Iran says No to ending missile program? Then U.S. should say No to deal

With just weeks until the latest P5+1 Iran nuclear deal deadline, Senator Corker recently sent a letter to President Obama encouraging him to keep ‘walking away’ a viable option. It is difficult to see the president doing this so late in the game, but Senator Corker is right, of course.

If one party to negotiations is unwilling to walk away and believes that the only alternative to any deal is war, and the other party remains willing to walk away if the deal does not further its own goals, the latter always comes out victorious. The United States is poised to lose, and lose big time.

One comes to this conclusion by comparing what the administration originally said was important to secure by the deal with what it has since conceded. Even those who have been the most supportive of the administration’s efforts to come to a diplomatic solution are forced to admit the Iranians have skillfully forced the United States to abandon almost every single one of its previously declared conditions.

One of the most critical concessions was that of the Iranians missile program. Senator Corker writes, “Negotiators have moved from a 20-year agreement to what is in essence a 10 year agreement that allows Iran to simultaneously continue an advanced ballistic missile program and research and development of advanced centrifuges.”

Without knowing exact details of the status and contents of the deal, if it is close to the contents of what the White House revealed in its Political Framework fact sheet, the Iranians will essentially pause the parts of their program they have mastered while being permitted to continue advancing the parts they have not:  R&D of advanced centrifuges and long-range delivery systems. It is not hard to deduce that once the deal sunsets in 10 years, the Iranians will be even closer, if not having successfully achieved, the ability to coerce the United States with a nuclear ballistic missile.

The Obama administration had signaled that missiles would be included in the final version of the deal, but has since completely abandoned this.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee recently held a hearing on the topic of excluding Iran’s missiles from the nuclear deal.

Michael T. Flynn, former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency said, “Iran has every intention to build a nuclear weapon. They have stated it many times, they have attempted well over a decade to move rapidly to nuclearizing its capability, and their enrichment to twenty percent and their rapid move to develop a ballistic missile program, are examples of their continued preparedness to weaponized a missile for nuclear delivery.”

Robert Joseph, Former Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, testified, “The failure to limit ballistic missiles, or to constrain Iran’s missile build up in any way, is one of a number of central flaws in the emerging agreement on Iran’s nuclear program.”

And David Cooper, James V. Forrestal Professor and Chair of the Department of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Naval War College, said, “Because nuclear weapons and associated delivery systems are integrally linked, any nonproliferation framework must deal with both to have a real chance of lasting success. Far from being a peripheral issue, the failure to deal with the most menacing of Iran’s emergent intermediate- and longer-range nuclear-capable ballistic missile programs is likely to bedevil the ultimate credibility and effectiveness of any comprehensive settlement that focuses only on nuclear material and weapons per se.”

There’s much to complain about the Iran deal, but the exclusion of its missile program reveals the intent of Tehran to keep its nuclear program moving right along, and Washington’s unwillingness to do what it takes to stop it.

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