We all knew an Iran deal was coming. Many of us knew it was going to be bad. I honestly did not believe it would be this bad.
Iran's leadership lies — constantly. Not in the way that all governments lie from time to time, but pathologically. This is kind of an important thing to keep in mind before going into a negotiation with someone.
Another problem: The sanctions system is set up in an entirely backwards way. Every time a potential Iran deal has been mentioned, the go-to line has been that any agreement will include provisions to "snap back" sanctions should Iran stray. That all sounds wise and impressive and unimpeachable. Except that it doesn't make sense in the real world.
In the real world, once sanctions are scrapped, political pressure to keep the sanctions gone, particularly from elites in places that do business with Iran — like Russia, China, Germany, and France — will be enormous. In the real world, any violation by Iran will be a shades-of-gray affair where you can plausibly argue either side (at least to start with), which will provide all the excuse needed not to "snap back" anything. Status quo is an extremely powerful force in international politics. Today, the sanctions regime holds, despite many not liking it, because it is the status quo. Tomorrow, nothing will ever get snapped back, because openness will be the status quo.
We are writing a blank check to Iran. (Almost literally! Let's not forget that Iran is among the world's foremost funders of terror, and any sanctions relief Iran gets could well increase the funding going to terrorist groups. And Russian arms manufacturers, too.)
Most observers assume that since politicians and diplomats tend to basically be rational, cost-and-benefit folks, Iran's leadership must also be that. Only the Israelis seem to truly recognize the dangers behind that assumption. Because what if it's not true in Iran's case? What if Iran's leaders are actually murderous and suicidal fanatics who would use nuclear bombs to commit a new Holocaust if they had the chance, even if there was a credible deterrent on the other side? People like this exist. And occasionally, crazy people really do become heads of states! Like Idi Amin. Or, well, you know who. (Yes, I went there.)
But this was always going to be true of any deal with Iran. As I said, this one was worse than expected.
Why? For one thing, the deal contemplates Iran keeping 6,000 centrifuges, when we were told a maximum ceiling would be 500 to 1,500. The remaining centrifuges are going to be "stored." Ahem.
Iran gets a lift on its conventional arms embargo in five years. (Remember all that stuff about sponsoring terror? All over the Middle East? Yay!) It even gets a lift on its embargo on ballistic missiles in eight years. What possible use could Iran have for ballistic missiles, I wonder...
But really, what makes this whole thing a farce is simply this: The one thing we were always told would make this a rock-solid deal that couldn't end in Iran getting a bomb is that there would be "anytime, anywhere" inspections. With "anytime, anywhere" inspections, Iran had no choice. Either it complied, or that magical "snap back" would put it in line. Those inspectors would be everywhere making sure those dastardly mullahs couldn't break the deal.
Are there "anytime, anywhere" inspections?
There are not.
Iran must be warned of inspections in advance. In fact, Iran still won't let inspectors touch, or agree to anything at all, regarding one of its top secret military nuclear sites.
I have to pause here to let that sink in. The United States government, and the governments of a bunch of other countries, actually thought this made sense.
Just think about it. If only for no other reason that the public was heavily sold on it, I am sure that the Western negotiators at least tried to insist on "anytime, anywhere" inspections. Which means that the Iranians pushed back. And there was actually discussion on this. What possible reason could Iran have for not insisting for advance notice of inspections?
We got played. Like suckers. Big time.