Backing Down From Our Own Demands: President Obama’s Acceptance of Iran’s Uranium Enrichment Program
Alan Osborn ’15
Early Sunday, November 24th, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and leaders from France, Britain, Germany, China, and Russia reached a deal with The Islamic Republic of Iran on its nuclear energy program. According to the White House it stipulates that Iran will commit to halting the enrichment of uranium above the 5% mark, as well as neutralize its stockpile of near-20% enriched uranium. Iran has also pledged to cease progress on its enrichment capacity. It will also halt work at its plutonium reactor and provide full access to nuclear inspectors. In return the U.S. and its allies have agreed to “modest relief” from economic sanctions. The easing of sanctions, which President Obama refers tough, are $6-$7 billion. Not very modest when you consider that Iran’s GDP in 2011 was $514.1 billion. Further still, President Obama and the rest of the P6 delegation seem to be the only ones who see this deal as a win for international security. In Congress, both sides of the aisle, as well as staunch regional allies Israel and Saudi Arabia, see this deal as a “historic mistake.” When the United Nations and President Obama agreed to implement certain economic sanctions on Iran for their nuclear enrichment program it was highly criticized for not being tough enough, and not able to enact change quick enough. However, President Obama and proponents of the plan insist that a red line had been drawn; Iran will comply with the agreement or face severe economic punishment. As it turns out President Obama was right: economic sanctions brought the Iranians to the negotiating table. But according to former CIA head Gen. Michael Hayden, (USA Ret.) the deal President Obama struck was nothing sort of an “acceptance of Iran’s nuclear enrichment program.”
The fact that the Western powers were able to sit down with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif and begin meaningful nuclear program discussions is remarkable. However, the following deal was nothing short of extremely disappointing. Iranian enrichment has been accepted as part of the endgame; the clock on the uranium and plutonium programs continues to tick, albeit at a slower pace. Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium -enough for at least five bombs- remains intact. The Iranian concessions are all reversible, while International Atomic Energy Agency concerns about the military dimensions of the program have not been addressed. The P6 nations had the bargaining power to take a hard line against Iran and force them to halt their uranium enrichment program; instead they chose to cut it a break. As New York Senator Chuck Schumer points out, “It was strong sanctions, not the goodness of the hearts of the Iranian leaders that brought Iran to the table. And any reduction relieves the pressure of sanctions and gives them the hope that they will be able to obtain a nuclear weapon.” The sanctions finally worked and yet instead of sticking to the original plan of demanding that Iran halt uranium enrichment the U.S. gave in.
Iran views this deal as a window of opportunity to negotiate with an administration that has shown that it really doesn’t have the intestinal fortitude of other administrations. If President Obama and our European allies are serious about stopping the countries uranium enrichment they will have to stop compromising with Iran. Yes there is a lot at stake. Iran could launch a military strike or try to start a war, but at some point their bluff will have to be called. President Obama and the U.N. put the world into this position by taking such a hard, uncompromising tone with Iran when the sanctions were implemented. Now it is time to follow through with our demands instead of compromising. This impasse was inevitable. At some point the decision was going to have to be made of what to do when Iran finally asks for sanction relief. Instead of doing what he promised, President Obama took a soft compromising approach in giving Iran economic relief and continued uranium enrichment capabilities.