Does ANYONE have informed thoughts on the deal with Iran?

The issue is, do you trust the judgment of these people? "President Barack Obama talks with national security staff in the Oval Office after being notified of the nuclear agreement with Iran. From left, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Jeffrey Prescott, NSC Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf States; National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice; Avril Haines, Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, July 13, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)"

The issue is, do you trust the judgment of these people? “President Barack Obama talks with national security staff in the Oval Office after being notified of the nuclear agreement with Iran. From left, Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Jeffrey Prescott, NSC Senior Director for Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Gulf States; National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice; Avril Haines, Deputy National Security Advisor for Counterterrorism and Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, July 13, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)”

This is rightly the dominant news story of the day, but it’s one that I hesitate to comment on:

A historic agreement Tuesday to limit Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief will ensure Iran has no possibility to achieve rapid nuclear weapons “breakout” capabilities for at least the next decade, U.S. leaders said.

“We have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region,” said President Obama as he listed some of the pillars of the deal including international inspections, reductions in Iran’s centrifuges used to make nuclear fuel and a sharp cut in Iran’s stockpile of nuclear material.

“We put sanctions in place to get a diplomatic solution, and that is what we have done. . . . This deal offers an opportunity to move in a new direction. We should seize it,” said Obama, noting a potentially tough review ahead in Congress.

I hesitate because I don’t know enough to be able to judge the agreement.

Will it really limit, hinder or at least delay a nuclear Iran? How can I tell? Even if I had carefully studied the agreement, which I haven’t, I would not have the expertise to know whether the agreement will succeed on those critical points.

And neither does anyone else. The outcries from various Republicans criticizing the agreement are based on a simple variable — their lack of trust of the Obama administration.

If I’m going to listen to any objections, it would be the ones coming from Israel and Saudi Arabia — they at least have a life-and-death motivation to know what they are talking about.

It gets down to whom do you trust? And while I see the administration’s motives as pure, I worry that Iran always had an advantage in the negotiations, arising from the fact that POTUS really, really wanted an agreement.

As I say, that worries me. But do I know enough to judge this agreement? No, I do not. And that’s unsettling, because the question of whether Iran is more or less likely to develop and deploy nuclear weapons is one of the most important issues on this planet.

It’s disturbing, and embarrassing, that I have better-informed opinions on the fifth season of “Game of Thrones” than I do about this.

68 thoughts on “Does ANYONE have informed thoughts on the deal with Iran?

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    I’ll also confess that I am often less than reassured when I see photos of the president with his “senior” advisers. Since this youthful president came into office with very little public policy experience, I sort of wanted to see some old, wise heads around him. And we had that for awhile with Robert Gates, Leon Paneta and to some extent Hillary Clinton.

    But now? In the picture above, we see Susan Rice in the inner circle, which is disturbing enough on its own, given her record. But I’m more bothered by the fact that the only person in the group with gray hair, other than POTUS himself, is Chief of Staff McDonough. And while she’s 46, Avril Haines looks at this distance like she could be an undergraduate. And 46 isn’t reassuring.

    If I were Obama under such circumstances, I’d want to echo Sonny Corleone complaining about Mike Hagen: “I need a wartime consigliere. Nixon had Kissinger; look what I got.”

    But no, this is the kind of team he WANTS. He didn’t much like what the older, wiser advisers used to tell him.

    Yeah, I know, I’ll be criticized as an old guy just wanting to see people my own age. But I’m telling you, this would have bothered me when I was 22. I want to see the MOST experienced team possible in charge of national security.

    1. Doug Ross

      Yeah, we need more old experienced guys like Dick Cheney and Henry Kissinger to guide us toward peace. None of the old guys you mentioned have done anything to resolve any conflict.. they’ve just done more of the same (which is what you usually get with old guys).

      Although having a dim bulb policy parrot like Susan Rice in the room is enough to make me doubt anything useful will come of this. Ten years from now, when Iran has a bomb, this will all be forgotten.

    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, I knew I’d get scorn from Doug, who does not believe public policy experience is valuable. Although I thank him for his agreement on Rice.

