The controversy surrounding the recently negotiated Iran deal is escalating as details of the agreement are disclosed. What follows are five of the most significant flaws of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
1. Most fundamentally, the deal does not prevent Iran from ultimately developing a nuclear weapon. Tehran need only conform to the terms of the agreement to become a nuclear threshold state and a more powerful nation in less than two decades. At that point, it would enjoy a stronger economy – unencumbered by sanctions – to pursue its open agenda of pursuing regional dominance, supporting terrorism and weakening the West; a sophisticated intercontinental ballistic missile program; and the capability to produce nuclear weapons faster and more efficiently.
2. Rather than setting the termination of restrictions on Iran on a performance-based benchmark, the JCPOA’s arbitrary timeline gives Iran virtually everything it wants within 15 years, in exchange for Iran not breaking out in the next eight years. Specifically, the sunset clauses in the JCPOA mean that the limitations placed on Iran’s nuclear activities begin to expire in 10 years, and by year 15, Iran will be able to spin an unlimited number of highly advanced centrifuges that rapidly enrich uranium.
3. The verification requirements for Iran’s nuclear activities are shockingly deficient. A country that boasts a rich history of cheating and corruption should be required to face surprise inspections. Instead, there is a minimum lag of 24 days between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) formally requesting access to a site and the date by which Iran is expected to accede. According to U.S. President Barack Obama, “if Iran cheats, we can catch them, and we will.” Yet nuclear proliferation experts have testified that even 24 days is sufficient time for Iran to destroy evidence, sanitize suspected sites, and relocate elsewhere, without necessarily leaving behind detectable traces.
4. The western leverage remaining under the JCPOA is to “snap back” sanctions in the event of Iranian non-compliance. However, the efficacy of these snapback sanctions is doubtful. First, the JCPOA explicitly codifies Tehran’s threat that snapback sanctions could annul the agreement. This means that if the international community attempts to punish Iran for cheating, Iran can simply threaten to pull out of the deal and further develop its nuclear program. Second, after its desperate concessions to reach this deal, surely the P5+1 will be reluctant to punish Iran for anything but the most egregious violations for fear that the Iranians will walk away. This creates an ideal climate for Iran to attempt small, incremental cheating. Third, it would take significant time for renewed sanctions to have an impact on the Iranian economy and create the desired deterrent effect. During this delay alone, Iran may be able to break out to a nuclear weapon.
5. The sanctions against Iran are lifted too quickly. Sanctions relief is not sufficiently tied to improved Iranian conduct; does not create enough economic leverage to peacefully ensure Iranian compliance; and benefits the worst players of the regime. For instance, the U.S. delisting of an entity called EIKO will personally enrich Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei by tens of billions of dollars. This contradicts the assertion that the agreement would strengthen Iranian moderates and weaken the tyrannical grip of the regime. The EU has also committed to delisting a group of construction companies owned by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Iran’s arm for training and committing terrorism.
Despite the bitter disagreement about the JCPOA’s merits, there is little dispute about Iran’s record of duplicity, anti-Semitic convictions, terrorist activities, and human rights abuses. Canada, in maintaining its domestic sanctions against Iran, is to be commended for taking action consistent with the general consensus on the vast dangers posed by the Iranian regime. As the U.S. Congress decides whether to vote against the JCPOA, it should look to Canada for inspiration and support.
Sheryl Saperia is director of policy for Canada at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.