – is in trouble for one simple reason:  The JPA fails to verifiably eliminate Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. Or more succinctly, in Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s words: “In Geneva agreement world powers surrendered to Iranian nation's will.”

It became apparent during negotiations last year that the administration was ready for a deal that left Iran with considerable options in developing a nuclear weapon. The “first step” agreement did nothing to force Iran to address weaponization-related activities or its pursuit of ballistic missiles, which could serve as delivery vehicles for a nuclear warhead. And over-reliance on Iranian cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency will be another problem. Indeed, Tehran just postponed a forthcoming meeting with the IAEA on weaponization questions.

Uranium enrichment and other related projects will continue unchecked, despite officials’ arguments that Iran’s nuclear fuel cycle activities would be halted in significant ways. Indeed, a senior administration official conceded this week that the testing and feeding of advanced-generation centrifuges will be allowed under the deal’s implementation plan. The Iranians will, as a result, continue to improve their ability to produce enriched uranium more efficiently.

After a reporter subsequently asked why it was not preferred that such research be halted, the U.S. official responded: “Well, I mean, one can always imagine other things, but that’s the arrangement that was made.” The inherent message – “we took what we could get” – is another sign of weakness for an administration already hemorrhaging credibility. In practical terms, this approach will embolden the Iranians to continue extracting important concessions and to exploit the forthcoming implementation period in ways that could negate the claimed merits of the agreement.

More from GPS: What critics get wrong about Iran deal

The prospects that some of the flaws inherent in the first step will be resolved at a later stage are dim. Most significantly, language agreed upon for the outline of a potential final deal suggested that core elements of Iran’s nuclear weapons program, most notably uranium enrichment, could remain intact. The administration’s positions and negotiating record thus far demonstrate its emphasis on process rather than substance and its prioritization of a deal over achieving an outcome that prevents Iran from getting nuclear weapons.

An overarching but related problem for the administration is its unwillingness to acknowledge and confront the broader issue. The regime and its leadership remain fundamentally hostile to the U.S. worldview. They pursue a regional agenda that is inimical to American interests and those of our allies and partners. One only need review some of what the Iranian regime and its agents have been up to over the last several months to understand that.

Tehran has long been aiding the al-Assad regime in the Syrian war, deploying Iranian military personnel, enlisting Hezbollah and Iraqi Shia militia fighters, and sending financial and other military support. Since the JPA was signed in November 2013, Iran reportedly sent 330 truckloads worth of weapons and related equipment into Syria from Iraq, where it has stoked sectarian tensions through its relationship with Iraq’s current government. In Bahrain, authorities seized arms and explosives being sent from Iran in late December before announcing details about an alleged Iranian-backed terrorist cell.

Across the broader Middle East and beyond, Iran foments instability and undermines U.S. policies and allies. The JPA has not changed that reality. Some interlocutors directly involved in nuclear negotiations, whom administration officials have defended as reasonable counterparts, have been unambiguous about where the regime’s interests and tendencies lie. While Secretary Kerry was reprimanding Congress for its effort to increase the credibility of future pressure against Iran and declaring that “this is the time for statesmanship,” his Iranian counterpart, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, was in Beirut offering praise for and laying a wreath at the tomb of Lebanese Hezbollah terrorist Imad Mughniyeh. Mughniyeh was responsible for the 1983 bombing of the U.S. Marine barracks in Lebanon, among other attacks.

There will inevitably be a great deal of noise and misdirection over the coming months. For all that might change, a great deal will likely remain the same. For Iran, the period during the scheduled implementation of the JPA will be reminiscent of the period before it: the regime’s leadership will seek to maintain and develop their nuclear weapons program and options, weaken the sanctions regime, and attempt to advance efforts to dominate the broader Middle East at the expense of American influence and interests.

Unless the Obama administration confronts these realities and works to prevent Iran’s pursuit of its ambitions, it will lose the next six months as it has lost the last six months.

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Topics: Iran • Nuclear • United States

soundoff (85 Responses)
  1. chrissy

    @ Trevor, some very good points! Did you happen to read the article on the homepage about our Marines in 2003 or 04, cant remember at the moment? Horrid is what it is! And also @ Blackrat, good point about the cancer issue that you raised!!

