In January 2013, President Barack Obama delivered his second inaugural address, during which he pronounced that the United States would “show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully.”
We are reminded of Obama’s words as we ponder the “historic” nuclear accord the U.S. and five other world powers reached Tuesday with the Islamic Republic of Iran.
We wish we could suspend our disbelief that the pact will make it far less likely that Tehran eventually will become a nuclear power, posing a gathering threat to the U.S., to our ally Israel, to Saudi Arabia and to other Arab nations in the Gulf region.
But the outlines of the deal negotiated in Vienna don’t give us confidence that Iran will somehow transmogrify into a peaceable nation, beating its shamshirs into plowshares. Not when the deal leaves intact much of Tehran’s capability to produce nuclear arms.
Indeed, a mere 15 years into the agreement, Iran will be allowed to produce an unlimited amount of nuclear fuel. In the interim, the U.S. and the other powers acceded to Iran’s demand that the embargo be lifted – sooner rather than later – on its import of not only conventional weapons but also ballistic missiles.
Iran agreed to reduce much of its stockpile of enriched uranium – by shipping it to Vladimir Putin in Russia for temporary safekeeping – as well as the number of its installed centrifuges.
That underwhelming concession by the mullahs in Tehran will extend the time it takes for them to produce enough weapons-grade uranium to make a nuclear bomb – the so-called “breakout time – from two to three months to one year.
No wonder the peoples in such Middle East capitals as Jerusalem, Riyadh and Baghdad were not celebrating in the streets Tuesday like the people in Tehran.
Meanwhile, in Washington, Obama chided lawmakers who expressed reservations about the Vienna accord that they had a simple choice – “tough talk” on Iran or “hard-nosed diplomacy.”
Those who choose the latter, he suggested, will vote to approve the Iran nuclear deal when it comes before Congress for an up-or-down vote. And if opponents of the deal carry the debate, he warned, he will nullify their vote with a presidential veto.
We can think of no treaty or accord in recent memory that rises to the level of that to which the U.S. agreed in Vienna and that took effect without the assent of Congress. And we hardly think the Iran nuclear accord should be an exception.