      But I stick to my point. I don’t want people who are still building their resumes running the national security apparatus of the most powerful nation in the history of the world.

      1. Doug Ross

        I don’t care how old they are – I care about the results. We fight wars because old guys don’t know any better. Then we use the young people as the cannon fodder to fight the old men’s wars.

        Dick Cheney was as experienced as anyone in the V.P. position. And his “experience” allowed him to lead George Bush around like a toy poodle.

        I want people who hate war to negotiate deals.

    3. Kathryn Fenner

      46 is plenty old enough. There’s a limit on how much better we can assume someone is based on their age. While it is vanishingly unlikely that someone 25 would have sufficient experience, knowledge and wisdom, some people could have enough at 35–why we allow Presidents to be that young. At the same time, plenty of people are quite old, yet useless.

      1. Mike Cakora

        Ben Rhodes is perhaps moderately qualified as “Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications and Speechwriting,” but as for foreign policy choops, he’s an empty suit, an Obama speech-writer on national security, an aspiring fiction-writer! He’s got an MFA in creative writing. I will acknowledge that he’s married to the chief foreign policy adviser to Senator Barbara Boxer. I speak more foreign languages than he does, I’ve been to more consequential foreign places that he before he jumped on the Obama bandwagon.

        We are really in a bad place thanks to the Obama Z Team. Today (7/15/15) Wolf Blitzer had National Security Advisor Susan Rice on. It went like this:

        Blitzer: Iran gets $150B in unfrozen assets and is allowed to sell 2M barrel of oil per day, or $100M per day at the current price of $50. So what’s to stop them from arming bad guys with that money?

        Rice: “Iran is under an arms embargo, can’t send weapons.”

        Blitzer: “Iran can give them the money.”

        Rice: “They can send the money.” She later says, “They’re sending money now!”
        Wolfie replies “But they’ll have a lot more money.”
        Sheesh! Thank goodness it was on CNN so not too many folks saw it.

    4. Brad Warthen Post author

      Oh, and before I get some nonsense about my wanting it to be older GUYS, let me say, give me a Madeleine Albright any day.

      Or, as I said earlier, Hillary Clinton.

      Is there really that much of a shortage of people at the peaks of distinguished careers? Or do people like that decline the opportunity to serve these days? Or worst of all, does the president not want anyone with the standing and gravitas to tell him when he’s wrong?

      Where, I ask you, are the real-world Leo McGarrys?

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        There were a lot of times when I had my doubts about Bartlet, but the fact that he had Leo looking over his shoulder inspired confidence.

        1. Kathryn Fenner

          Good lord—you know he was having it on with Sam Waterston for years—even though he was married to Jane Fonda…oh, wait—different fictional universe

  2. Doug Ross

    “Is there really that much of a shortage of people at the peaks of distinguished careers?”

    Are you at your peak? I think I am at age 54. But I plan to be obsolete by age 62.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yes, I was at 54. At that age, I could have provided very sound advice within my own particular spheres of expertise. I think I have a lot more to give, but I’m not seeing the opportunities to make the kind of contribution I’d like to make.

      At 38 — the age of Ben Rhodes — I definitely was not.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Let me hasten to add that while I see 54 as a good age for a “senior” adviser, I don’t think I was qualified to be national security adviser at that or any other age. Not my field…

    2. Kathryn Fenner

      “Peak” is an awfully one-dimensional judgment. The Professor is probably teaching better and better each year, and no longer writes impossible exams. He can write up research quickly and efficiently, but finds it much harder to come up with something innovative. He depends on the creativity of grad students….

      I would bet Brad can write better and faster than ever, but is perhaps a bit entrenched in his views. Just a bit…

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        I don’t know. I like my writing better when it ages. My whole career, when I look back at what I wrote a couple of years back, I think it’s better than what I’m writing now.

        Also, what I do now isn’t WRITING for real publication. I did some real writing last week for that column, and frankly wasn’t that impressed with what I came up with. I was actually kind of disappointed when I looked back at the end of the week. I don’t think that’s a reflection on my overall ability, though. I need to write every week, and only occasionally will I write something that I think is really good. I’m either inspired or I’m not, and it’s a tough thing to produce on demand.

