On Friday, large crowds in Tehran and other Iranian cities burned American flags and chanted “Death to America!” On Saturday, Iranian media outlets reported that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had instructed university students to “continue the struggle against arrogant powers” — with the United States at the top of that list. On Tuesday, President Obama announced a historic agreement between Iran and the United States.
It would be comforting to believe that the last of these developments mitigates the first two — that with an agreement in place, Iran’s “struggle” to bring about America’s demise will begin at least to lose steam. The truth is more likely the opposite. Mr. Obama has always seen diplomacy as an alternative to war. Iran’s rulers, by contrast, have always regarded diplomacy as war by other means. Today, they believe they have achieved victory in a great battle. The evidence suggests they’re correct.
Mr. Obama and other defenders of the deal claim that it “restricts Iran’s nuclear program for more than a decade.” Another way to say that: Under this agreement, in little more than a decade, all the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program will disappear.
It bears emphasizing: Iran’s rulers remain the world’s leading sponsors of terrorism (according to the U.S. State Department), responsible for killing and maiming thousands of Americans over the decades since Iran’s Islamic Revolution. Their ambitions are hegemonic: They dream of a nuclear-armed Iranian empire powerful enough to threaten the very existence of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and other Middle Eastern states aligned with the United States.
Knowing the intentions of Iran’s rulers, one can only be mystified as to why American and other Western leaders think they are doing their jobs by giving them a path to capabilities that match those intentions — asking them only to please drag their feet for a while.
And delaying Iran’s acquisition of a nuclear weapons capability for a decade or so is the best-case scenario. I’m betting Iran’s rulers will violate this agreement just as they have violated the United Nations Security Council resolutions put in place since 2006 and even the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) agreed to in November 2013. The Saudis are doubtless among those making the same bet — virtually guaranteeing accelerated nuclear proliferation over the years ahead.
Agreement defenders insist the sanctions can always be “snapped back.” In fact, that will require a long and arduous process, one likely to be blocked by Russia and China, U.N. Security Council members that do not hide their desire to see America weakened and in retreat.
A fine-tooth-comb reading of the text will take place over the days ahead, but it appears that American negotiators crossed not one of the “red lines” insisted upon by Ayatollah Khamenei while every red line drawn by Mr. Obama has been erased.
For example, there will not be “go-anywhere-anytime” inspections, only “managed access” — with the emphasis, inevitably, on Iranians managing inspectors so as to limit their access. Iran will not be required to come clean on its past nuclear weapons development — the baseline effective monitoring would require. Iran’s rulers are likely to get a “signing bonus” of tens of billions of dollars that they will be able to spend on their terrorist proxies.
And in recent days there was a new Iranian demand: that, over time, the United Nations Security Council’s ban on Iran’s import and export of advanced conventional weapons be lifted, allowing the regime to buy more and better weapons for its proxies, as well as next-generation cruise missiles that can be used against U.S. forces in the region. This, too, has been conceded
What now? President Obama refused to submit this agreement as a treaty, which would have required approval by two-thirds of the Senate. But many members of Congress were adamant that they not be completely cut out of the most significant national security decision of this still-young but already-bloody century. They are to have 60 days to examine the agreement before registering their approval or disapproval.
It will require courage for Democrats to vote against an agreement that its supporters claim is the only alternative to war. Mr. Obama will accuse those not supporting him of disloyalty. Various left-wing groups will threaten primary challenges against Democrats who don’t toe the line.
And even if most members of Congress do vote to disapprove, President Obama is unlikely to be swayed by their advice and non-consent. Instead, expect him to issue a veto which would require a supermajority to overturn. After that, he’s likely to take his “non-binding” agreement to the U.N. Security Council and ask that international body to make it “binding” on the United States.
Such a stunning surrender of American sovereignty will render commentators on the right apoplectic. Others will shrug their shoulders or perhaps even applaud the president for his commitment to “transnational progressivism.”
As you read about this deal in the newspapers and hear about it on TV, note how seldom Iran is referred to by its full name: The Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran’s rulers follow the teachings of its first “supreme leader,” Ruhollah Khomeini who, in 1979, made clear that he was initiating a global revolution — what he called a jihad against America and its allies, a struggle meant to establish Islamic supremacy, a struggle meant to end with more than just America’s flag in flames.
Ayatollah Khomeini would be proud of his successors, committed revolutionaries and skilled diplomats who, through guile and determination, have out-negotiated the envoys of the “Great Satan,” thereby preparing the ground for the many battles — not just diplomatic — yet to come.
• Clifford D. May is president of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a columnist for The Washington Times.
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