Why Is the Iran Deal a Bad Deal?

Jessie Owen Payne | March 9, 2015

In his highly publicized and controversial address to a joint meeting of Congress last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pushed the Iran nuclear talks to the forefront of American minds, faulting the P5+1 for a “bad deal” that he said would put Iran on track to acquire a nuclear weapon.

Netanyahu warned that while Iran has its sights set on Israel, no country is safe from Iran’s “ideological mission of jihad.”

What is the “P5+1”?

A group of six world powers that conducts negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program. The term P5+1 refers to the five permanent members of the UN Security Council – the United Kingdom, United States, Russia, China, and France – plus Germany.

He reminded his audience that Iran has already attacked the United States by kidnapping Americans in Tehran, murdering Marines in Beirut, and killing and injuring American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran controls four capitals in the Arab world, and, if its aggression is left unchecked, “more will surely follow.” Netanyahu warned: “We must all stand together to stop Iran’s march of conquest, subjugation and terror.”

As the rest of the world has evolved, Netanyahu said that Iran’s ideals have remained the same. “Iran’s regime is as radical as ever. Its cries of ‘Death to America,’ that same America it calls the ‘Great Satan,’ are as loud as ever,” he said.

“The greatest danger facing our world is the marriage of militant Islam with military weapons. But that, my friends, is exactly what could happen if the deal now being negotiated is accepted by Iran.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has emerged from yet another round of talks with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, with whom he will meet again on March 15. Kerry said that progress is being made in the ongoing nuclear talks, but “there do remain serious gaps that need to be resolved.”

The P5+1 continues to insist that Iran’s nuclear program must only be used for peaceful, non-military purposes and that international inspectors be allowed access to Iran’s nuclear sites. But while the group previously stipulated that Iran must dismantle its entire nuclear infrastructure to ensure that the country is left without a uranium or plutonium pathway to a nuclear bomb, Netanyahu said that this item is now one of the emerging deal’s major concessions.

According to the prime minister, the current deal could leave Iran with a “vast nuclear infrastructure, providing it with a short break-out time to the bomb. According to the deal, not a single nuclear facility would be demolished. Thousands of centrifuges used to enrich uranium would be left spinning.”

Iran has tentatively agreed to limit its fuel production program in return for the lifting of international sanctions – as long as the restrictions expire after 10 years, a request that is now part of the ongoing negotiations. But Netanyahu pointed out that even if limitations are placed on Iran and international inspectors supervise those restrictions, “inspectors document violations. They don’t stop them. Iran not only defies inspectors, it also plays a pretty good game of hide-and-cheat with them.”

The prime minister said that the expiring limitations concern him the most, because even if Iran complies with the P5+1 for the time being, it could still churn out nuclear bombs at the end of the 10-year timeframe. “A decade … is the blink of an eye in the life of a nation,” he said. “It’s a blink of an eye in the life of our children.

“The foremost sponsor of global terrorism could be weeks away from having enough enriched uranium for an entire arsenal of nuclear weapons and this with full international legitimacy.”

Kerry has said that the P5+1 is close to arranging a deal that would limit Iran’s operating centrifuges and uranium stockpiles enough to keep the country to a one-year breakout time, meaning that Iran could not create a nuclear weapon in less than a year. But Netanyahu said that the current agreement “doesn’t block Iran’s path to the bomb. It paves Iran’s path to the bomb.

“If Iran is gobbling up four countries right now while it’s under sanctions, how many more countries will Iran devour when sanctions are lifted?”

Netanyahu pointed to a dangerous side effect of the nuclear negotiations: a Middle East arms race in which Iran’s neighbors begin pursuing their own nuclear weapons for fear of an Iranian bomb. “The Middle East would soon be crisscrossed by nuclear tripwires,” he said. “A region where small skirmishes can trigger big wars would turn into a nuclear tinderbox.”

The prime minister begged the P5+1 to not base the safety of the world on the hope that Iran will change over the course of the next decade. “We don’t have to gamble with our future and with our children’s future,” Netanyahu said. “We can insist that restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program not be lifted for as long as Iran continues its aggression in the region and in the world.”

Netanyahu said that restrictions should be lifted only when Iran halts its expansion in the Middle East, its support for global terrorism and its threats to annihilate the State of Israel.

Although President Barack Obama later responded to Netanyahu’s address by saying that the prime minister did not offer any new ideas, Netanyahu’s speech did include the following:

Without thousands of centrifuges, tons of enriched uranium or heavy water facilities, Iran can’t make nuclear weapons. Iran’s nuclear program can be rolled back well beyond the current proposal by insisting on a better deal and keeping up the pressure on a very vulnerable regime, especially given the recent collapse in the price of oil. A better deal that keeps the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in place until Iran’s aggression ends.

Netanyahu said that if Iran threatens to walk away from the negotiation table in the face of heightened demands, “call their bluff. They’ll be back, because they need the deal a lot more than you do.

“For over a year, we’ve been told that no deal is better than a bad deal,” he continued. “Well, this is a bad deal. It’s a very bad deal. We’re better off without it. Now we’re being told that the only alternative to this bad deal is war. That’s just not true. The alternative to this bad deal is a much better deal.”

Netanyahu’s address has stoked fears that the emerging nuclear deal cannot be defended on its merits. Although the president insinuated that there is no viable alternative to the current negotiations, Netanyahu’s speech put the Obama Administration – which promised that it wouldn’t accept a bad deal – in a defensive position.

If Obama does claim that the current deal is a good one, he will have to explain how the 10-year expiration squares with his fundamental commitment to never let Iran get a nuclear weapon.