        I could have done better on that column with a little more time. I wrote it one night after a really long day, and had minimal time in the morning to trim and edit. If I were being paid to do it, and didn’t have to do other stuff, I’d have written it better.

        The only other thing I’ve written lately on a level above blogging was that piece I did for Brookings. I was pretty satisfied with that, technically, although it wasn’t the kind of thing likely to impress me if I read it in a year or so. Everything I said in that was so obvious, something I had said before many times. So it wasn’t very creative; it didn’t push the needle in any way.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’m confident that given the time to write and edit full time again, I’d perform at at LEAST the level I did before. But I’d have to be doing it every day in order to have the occasionally really GOOD day when I really like what I produced.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            Well, I thank you. But when I took a fresh look at it a couple of days later, I saw a lot of room for improvement — points that could have been made more strongly, passages that could have been worded a lot better.

            And there was one REALLY ugly passage that said stuff I didn’t mean to say, because of a mixup in trying to edit it remotely. (Without going into a lot of detail, I rewrote a parenthetical passage over the phone to address a specific problem, and only later, when it was too late to change in in the print version, did I see how it completely changed the effect of the next sentence. Basically, in trying to give some props to Nikki, I unintentionally dissed David Beasley and Jim Hodges both. That would have been fine if I had meant to. But I didn’t mean to.)

            This would not have happened had I been there to read a proof.

            I got Cindi to fix the problem online, and I changed it further in the version I posted on my blog. But the paper version was messed up.

            1. Kathryn Fenner

              Jeebers–it isn’t going to be studied in-depth. Folks read it while sipping their coffee and then do the sudoku.

              1. Brad Warthen Post author

                Yeah, but:

                — This was fated to be by default my best (and worst) column of the past six years. So I really wanted it to be good, and I was disappointed. If I had had a column the previous week, and knew I would have one the following week, I wouldn’t have cared quite as much.

                — That said, I obsess that way over everything I write for actual publication, particularly for print. One hates for all those trees to die for something that isn’t one’s best effort.

                1. Brad Warthen Post author

                  In a way, though, I ought to be more worried about blog posts, because average people out there are more likely to read THOSE a couple of years later than they are a print column.

                  Just today, someone Tweeted a really out-of-date post of mine from years back, and a couple of other people reTweeted it. Which was embarrassing, after all this time. People are going to see that and think I said it NOW, and I wouldn’t write that now.

                  So I guess I should be obsessing over blog posts the way I do columns. But if I do that, the blog will dry right up. Because I don’t have the time…

      2. Brad Warthen Post author

        As for “entrenched” — you know, people say that about someone with definite, on the record views. I don’t think I’m any more “entrenched” than most people. But most people haven’t been paid for decades to research and think about issues day in and day out, continually refining those views. After you do that for awhile, I guess you sound more “entrenched” than other people do, because you grow in confidence in your views.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I’ll admit one thing, though: After all these years, I still have to look up the difference between “continually” and “continuously.” And in the above instance, I still don’t know. It sorta, kinda, works either way. I think…

          I mean, do you refine your views in a continuous, uninterrupted process, or in a series of separate occasions of thought? Probably the latter, but a case can be made for the former…

  3. Brad Warthen Post author

    I sort of hijacked my own thread with that digression, didn’t I?

    Oh, well — I fully understand if no one feels qualified to comment on the Iran agreement.

  4. Bart

    “We have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region,” said President Obama…” should have been qualified with a truthful qualification, “…region, or at least for the next few years.”

    Based on the information available from the NYT, WSJ, and other sources, to summarize, “the can has been kicked down the road for future generations to deal with on the subject of a nuclear armed Iran.” When the agreement reaches maturity, Obama will have been out of office for 8 – 12 years if the 15 year period is accurate. By then, he can blame the administrations and congress’ that followed for any violations or failure to keep the agreement intact. Great if you can get by with it.

    There is nothing wrong with wanting peace and a reduction in nuclear threats, that is an obvious sentiment for any civilized thinking person.

