WASHINGTON – “Of course, yes, death to America,” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei declared just last month, echoing the crowd chants as he marked the Persian new year.
Seeking to turn the recent nuclear accord into a final deal, President Obama says he hopes a deal “ushers a new era in U.S.-Iranian relations,” with the economic benefits convincing Iran to focus less on its “war machine.”
But as negotiators approach a deal, Iran shows every sign of doubling down on its “death to America” ideology and its “war machine” – destabilizing some neighboring governments and infiltrating others, fighting a proxy war with Saudi Arabia in Yemen, threatening Israel’s existence, sending more weapons to its terrorist clients, hacking more U.S. computer systems and retaining its American hostages.
Thus, far from benefiting America, the recent accord will endanger America by empowering one of its most dangerous enemies.
Mounting U.S. concessions before and since the accord make clear that, with a final deal, Iran will emerge as a nuclear threshold state, leaving Washington hard pressed to prevent Tehran from developing nuclear weaponry in no more than a year.
Under the accord, Tehran gets to keep its nuclear infrastructure largely in place, its stockpiles of enriched uranium within its borders, thousands of its centrifuges enriching more uranium, its research continuing on advanced centrifuges that could enrich uranium at a weapons-grade level, its once-secret and well-fortified uranium site in Fordo as well as its plutonium site in Arak still standing, its ballistic missiles that could potentially carry nuclear warheads unaffected, its terrorist-sponsoring activities unimpeded, and nuclear inspections that it will be able to limit.
With all that, Iran will have great leeway to cheat its way to nuclear weaponry or, if it’s patient enough, wait until a final deal expires – presumably in about 10 years – and move to nuclear weapons more openly.
Meanwhile, sanctions relief for Iran under a final deal will generate huge new revenues with which Tehran can finance all of its dangerous activities around the globe.
Iran remains the world’s most aggressive state sponsor of terrorism, fueling Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other groups that have killed Americans, Europeans, Israelis and others.
It has consistently refused to cooperate with nuclear inspectors who seek unimpeded access to its nuclear sites, or to come clean on the research it has conducted on the military applications of nuclear power.
Moreover, in recent months Iran pulled out all stops to fortify Syria’s Bashar al-Assad – the dictator who has slaughtered many thousands of his own people and whose departure from power President Obama had once sought – sending its forces to fight U.S.-backed rebels.
It also backed “Death to America”-chanting Houthi rebels, who overthrew Yemen’s U.S.-backed president, blowing up what the Obama administration had considered its showcase anti-terror effort in the region.
Now, a final deal that puts Iran on the cusp of nuclear weaponry while providing it a huge revenue windfall will leave the United States with far less leeway to protect its interests and its allies in the region.
With top Iranian officials still threatening Israel’s destruction, the Jewish state will ponder a unilateral military strike on Iran’s nuclear sites. And with Iran seeking regional hegemony, Saudi Arabia and other Sunni Arab states will pursue their own nuclear programs to better protect themselves.
“It is vital,” Khamenei said in late February, reflecting the regime’s revolutionary fervor, “to keep the martyrs’ names and the culture of martyrdom alive. … This culture is precisely the opposite of Western individualistic culture, that measures everything according to individual and material considerations.”
Hope that a final deal will pacify Tehran reflects the triumph of dreams over reality. Thus, the April 2 accord which paves the way for a deal is certainly not in America’s best interests.
Lawrence J. Haas, a former communications director for Vice President Al Gore, is a senior fellow at the American Foreign Policy Council.