Viewpoint

Obama’s ill-considered Iran deal

An Iranian man holds a portrait of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a rally in Iran earlier this month.
An Iranian man holds a portrait of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei during a rally in Iran earlier this month. AP

A sunset clause?

The news from the nuclear talks with Iran was already troubling. Iran was being granted the “right to enrich.” It would be allowed to retain and spin thousands of centrifuges. It could continue construction of the Arak plutonium reactor. Yet so thoroughly was Iran stonewalling International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors that just last Thursday the IAEA reported its concern “about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed … development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

Bad enough. Then it got worse: News leaked Monday of the “sunset clause.” President Obama had accepted the Iranian demand that any restrictions on its program be time-limited. After which, the mullahs can crank up their nuclear program at will and produce as much enriched uranium as they want.

Sanctions lifted. Restrictions gone. Nuclear development legitimized. Iran would re-enter the international community, as Obama suggested in an interview last December, as “a very successful regional power.” A few years – probably around 10 – of good behavior and Iran would be home free.

The agreement thus would provide a predictable path to an Iranian bomb. Indeed, a flourishing path, with trade resumed, oil pumping and foreign investment pouring into a restored economy.

Wasn’t Obama’s great international cause a nuclear-free world? Within months of his swearing-in, he went to Prague to so declare. He then led a 50-party Nuclear Security Summit, one of whose proclaimed achievements was having Canada give up some enriched uranium.

Having disarmed the Canadian threat, Obama turned to Iran. The deal now on offer to the ayatollah would confer legitimacy on the nuclearization of the most rogue of rogue regimes: radically anti-American, deeply jihadist, purveyor of terrorism from Argentina to Bulgaria, puppeteer of a Syrian regime that specializes in dropping barrel bombs on civilians.

Well, say the administration apologists, what’s your alternative? Do you want war?

It’s Obama’s usual, subtle false-choice maneuver: It’s either appeasement or war.

It’s not. True, there are no good choices, but Obama’s prospective deal is the worst possible. Not only does Iran get a clear path to the bomb but it gets sanctions lifted, all pressure removed and international legitimacy.

There is a third choice. If you are not stopping Iran’s program, don’t give away the store. Keep the pressure, keep the sanctions. Indeed, increase them.

Congress is proposing precisely that. Combined with cheap oil, it could so destabilize the Iranian economy as to threaten the clerical regime. Then offer to renew negotiations for sanctions relief but from a very different starting point – no enrichment. Or, if you like, with a few token centrifuges for face-saving purposes.

And no sunset.

Consider where we began: six U.N. Security Council resolutions demanding an end to Iranian enrichment. Consider what we are now offering: an interim arrangement ending with a sunset clause that allows the mullahs a robust, industrial-strength, internationally sanctioned nuclear program.

We are on the cusp of an epic capitulation. History will not be kind.

Charles Krauthammer’s email address is letters@charleskrauthammer.com.

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