    The Iranians are very patient and have proven they can survive by finding ways around the sanctions that while they did inflict damage, they were not devastating. With the sanctions lifted over a period of time and the release of $100 billion in assets in foreign banks, Iran will be in a much stronger position and by their ability to spread the wealth around to their neighbors will buy more supporters than detractors. Surprising how much goodwill a full stomach and a modicum of safety can buy.

    By shipping their processed uranium to Russia almost insures Iran will have a weapon in a shorter period of time when one takes into consideration the fact that Putin is desperate to place Russia at the top of influential nations if he has to do it with raw military power. If I were Putin and wanted to control the ME, what better ally could I have than a nuclear armed Iran to work with? Think for a moment, this is exactly what the US did with the Shah of Iran when Nixon was in the White House and Kissinger was his SOS. Iran became our eyes, ears, watchdog, and enforcer in the ME until he was overthrown.

    The average Iranian wants to be friends with America but like Americans, we are friends with countries the government chooses to be friends with and the average American can only cast a vote to express our desires.

    Competent advisors? The photo looks more like a meeting of university professors than experienced people running the country and foreign affairs. Doug doesn’t like Cheney and understandable but at some point, you need the input from all sides whether you like them or not. Sometimes the best lessons are taught by our greatest enemies, real or perceived. We need to pay attention to what they are saying because if we don’t, we never see but one solution to a problem. But, the agreement was going to be made and the acting by Kerry when he threatened to walk out of the negotiations was nothing more than political theater.

    Well, my 2 cents has been given – for what it is worth.

  5. Bryan Caskey

    You’re asking the wrong question, Brad.

    The real question isn’t whether you trust POTUS and his team. We’re not being asked to trust the Obama Administration. (SPOILER ALERT: I don’t.) There’s nothing on our side of the deal that needs trust. We’re lifting all the sanctions and whatnot upfront. No trust required.

    We’re being asked to trust the people that POTUS made a deal with. You know…the “Death to America” gang? Yeah, I’m sure we can totally trust those guys.

    Oh, did you mean, “Do we trust Obama and his advisory team to do what’s in the best interest of the United States of America”?

    Good one.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      Yeah, that’s what I meant.

      It’s like… when I was editorial page editor, I had to completely trust Cindi Scoppe’s expertise on the Legislature and how it functions, because her knowledge of that was so much greater than my own in that area.

      There are times when you lack the expertise to make an informed decision yourself, and you have to rely on someone else to advise you. (A modern, complex society means we rely on arrangements like that constantly.)

      As for the Iranians — no, I do NOT trust that regime. Nor do I believe that their concept of their own self-interest coincides at all with our goals in the region. Or with the safety of our allies. And I have strongly doubted from the beginning whether there is ANY deal that they would ever agree to that would actually frustrate their desire to be a nuclear power.

      What I don’t know is whether there is some hypothetical agreement that WOULD keep them from becoming a nuclear power — something that effectively implements the “verify” portion of Reagan’s “Trust, but verify” policy — and whether this agreement is anything LIKE that hypothetical one.

      1. Bart

        Read the interview he had with Thomas Friedman of the NYT about the “deal”. He, Obama, actually invoked Reagan and Nixon.

          1. Brad Warthen Post author

            And here’s the part I like:

            You test these things, and as long as we are preserving our security capacity — as long as we are not giving away our ability to respond forcefully, militarily, where necessary to protect our friends and our allies — that is a risk we have to take…

            Because, you know, I’m such an incorrigible warmonger.

            Maybe POTUS said that just to please Lindsey Graham and me, but I appreciate it nonetheless…

      2. Bart


        You might want to read the comments made after the deal was reached. The “Death to America” was indeed at the forefront of many of the mullah’s responses. As far as they are concerned, they won.

        Guess it depends on perspective and political ideology when it comes to how each person interprets the “deal”.