    January 16, 2014 at 1:33 pm | Reply
    • Oleg

      Анголосаксы! вы все подонки, и у вас нет нечего дорого и разумного. У вас нет ни чести, не позетива, один негатив ко всему миру. Пока вы гавкаете, на страны неподвластны вам, и врёте всему миру не умело, вы уничтожаете себе подобных и свой народ. Увидите, скоро от вас останется пылинка, даже воспоминание сотрём. И в первую очередь под снос пойдут страны Англия, США, Израиль.
      Angolosaksa! all of you are geeks, and at you no, there is nothing expensively and reasonable. At you isn't present honor, not the positive, one negative to the whole world. While you bark, on the countries aren't subject to you, and you say lies to the whole world not skillfully, you destroy similar and the people. You will see, soon from you there will be a mote, even the reminiscence will be erased. And first of all under demolition the countries of England, the USA, Israel will go.

      January 16, 2014 at 5:31 pm | Reply
      • Illya murometz

        POSHEL NA XUY SUKA, TY PIDAR GOM PAGANYI...PROTARAKAN OBRATNO I OTSOSI PUTINA TY SUKA BLYADSKAYA!!!!!!

        January 17, 2014 at 8:56 am |
      • mullahproblems

        Sure, I think the USSR thought the same thing. Good luck dealing with all of your own internal domestic issues AND your terrorist problems. I think it's hilarious that Russia thinks it can back despots and terrorists without getting burned.

        January 17, 2014 at 12:06 pm |
      • jeffery lebowski

        What man, this is like an English speaking board comrade, if you want to say were losers and all get a better translator.

        January 19, 2014 at 7:53 pm |
    • chuckhasman

      Iran needs to be stopped!! They meddle In Lebanon's affairs/// their boys the terrorists Hezballah killed Lebanon's Elected President and other officials. Iran has committed terrorist attacks against Israel as well as threatened to kill ALL ISRAELI'S as well as half the ARAB WORLD?? Nuclear weapons in the Hands of Mid East country's should be banned and never allowed to happen. This is not only a threat to peace but a threat to the EARTH that GOD made as well as civilians who want no part of the religous idiots / Power hungry dictators.

      January 17, 2014 at 5:14 am | Reply
      • George

        chuckhasman: Everything you say is total garbage. Nobody killed the Lebanese president. Also, Hezbollah is not a terrorist group. It was formed to fight the terrorism of Israel which had been occupying and plundering the south of Lebanon for 20 years.

        January 18, 2014 at 3:00 pm |
    • ALI

      Iran might have thought about a nuclear option when Saddam was using WMDs on Iranian and Kuridsh civilians long ago but every shred of evidence shows that it was not a concerted effort and probably stopped 10 years ago. Nothing satisfies you Neocons and pro-Israeli lobby but war. That is what u really want.

      January 18, 2014 at 5:36 am | Reply
      • wakeupAmerica

        So true Ali. The "West" learned, a very long time ago, that war could be very profitable. Sad.....

        January 18, 2014 at 12:34 pm |
  2. Black Rat

    Hi @ Milke, It must be clarified that the origins of the Bible come from Germany, the German people by the World War I and II migrated largely to Russia and Middle East, fashion have masts as a missile is to have an atomic bomb tied to a dry stick, for years these pumps have been distributed in Latin America, since 1974 the pumps have been providing lownuclear power plants, and used in the I and II World War ballistic missiles, that Israel has been developing in a country with a great superhábit of nuclear energy, many times Commissioners investigating investment in nuclear power have not found nuclear warheads in Iran, but the news has been that sometimes they tell to the unison Yes and no, but you can check this by visiting and reviewing investment in Iran nuclear power back on reason that stopped its nuclear power plants and the current power plants have them running based on carbon, for example radioactivity emission problems are reduced to cancer in people who take the exams for goiter

    January 16, 2014 at 1:39 pm | Reply
  3. Black Rat

    Hi @Mike and @ Trevor, Remember to comment that the mast is the anchor of the heliport or takeoff zone of the warhead, airport and viewer (binoculars) to distance telepathic and cellular telephone towers in other medical cases, language and singers

    January 16, 2014 at 2:26 pm | Reply
  4. Black Rat

    This @ Sly deserves an honest answer two ghettos, and now need someone who has a good source search, how many Hitler had in history, because the real President of Germany in the second world war was not name Hitler.

    Sly's Comment

    Sly … What? You mean to say there never were any WMD's? So those 500,000 innocent civilians were murdered for nothing?

