Imagine you’re a conflicted lawmaker in the U.S. Congress. You’ve heard all the arguments about the Iran nuclear agreement, pro and con. A vote on the deal is coming up in September and you have to make a decision. But you are torn.
Most of your colleagues don’t share your angst. They have concluded that the risks of the nuclear accord far exceed its benefits. They will vote to disapprove.
Some take the opposing view. They accept President Barack Obama’s argument that the agreement will effectively block Iran from developing a nuclear weapon for a very long time at little risk to U.S. interests.
You are in a third group. You recognize the substantial achievements in the deal, such as Iran’s commitment to cut its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98 percent, gut the core of its plutonium reactor, and mothball thousands of centrifuges. But you have also heard experts identify a long list of gaps, risks, and complications. These range from the three and a half weeks that Iran can delay inspections of suspect sites, to the billions of dollars that Iran will reap from sanctions relief—some of which will surely end up in the hands of terrorists.
For his part, the president seems to believe that he negotiated a near-perfect deal. In his recent speech at American University, he described the pact as a “permanent” solution to the Iranian nuclear problem. It was a shift from when he told an NPR interviewer in April that once limitations on Iran’s centrifuges and enrichment activities expire in 15 years, Iran’s breakout time to a nuclear weapon would be “shrunk almost down to zero.” Both statements—achieving a “permanent” solution and Iran having near-zero breakout time—cannot be true.