The Nuclear Deal With Iran: Worth Less Than Nothing

Originally published by this author at

Poorly verified agreements are in reality far worse than having no agreement at all.

– Paul H. Nitze. chief U.S. negotiator of the INF Treaty

Yesterday, diplomats representing the US, the UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany concluded an agreement with Iran concerning that country’s illegal nuclear program. Those diplomats and their governments hail the deal as a historic achievement. Barack Obama will no doubt claim that this agreement will “permanently block” a pathway to nuclear weaponry for Iran.

Such optimistic assessments are not warranted, however. The agreement has many huge loopholes, each of which, by itself, leaves a pathway for Iran to obtain a nuclear weapon. Taken together, these loopholes – apparently the results of numerous concessions by the West – leave the way to nuclear powerdom widely open for Teheran.

Specifically, the agreement with Iran (whose full text is available here):

  1. Does not cover, in any way whatsoever, Iran’s burgeoning arsenal of ballistic missiles, the longest-ranged of which have a range of 2,500 kms, enough to reach southeastern Europe (and more than enough to hit Israel). As the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists says, “Iran’s missile program is now the largest in the Middle East. It has the largest number of missiles and the most diverse missile array in the region, with both liquid-and solid-fuel propellant systems  (the latter of which offer improvements in safety and life-span and increase the speed with which missiles can be readied for launch). Its arsenal consists of short-range and intermediate-range ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. One of the ballistic missiles, Sejjil, has a range of 2,500 kilometers.”
  2. Does not cover, in any way whatsoever, reentry vehicles for nuclear warheads (on which Iran is currently working). Reentry vehicles, in layman’s terms, are essentially “buses” that carry nuclear warheads through most of a ballistic missile’s flight – from the ascent phase, throughout the midcourse phase when they traverse Outer Space, and during the terminal phase, when they’re crucial to allowing the warheads to survive reentry into the Earth’s atmosphere. The agreement, as stated above, does not inhibit Iran in any way whatsoever from working on such vehicles.
  3. Does not cover, in any way whatsoever, the military site at Parchin (19 miles southeast of Tehran), where most of the work on Iran’s nuclear weapons programme to date has been carried out.
  4. Allows Iran to continue operating the Bushehr nuclear reactor built by the Russians. If the Iranians reprocess the spent fuel from that reactor (they can build  a reprocessing facility cheaply), extract plutonium from it, and upgrade it to weapons grade (all of which can be done cheaply), they can produce enough fissile material for a few nuclear warheads within weeks, and enough for several dozens of warheads within a year, as Henry Sokolski points out. Civilian-grade plutonium can also be used to produce a nuclear bomb, even without being enriched to weapons-grade, as the US demonstrated during the 1970s.
  5. Allows Iran to retain over 19,000 nuclear centrifuges (machines used for enriching uranium), including 5,060 operational ones – far more than enough to produce enough enriched uranium for a nuclear warhead. Both Pakistan and North Korea produced enough such fissile materials with fewer centrifuges (Pakistan with only 3,000). Moreover, starting in 2023, Iran will be permitted to begin installing far more advanced centrifuges. This will allow it to produce more enriched uranium with fewer centrifuges. So to produce enough highly-enriched uranium for an atomic bomb, it won’t even need the 5,060 centrifuges it is already allowed under the deal – far fewer, in fact, will be needed. (Probably no more than around 3,000.)
  6. In addition, “Western powers will also work with Iran to help it install and operate more advanced centrifuges, according to those apprised of the deal”,  WFB’s Adam Kredo reports.
  7. Does not obligate Iran to close the underground Fordow nuclear site, where over 1,000 centrifuges will remain, ostensibly in “storage.” What’s more, the West is obligated by the deal to help the Iranians install new centrifuges at that facility.
  8. Does not obligate the Iranians to come clean on their past nuclear weapons work, which forced the IAEA to close inconclusively its investigation of the matter last December. Without knowing how far they’ve already progressed, we will never know how much work they have yet to do before they successfully build a nuclear weapon.
  9. Provides for lifting the arms embargo on Iran and the missile-related sanctions on Iran in 5 and 8 years, respectively.
  10. Allows Iran to reject IAEA inspectors’ requests to visit Iranian civilian nuclear facilities. Any such request can be denied by Iran under the agreement. Also, all of Iran’s military facilities will be off-limits to foreign inspectors. Yet, it is there – not at civilian nuclear sites – that violations of the deal are most likely to occur. This makes the agreement completely unverifiable. As the American Thinker rightly notes, “There will be controlled access to Iran’s facilities, with the IAEA having to seek permission for any inspections. Again, this is not some minor point of contention. This is the guts of the deal and the Iranians are contradicting the president’s understanding of the agreement.”
  11. Stipulates that if Iran is caught cheating, sanctions will not be reinstated until 65 days later, a woefully tardive response – and even that ONLY if Russia and China (both of them being veto-wielding UNSC members) consent. If even one of them wields their veto, sanctions will NEVER be restored, no matter how blatant Iran’s violation might be.

Sources for the agreement’s terms: here and here.

For a map of the range of Iran’s ballistic missiles, see the map below from Indian Defense News (source here):


The bottom line is that under the agreement, Iran is officially allowed to become a treshold nuclear power and to continue developing ever more accurate and ever more long-ranged missiles. Meanwhile, the West has no effective means of veryfing whether Iran is even complying with the agreement – Tehran can delay inspectors’ visits to its civilian sites for up to 24 days, and its military sites are completely off-limits.

This being the case, who can blame Israel and Arab states in the Persian Gulf for opposing this deal, which poses a grave threat to their national security?

In short, this is a sham agreement. It is unverifiable, contains no meaningful punishment for Iran in case it violates the deal, and allows Iran to retain enough capacity to produce sufficient fissile material – both uranium and plutonium – for nuclear weapons. And it does not even touch Iran’s burgeoning ballistic missile program or its warhead reentry vehicles.

This is not a good deal from the West’s standpoint. This is an awful deal. It’s a shameful capitulation to Iran.

This is not a good deal. This is not even a marginally acceptable deal. It’s an utterly worthless agreement.

Therefore, Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer was right when he wrote that “Obama will get his “legacy.” Kerry will get his Nobel. And Iran will get the bomb.”

Under this agreement, the path for Iran to obtanining nuclear weapons will be wide open.


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