    2. Norm Ivey

      I’ve tried to read some of the agreement today. The sanctions don’t get lifted until after the verification of the reduction of enrichment capabilities. That’s key. Iran makes the first move, and the first deadline is October 15 of this year. The entire agreement is based on verification. Sanctions go back in place if Iran fails in this regard. The appeals process is to a committee that consists of the parties to the agreement plus a rep from the EU. Even with Russia and maybe China on their side, Iran will be outnumbered in disputes. Technology is a big part of the verification. The IAEA will have the ability to monitor enrichment online and in person.

      It’s not a matter of trusting only Obama and his advisors. This isn’t just our deal. Britain, Russia, China, Germany, and France were involved in the negotiations. Do we trust this coalition? I do. The IAEA is responsible for inspections, and I trust them as well. We don’t need to trust Iran because verification is key to everything.

      I’ve seen at least one report that says that Iran is within a few months of developing a weapon. Without an agreement, there’s no way to stop that short of a military strike. Now we have a another path forward.

      My greatest concern about the agreement is that it’s going to open the Iranian oil fields to the market, which drives the price of oil down and increases consumption. And that’s not good for any of us.

      1. Bryan Caskey

        “My greatest concern about the agreement is that it’s going to open the Iranian oil fields to the market, which drives the price of oil down and increases consumption. And that’s not good for any of us.”

        No worries! Any global warming caused by increased oil consumption will be more than offset by the effects of nuclear winter. 🙂

  6. Bryan Caskey

    IAEA Inspectors: We’re here to inspect your facilities.

    Iran Nuke Program: Go away!

    *IAEA inspectors peruse the agreement*

    Inspectors: Huh? Well, gosh. That’s actually in there. Gentlemen, let’s go. Pack it up boys. We need to go through an appellate process. We’ll let the lawyers take it from here.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      My own instinct is to leave it up to Mossad to “inspect their facilities,” and to the IDF to do any followup needed.

      But as I say, I’m not an expert.

  7. Phillip

    From what I can tell, reaching the deal with Iran makes them less likely to develop a nuclear weapon, at least over the next 15 years, than the absence of real negotiation would have achieved. Bart refers to “kicking the can down the road,” but isn’t any dealing with any question that involves a long-term tricky relationship with a more-or-less adversary something that extends over years, over multiple administrations? Goodness knows our nuclear negotiations with the Soviet Union certainly spanned a good 25-30 years, right?

    Bart, I think a lot of conservative hard-liners in Iran don’t actually think they won, and in fact are critical of Rouhani for giving away too much. That, to me, is one of the most promising aspects of this, that the success of reaching an agreement acceptable to both sides will ultimately strengthen Rouhani and the moderates’ hand, in terms of Iranian domestic politics.

    Bryan speaks of not trusting the “death to America” guys. Well, if the agreement is what it’s purported to be, it’s not so much a question about trust as it is about verification. And what never gets mentioned on our side of the ocean is that the distrust runs very strongly the other way, too, of course. So it’s an achievement to get these two countries who distrust each other very strongly, to come together on this accord.

    1. Bart

      Good points Phillip. However, Russia already had nuclear weapons during the negotiations that lasted 25 years. The two sides were evenly matched in numbers.

      As for the issue of verification, America is not the one who is to be inspected and verification provided to confirm whether Iran is complying or not. Whether they mistrust us or not to me is not the issue, it is whether we or the other countries involved trust Iran or not and therein lies the problem.

      According to some of the reactions in Iran, they have declared victory and many are insisting that they will have a nuclear weapon within 5 years unless I did not read the article correctly.

      However, based on your observation and conclusions, we can hope you are correct.

    2. Lynn Teague

      Phillip, I’m going to ditto your comments. I think you’ve summed the situation up well. I’ll add that Brad mentions concerns because Obama wanted this agreement badly. However, I see some balance there, the Iranian leadership has plenty of reason to also want this agreement badly, and reliable reports are that they were very motivated.

