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 (139 Responses)
  1. Avi

    preventing the taliban and pakistan from getting too big in afghanistan post 2014

    November 26, 2013 at 12:08 pm |
  2. chrissy

    @ sanderdog1, WE are NOT giving them any money! Where did you get that notion? They are saving 7 billion by signing this agreement. And @ s~, i did not say every country was the same! Clearly they are not!

    November 26, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
  3. chrissy

    So @ nairobi, by what you posted earlier that would mean Israel are liars too huh? Because they also are hiding their nuclear facilities and saying they dont exist! If we can prevent just ONE war than we've done a good thing! I personnally dont feel that our country needs to be at war all the time. Especially when they really have nothing to do with us! I feel much better knowing the goal is for peace and NOT war! I also dont think the leaders of Iran are stupid! They KNOW if they use even ONE nuclear device all other countries that have them will use theirs also!

    November 26, 2013 at 12:54 pm |
  4. Ken

    Picture at the top: John Kerry-Heinz said...Dude, I don't know what happened here, but the ketchup in on me and T. Heinz....yeppp..

    November 27, 2013 at 4:34 pm |
  5. chrissy

    Lol catching on aren't ya @ rightospeak. I told you who this person really was. But a clue to you, he very often posts on this site with some very intelligent posts. Too bad he didnt just stick to that personna because he is well liked under that UN. Guess that isnt his only goal though!

    November 28, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
  6. chrissy

    Have a good day today! Ttys.

    November 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
  7. Jim

    Since Obama could not make a deal for Afganastan opium from Karzai....he obtained it by's an opium deal...Our government is targeting Ameticans with opioid addiction....the FDA allowed the Sacklers to flush American streets with oxycotin a highly addictive synthetic opioids from Purdue pharmaceuticals while their business partner Reckitt industries makers of Suboxone an anti opioid antagonist sat waiting...addiction by design...Rudy Guiliani dispersment of 660 million to local district attorneys to allow Purdue to continue to target and addict Americans with synthetic opioids....the FDA is now going to limit the abuse of prescription opioids allowing a market for the cheap Iranian heroin that's comming to Main Street this year....all to prop up law enforcement,drug courts and jails and overcompensated salaries and pensions of law enforcement......what a scam on middle class America

    November 29, 2013 at 8:12 am |
    • George patton

      Thank you, Jim. Your post above was very enlightening. That's another reason why we want to stay in Afghanistan. However, Iran has nothing to do with this illicit activity.

      November 29, 2013 at 1:32 pm |
  8. Justin Shead

    I think that peace is worth a try but the U.S. should make clear to Iran that they are no North Korea. The U.S. has been to war with North Korea and China intervened because they did not like the west sniffing at their back door. Iran has no such support and that should be made very clear. The message, "We will give diplomacy an opportunity to prevail upon the situation but we are preapred for our next step to be war if deception ends up being the result of such talks".

    November 29, 2013 at 10:05 am |
  9. Rick McDaniel

    Absolutely. There is no doubt that same scenario, is staring us in the face.

    November 30, 2013 at 2:25 pm |
  10. krehator

    What did Bush do to stop NK from developing a nuke? Invaded Iraq.


    November 30, 2013 at 3:24 pm |
  11. No china

    Korea is only meeting of dregs good-for-nothing baggage it

    November 30, 2013 at 3:38 pm |
  12. No Korea

    It should be No.1 Top Priority in U.S. foreign policy: 'stop Koreans'! Neither North nor South Korea do not comply with Western standards and have dangerous intelligence networks on global scale that work relentlessly against Western interests and USA.

    December 3, 2013 at 5:57 am |
  13. Maxt

    Why would anyone publish or even bother to read anything written by the self serving, Israeli-firster, sell out Michael "the Zionist" Rubin? This guy could care less about America and is a proven liar yet here he is on Google News as if his bought and paid for opinion matters in the slightest.

    November 24, 2014 at 7:24 pm |
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