By Ali Safavi
With last minute Western concessions, the Iran nuclear deal was finally completed last month. Now Tehran stands to accrue even greater economic gains while simultaneously buying time to continue its long-standing deceptions in pursuit of illicit nuclear gains. Few observers are surprised that the two sides were able to push through some form of agreement, but the question remains as to whether that agreement can truly last.
Many lawmakers and experts, including some key Democrats, have highlighted the flaws in the deal. More tellingly has been the steady stream of mixed signals from the Iranian regime itself.
Following multiple revelations of Tehran’s nuclear program by Iran’s democratic opposition coalition, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), the West gave Tehran every opportunity to come to the table and negotiate in good faith. But instead of abandoning the path toward a nuclear weapon in earnest, Tehran bought more time and barely backed down from unjustifiable demands.
Congress has a major and historic role to play to ensure that the international community does not legitimize the Iranian regime’s bomb quest; it can also prevent the regime from buying time and empowering itself to overcome internal dissent.
Even if the deal survives Congressional scrutiny, to avoid a post-deal debacle and prolonged skirmish, the P5+1 must recognize its responsibility for pushing verification and enforcement as far as possible. Stronger provisions are needed, and the policy of the West should be to secure the equivalent of those provisions by whatever means necessary.
According to several senior Iranian officials, Tehran will do everything to keep the military sites, where most of the illicit nuclear activity is taking place, effectively off limits. It should not be allowed to do so.
The world was stunned back in August 2002 when the NCRI, relying on its vast network of supporters inside Iran, revealed the existence of Iran’s illicit nuclear sites.
The July accord, fails to grant the International Atomic Energy Agency “anytime, anywhere” access to many of Iran’s nuclear facilities, especially the undisclosed sites, critical to establishing a baseline of Iran’s nuclear know-how, and thus to monitoring its adherence to the nuclear agreement.
Every conceivable diplomatic pressure should be exerted to see to it that the IAEA probe is on track to completion before the nuclear agreement goes into effect. Similarly, no effort should be spared to ensure transparency from Iran’s nuclear scientists and experts.
Under the deal, Iran will be permitted to keep thousands of active and inactive centrifuges, as well as enriched uranium within its territory. Research and development on more advanced centrifuges will continue unabated. The international community thus has a greater than ever responsibility to vigilantly monitor the entire nuclear supply chain from top to bottom, as well as the means for Iran’s illicit import of nuclear material.
A robust final deal would have been a promising first step in preventing a nuclear-armed theocracy in Iran. If the administration had chosen to continue the tough international sanctions, coupled with a more decisive policy that also looked to the Iranian people for help, it could have extracted a better bargain. In the short-term, a vigorous policy of enforcement, monitoring, and intelligence-gathering would be the second best alternative.
Ultimately, however, the entrenched political dynamics in Iran will only be changed through the active and decisive role of the people of Iran and their organized opposition movement.
The West has strong allies inside Iran in the form of the Iranian people. The population is deeply resentful of the ruling clerics, who are extremely fearful of their own citizens and have committed egregious human rights violations while ruining the economy and, with it, the lives and futures of millions of Iranians.
The West’s stated desire is to strategically prevent Tehran from getting nuclear weapons. To that end, it must look beyond the current ruling clique to regime change by the Iranian people and to the establishment of a system of governance that does not view nuclear weapons as its guarantee for survival. Such a system will emerge much faster if the international community embraces the democratic aspirations of the Iranian people, as articulated in Maryam Rajavi’s Ten-Point Plan for the future of Iran.
Only this option would avert war and offer a long-term and viable solution to a vexing threat posed by the mullahs to regional and global peace and security.
Safavi is a member of the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran, which seeks the establishment of a democratic, secular and non-nuclear republic in Iran