    January 16, 2014 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  5. George

    Mr. Zarif seems to be another misguides Zionist and neo-con for whom nothing makes sense other than starting another war, this time with Iran. This article is so illogical and nonsensical that I don't even want to bother arguing about its silly points. Sure, just stick your head in the sand and keeping hitting Iran on the head. That will get you someplace, but not where you expect.

    January 16, 2014 at 2:58 pm | Reply
    • mullahproblems

      You're right, people like him should just ignore Iran's long history of funding terrorism and human rights violations...perish the thought of us picking on poor old Iran.

      January 17, 2014 at 12:07 pm | Reply
      • George

        What history of terrorism? All the instances that you can bring up are either lies or based on false flag operations. The Marine barrack bombing, Argentina, IEDs in Iraq, plots against the Saudi ambassador in DC were all examples of such misrepresentations.

        In contrast, Iran is one of the biggest victims of American and Israeli terrorism. What, you haven't heard of the assassination of Iranian scientists or the Stuxnet and Flame viruses. Do you know anything about the CIA-sponsored Jundullah who have killed numerous Iranians? I have plenty of other examples too.

        January 17, 2014 at 2:26 pm |
      • mullahproblems

        See, this is an example of a conspiracy theorist at work. You really believe that the US has conducted false flag ops that have killed American soldiers? That's absolute insanity. As for terrorism, they've openly admitted to funding Hamas and Hezbollah, the Mahdi Army in Iraq, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Shia terrorists in Bahrain AND not to mention their support of Assad BEFORE sunni jihadis were involved. They're evil, plain and simple.

        January 17, 2014 at 3:01 pm |
      • George

        Everything you say is total garbage. I don't have the time to explain the facts of life to you. The U.S. and Israel are the biggest terrorist countries in the world and Iran is one the biggest victims of their terrorism.

        Another reason that I am not responding in detail is that this comment section is extremely primitive and I don't want to bother wasting my time writing comments that suddenly disappear and have to be written in cramped quarters.

        January 18, 2014 at 3:12 pm |
      • mullahproblems

        Now, now George you have every right to complain. But if you live in the U.S. you're just a hypocrite who has no faith in American leadership so please stop protecting terrorists.

        January 21, 2014 at 10:39 am |
  6. Riky

    Hi I sed de GPS

    January 17, 2014 at 12:57 pm | Reply
  7. Vinay

    First of all the United States needs to be booted out of the entire ME. ONLY THEN will peace return to the region. All this shia sunni divide was seeded by the west. Its common sense that if two parties of the same community fight with each other, both are affected, giving America and the western thugs the upper hand. But this will soon be things of the past, as newer powers like China and Russia and others will eclipse America and others.

    January 17, 2014 at 2:33 pm | Reply
    • Terrence Healy

      The United states did not seed the Sunni Shiite divide, this was Al Qaida, Iran and Radical Moslem Fundamentalist using the divide and conquer ideal. Iran has been fueling the war more than anyone, Why are they backing Syria and were causing problems in Iraq.

      January 20, 2014 at 7:25 pm | Reply
      • Tom Clark

        The US DID help Iraq AND Iran when the were fighting each other ! To keep both nations week and at war. Not an act of humanity or attempt to resolve the conflict.

        January 21, 2014 at 8:09 pm |
  8. icansee4miles

    Russia and Iran are playing a masterful game of weakening the U.S.' influence and power globally, while China looks on approvingly. Take a good look at Iran's creation of the Shia Crescent; Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Look at the populations of the oil fields of the Arabian Gulf; Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar; significant populations of Shia Muslims.

    The primary tenet of the Shia is not to recognize any sovereign authority except that of the Shia religion. The Head of the Shia is the Grand Ayatollah in Iran; his word is law for the Shia in all of these countries, disseminated from his lips through the local Mullahs to their followers. And don't forget the Shia spreading their subversive tenets in South America, to Mexico and the borders of the U.S.A.

    Once it gets its nuke, Iran will hold a knife to the throat of the Arabian Gulf's oil producing countries. Further, with suicidal drivers (remember the Shia truck bomb that killed 242 Marines in Lebanon during Reagan's term) driving nukes in trucks over the Mexican border to the heart of American cities, Iran will be an existential threat to United States-and Russia's hands will be "clean".

    The Bahrain Protocol, Amazon Kindle's new thriller spells out the truth in a gripping novel about the U.S.' withdrawal from the world stage; and if the U.S. won't protect the world, Israel will-with a surprising new partner, Saudi Arabia.