      On “kicking it down the road” – about the only way out of that is McCain’s suggestion that we “Bomb bomb Iran.” There are those who would prefer that, among them probably Netanyahu (who apparently thinks he should be able to dictate U.S. policy to an extent that I would find offensive from any foreign leader), but the last thing we need is a war in Southwest Asia with a population that is vastly more technically sophisticated than our Aghan and Iraqi opposition. Bombing wouldn’t end the issue, but I guess all-out Asian ground war (inevitable at that point) couldn’t be called just deferring the problem.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Well, I respect the views of a man who leads a country that faces an existential threat, something that focuses the mind wonderfully.

        What concerns me here is that Israel may find itself in a situation before long in which it sees no recourse for protecting itself beyond airstrikes. And I’m very concerned about the degree to which that further isolates Israel. If you’re persuaded such action is necessary — and I have great respect for Israel’s intelligence capabilities — that’s a real damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t situation.

        I’m very concerned about Israel’s fate, and I don’t like the box this seems to put them in.

    3. Brad Warthen Post author

      Dang. I typed a response last night to the last part of Phillip’s comments, and it didn’t show up.

      I’ll try to reconstruct:

      First, there’s an observation I sometimes hear from my more liberal friends that I’ve always found off-putting. Here, it appears in the form of “what never gets mentioned on our side of the ocean is that the distrust runs very strongly the other way.” There’s an implication that we Americans are just SO provincial and insular that we just can’t POSSIBLY understand the points of views of others. It also smacks of a moral equivalence that is disturbing in such circumstances — the United States is just another country, and whoever we are dealing with, we and our motives are no better than theirs, etc.

      So let me address that. First, I suspect most Americans are VERY aware of the lack of trust of us among the people who run Iran. If you consider someone to be the Great Satan, how can you trust him? And we’re all aware of the roots of this distrust, which there’s nothing we can do about now — our nation’s support for the Shah, back before most people living today in Iran were alive.

      Second, that’s irrelevant. This is about Iran not developing nuclear weapons. It’s not about anything WE are doing or not doing. There’s nothing critical to this agreement that Iran has to trust us to do. It’s all about whether we can trust them not to build nuclear weapons, or whether we can at least tell if they’re proving themselves untrustworthy on that point. Nothing WE are obligated to do here is critical — so we don’t lift sanctions or something. Iran can just back out. If they develop nukes and use them, then Israel is radioactive toast. Not something you can back out of.

      That’s the critical issue here for assessing this pact.

      1. bud

        Here’s what’s off putting- this obsession with Israel. They are NOT a state. They are just another country that we have no more responsibility for their safety than any other country, including Iran.

      2. Phillip

        Let’s just say it’s an achievement for these two countries to be talking to each other, and to have reached this agreement. Perhaps the range of issues these nations can discuss will be expanded. And if Obama was so anxious to get any kind of agreement, why did it take two years? The answer of course is that conditions had to be met—Obama no less than Netanyahu felt that no deal was preferable to a bad deal. The only difference was that Netanyahu would only accept a level of capitulation that Iran would never agree to, one that Rouhani could never get past his hard-liners, and one that would indeed probably have sunk Rouhani. Obama is seeing the far longer view, and sorry Brad, as recent events in SC have reminded us, historical context and understanding is important—- American foreign policy for the past 50 years has been plagued by provincialism, insularity, exactly because our position as a superpower afforded us that “luxury.” This is a step back from the brink.

        1. Brad Warthen Post author

          I hope you’re right.

          I heard part of the president’s presser today, and he was quite persuasive. But he always is. Send POTUS to me, and I’ll probably be persuaded (send those kids in his “senior” team, not so much).

          I definitely can’t agree with you on your “provincial, insular” critique of our foreign policy. That’s not what I’ve seen for the past 50 years. I’ve seen determined engagement, both during the Cold War and after — starting with opening doors to China, and detente with the Soviets. Not always as much as I’d like — I’m ashamed of the way the West failed Rwanda, for instance. But on the whole, we’ve tried, with varying success, to live up to our obligations as a citizen of the world.

          We could do more, much more.

          It’s ironic, though, that you would say we’re insular, and I would deny it. I’m the one pushing for more engagement. You and others may think I only want military engagement, but no, that’s just what we disagree the most over. I want greater diplomatic, economic and humanitarian engagement as well.

