Thursday, May 3, 2018


Before President Barack Obama left office, he admitted that the P5+1 deal with Iran could in time provide enough enriched uranium to produce a nuclear weapon. In other words, this deal was not designed to prevent weapons of mass destruction in Iran, but to delay the “inevitable.”

In fact, the language in the accord is ambiguous. The words suggest what might happen or could happen, not what must happen. Still, Iranian leaders never signed the document.

What should be understood is that Iran is a revolutionary society intent on imperial goals which include a land mass from Tehran to the Mediterranean. It is viewed by the Sunni states as a threat to their very existence. Provocative acts by Iran in Syria, Lebanon and even the Golan Heights have alarmed regional leaders. The missiles directed at Riyadh from Houthi sites clearly have an Iranian signature.

Hence the nuclear deal was viewed with suspicion upon completion. The revolutionary impetus behind the regime was never discussed in the negotiations. As a consequence, Iran received all it desired: International recognition, a deal without real surveillance, release of frozen assets, direct currency exchange, development of ICBMs (not included in the deal) and trade arrangements with European nations.

Since the signing, Mr. Obama and officials involved in the negotiations contended that Iran upheld its part of the arrangement, including cessation of various enrichment projects. However, on April 30 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu dropped his own bomb of revelation. In a one-half hour speech he presented what surely must be seen as incontrovertible evidence that Iran lied about its plans to develop weapons. The Obama legacy was blown to smithereens.

This new evidence revealed a secret plan to build nuclear weapons now, notwithstanding provisions in the so-called deal. Mr. Netanyahu said the documents Israel obtained from a hidden archive in Tehran, that included 100,000 files, show “Iran is brazenly lying when it says it never had a nuclear weapons program.”

Iran responded to the Netanyahu presentation by describing it as “a childish, ridiculous show” designed to influence President Trump’s self-imposed May 12 deadline to make a decision on the international agreement. Clearly French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel visited with a similar message: Avoid decertification. For them, the commercial agreements with Iran are foremost in their thinking.

Mr. Trump has already said this deal with Iran is among the worst in our history. As I see it based on recent reports, the president will not promote the status quo, either a new agreement should be negotiated — a way to appease the European leaders — or he will decertify. Trump officials claim the deal provides Iran with many economic benefits and too few nuclear restrictions. Obviously, these conditions are the basis for renegotiation, albeit the conditions we want will most certainly be opposed by Iranian leaders.

For Iranian leaders, this is a moment for saber-rattling. They are likely to argue that “Project Amad,” an engineering and design project on nuclear weapons, will proceed full steam ahead should Mr. Trump equivocate on this issue, a condition that might occur with or without another deal.

While Mr. Netanyahu displayed a deft and compelling view of Iranian dissimulation, it is difficult to assess the influence of his argument. So many here and abroad have a stake in averting their gaze. Some will rationalize by noting this is merely archival material that is out of date. Others will contend the deal was made with the assumption Iran will cheat. Rationalizations will come in many forms, but they will come from both sides of the Atlantic. Already the Obama team is in the media justifying the deal and denying the Netanyahu evidence.

Now it is up to Mr. Trump to decide. On one matter there is little doubt: The dramatic presentation by Mr. Netanyahu must be part of his decision-making process.

• Herbert London is president of the London Center for Policy Research.

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