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Military experts agree Iran deal is win for American security

Three dozen retired American generals and admirals are the latest group of experts to collectively endorse the Iran nuclear agreement.  They join, among others, 100 former ambassadors, 29 scientists, 60 US national security leaders, and 11 retired high-ranking Israeli security and military officials.  All believe, as I do, that the Iran deal is a very good agreement, both with regard to the agreement itself and with regard to its possible implications for the security of the Middle East and of the United States.   

There are many reasons why military experts have come out in force to support this good deal. The agreement removes all of Iran’s uranium closest to being weapon useable. It vastly reduces Iran’s stock of low enriched uranium and caps it for 15 years.  The agreement also removes two-thirds of Iran’s centrifuges, along with their supporting infrastructure, and permits Iran to only use its basic IR-1 model centrifuge for ten years.  The agreement further prohibits any enrichment at Iran’s underground facility at Fordow and causes the redesign of Iran’s heavy water reactor so that it cannot produce plutonium in sufficient quantities to build a bomb.   

{mosads}To ensure Iran’s compliance with these restrictions, there will be IAEA inspectors permanently at all known sites in Iran’s nuclear supply chain. From mines to enrichment facilities, inspectors will be equipped with the most modern surveillance technologies.  These arrangements alone are a huge accomplishment, setting back the time required for Iran to sprint to a bomb from the currently estimated 2-3 months to well more than one year, and probably two. 

Beyond these unprecedented accomplishments, the agreement goes on to ensure Iran’s compliance through a variety of safeguards.  The IAEA will investigate past and any ongoing military dimensions of nuclear research prior to the lifting of sanctions.  IAEA Director Yukiya Amano has already agreed with the Iranians on the terms of this investigation.  The agreement gives the IAEA timely and effective access to any site in Iran at which it detects suspicious activities, including military and IRGC bases.  If such a request is denied, Iran will be declared to be in non-compliance and sanctions will “snap-back.”   

Moreover, the U.S. will keep in place its sanctions that are unrelated to the nuclear issue, while the UN arms embargo will remain for five years and UN sanctions on transfers of missile components for eight years. The U.S., of course, always retains the ability to respond militarily on its own or with willing partners to a violation that seems to threaten an Iranian break-out to a bomb. 

Looking at the agreement in a broader context, it is true that it does not change Iran into a peaceful, democratic nation with respect for human rights; nor does it cause the release of political prisoners, including Americans; nor does it cure cancer or end climate change.  It’s a narrow agreement, focusing on only one aspect – the most dangerous aspect of Iran’s policies.  It ends for more than ten years the risk that we and our allies in the region will face a nuclear-armed Iran.   

But some politicians who should know better continue to frame the deal as a failure. Is it a failure because it does not require the total dismantlement of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and will leave it a “threshold” nuclear power after 15 years or so?  No. Total dismantlement was demanded of the Iranians for more than ten years, from 2003 to 2013, and was proven to be non-negotiable. During that time, Iran significantly advanced its nuclear capabilities.  The agreement halts Iran’s progress for a long period of time.  At worst, we would face the same difficult choices in 15 years as we would face now in the absence of the agreement. 

Is the agreement a failure because it will provide Iran with added resources to support terror organizations and pursue its objectives in the region?  No. There are no signs that even in the economic privation imposed by sanctions that Iran has been limited in its ability to pursue those ends.  Look at the rearming of Hezbollah, for example, or Iran’s aid to Shi’a militias in Iraq.  The nuclear agreement does not change this calculus in any way.   

In short, the U.S. and its partners have negotiated an extremely good agreement.  There are no good reasons to oppose it – only reasons related to partisanship and political agendas.  The consensus of military and diplomatic experts are right to support the agreement— those in Congress would do well to listen.

Blechman is co-founder of the nonpartisan Stimson Center.


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