          Still, I wouldn’t accuse our political leadership of being “insular” over the past half-century…

        2. Bryan Caskey

          “The only difference was that Netanyahu would only accept a level of capitulation that Iran would never agree to, one that Rouhani could never get past his hard-liners, and one that would indeed probably have sunk Rouhani. Obama is seeing the far longer view…” (emphasis mine)

          Obama is taking the long view? Are you sure? Unless I’ve misunderstood the terms of the deal, Iran can enrich as much uranium as it wants to whatever degree of refinement that it wants.

          All they have to do is wait 10 years.

          During those 10 years, they can rake in tons of money, increase their power as the hegemon in the the Middle-East by funding proxy wars, and generally continue being bad guys. They’ll just be better funded bad guys. And it will all be official US policy to let them do so. In 2025, they can do whatever the heck they want.

          How’s that for a long game?

          1. Norm Ivey

            The agreement limits refinement levels to 3.67% for 10 years. Weapon-grade uranium needs a refinement level in excess of 20%. After ten years they can increase refinement to levels between 5 and 20%. The IAEA will monitor their uranium for 25 years.

            They can sell excess refined uranium (probably to Russia), but the number of centrifuges is going to be significantly reduced. I don’t think they will have much excess capability. Uranium won’t be their big economic driver. Oil will.

            1. Bryan Caskey

              According to POTUS, it’s 15 years at the maximum. From the NYT:

              “The concern that Iran’s breakout time could shrink sharply in the waning years of the restrictions has already been a contentious issue in Congress. Mr. Obama contributed to that in an interview with National Public Radio in April, when he said that in “year 13, 14, 15” of the agreement, the breakout time might shrink “almost down to zero,” as Iran is expected to develop and use advanced centrifuges then.”

              I love euphemisms. “Breakout time” means “How long it will take Iran to have a nuclear weapon”. When that is “zero”, that means “They have a nuclear weapon, Poncho”.

              Ok, so 10 years or even 15 years. Fine, let’s not quibble over a few years. I’ll take POTUS at his word that it’s 15 at the max. It doesn’t matter much how much we argue over the deal, or who is for it or against it.

              You want to know something else that’s “almost zero”? It’s the percent chance that this deal is not approved by Congress because it has already all been pre-approved by Congress. Lindsey Graham can say all he wants about this being a bad deal. He and 98 other Senators voted to pre-approve this deal.

              It’s going to become policy, and Iran will get a nuclear weapon sometime before my son graduates high school.

  8. Phillip

    oops that’s what I get for typing too fast, forgot to close my html link. Sorry for that!

  9. Brad Warthen Post author

    Another thing to consider: Have we just launched a nuclear arms race in the region?

    I’m very concerned about how Saudi Arabia is going to react here, just for starters. I mean, you can tell the Saudis that under this pact Iran is less likely to go nuclear, but if they don’t believe that, well…

    1. John

      No, we have not launched a nuclear arms race in this region. Pakistan and India (Iran’s nearest and next-nearest neighbors) started that quite some time ago. The concern that the Saudis will choose to interpret a nuclear arms treaty between a neighboring state and several others as an act of nuclear aggression seems irrational. If Saudi Arabia chooses to respond by developing their own nuclear weapons then they will violate the terms of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty they signed in 1988. There are significant trade penalties that come with that decision, so if they decide to go nuclear I suppose we have to start from there.

      1. Brad Warthen Post author

        Yes, it’s irrational if one assumes that they believe the nuclear arms treaty will make Iran less likely to have a bomb. If they don’t believe that, then not so irrational.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      But seriously — wouldn’t you have greater confidence if he had Robert Gates, Leon Paneta and Hillary Clinton standing around him, or someone like Madeleine Albright (since I know Leo is unavailable)?

      The picture below inspired confidence — the president surrounded by grownups. The one above does not.


    2. Brad Warthen Post author

      And if you saw the president with THESE guys — a guy from Punahou with two Radford Rams — you’d KNOW they had trouble on the run. Just call them the National Insecurity team…

      On Ford Island, in the middle of Pearl Harbor, with Burl Burlingame.

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