    January 17, 2014 at 4:07 pm | Reply
    • ommonsense911

      Great analysis. I do not understand Russian near sighted policy – they may have much more problems with Iran nuke rather than USA, in the long run .. Russian diplomats still thinking in terms of arranging immediate trouble to America, while they should rather watch out for strategic trouble from their neighbours – like Iran or China

      January 18, 2014 at 4:26 pm | Reply
  9. ken

    Iran is planning a JIHAD strike on planet EARTH. will commence from the STATE OF ISRAEL. just my dream.

    January 18, 2014 at 1:58 pm | Reply
  10. chrissy

    Nevertheless @ George, it IS refreshing to see your post before it gets deleted. Which may or may not get deleted, due to the date of this thread it may not. And i agree!

    January 18, 2014 at 3:53 pm | Reply
  11. ommonsense911

    Iran is not planning a JIHAD strike on planet EARTH using nukes, it just want to dominate in the area, which is bad enough – not only for its neighbours

    January 18, 2014 at 4:18 pm | Reply
  12. Counterpoint

    Saudi Arabia is just as guilty if not more guilty of expanding Islamist extremism as Iran.

    Yet we call them allies.
    If you really care about stopping islamic extremism. Sanction both of them.

    January 19, 2014 at 6:28 am | Reply
  13. dougjmiller

    The recent appeasement deal gave the radical Islamic regime in power in Iran everything they wanted. They got many $ Billions in frozen assets, essential elimination of economic sanctions and the freedom to continue refining uranium.

    The problem is not Iran. The problem is the radical, Islamic dictatorship that controls Iran. Most of the Persians are peaceful, decent people who desire freedom but are brutally oppressed by the regime that is a major sponsor of terrorism in the Middle East and around the world and is racing to acquire nuclear weapons in order to intimidate and possibly incinerate other nations. It's time to stop their uranium enrichment before the Ayatollahs unleash a nuclear armageddon with unimaginable amounts of death and destruction.

    January 19, 2014 at 11:05 am | Reply
    • Tom Clark

      Radical capitalism, backed by the major powers of the world are much more of a threat to the vast majority of the world population than any religion. It's all about the money!

      January 21, 2014 at 8:16 pm | Reply
  14. Crosswinds

    This will be the worlds greatest mistake if they stand by and allow Iran to become a Nuclear weopons power.......

    .....Revelation 17:2.......
    with whom the kings of the earth committed fornication, and the inhabitants of the earth were made drunk with the wine of her fornication.”......

    January 19, 2014 at 6:06 pm | Reply
    • Tom Clark

      Revelation 17:2? What the F*** is that babble about?

      January 21, 2014 at 8:31 pm | Reply
  15. chrissy

    @ crosswinds WHAT does that have to do with Iran? And im sure if the Lord had his way NO ONE would have nuclear weapons! So...what makes any other country more deserving? Or undeserving, however you wanta look at it! Im sure many citizens of the US with cancer wish we didnt have them either!

    January 19, 2014 at 7:22 pm | Reply
  16. paul martin foreign correspondent

    He who fights and runs away
    Lives to fight another day
    But he who in battle's slain
    Never lives to fight again

    Is anyone naïve enough to buy that Iran is done with nukes ? Gimme a break !

    January 20, 2014 at 8:03 am | Reply
  17. Tom Clark

    Team America-World Police. It's all about the money!

    January 21, 2014 at 8:28 pm | Reply
  18. Hashman

    I don't know what Mrs. Zarif is talking about. Doesn't the agreement forbid Iran from enriching Uranium beyond 20%, which it was allowed to do under NPT? How can Iran develop nuclear bomb capability with lower that 20% enriched Uranium? This agreement was a loss for Iran, and it is a step in the right direction. Of course their leaders are going to try to polish it as a victory. It's abserd to point to comments by the Iran's leaders about it being a victory for them. Did Mrs Zarif really think Iran's leaders would come and tell their people "we lost"? The moderates in Iran are trying their best to sell this deal as a victory.
    Pointing to Iran's influence in its neighboring states as some sort of indication that it is a renegade nation hell-bent on destruction is absurd too. Of course they want to keep influence in their neighboring states. You don't have to be an axis of evil to want that - we do it every day in nations on the other side of the planet from us. Moreover, our allies in the region, the Saudi's have been fomenting way more trouble than the Iranians.

    January 21, 2014 at 9:49 pm | Reply
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