The deal with Iran does not disarm the regime of its nuclear weapons capacity, but it does go a long way towards disarming the West. There are five ways that the deal handcuffs the U.S. and its allies by undermining their options against Iran in the future.
Disarming the Sanctions Option
The deal's supporters claim that the international sanctions that collapsed the Iranian economy will immediately "snap back" if the regime violates the deal, so why not give it a try?
To believe that claim, you have to believe that our international partners are willing to hurt themselves in order to hurt Iran a little at our request. These governments and influential companies will be making a fortune off of business with Iran. The regime is already making companies salivate with enticements to invest in its energy sector. Iran is hoping to sign $100 billion in oil and gas deals with Western companies.
Europe is more concerned about its energy dependence upon an increasingly aggressive Russia than Iran. Turkey wants to act as a corridor for Iranian natural gas shipments to Europe, in addition to importing more natural gas for itself. If Iran must be punished, are we really to believe that Europe would give up that business with the regime, accept higher oil prices and revert to being held hostage by Russia?
And even if the international community were to go along with the "snapback" sanctions, they would likely be fruitless. The Iranian regime believes—and with good reason—that all it needs is to be able to withstand the economic pain until a nuclear weapons arsenal is finished. According to the deal's supporter, that's a period of about one year maximum.
In 2005, Iranian President Rouhani (then the regime's chief nuclear negotiator) gave a speech where he boasted of advancing the nuclear program through deception and by dividing the West's ranks. He denied seeking nuclear weapons, but pointed to the example of how Pakistan got nuclear weapons. The world shouted as Pakistan built nuclear weapons but once it did, the world accepted it and moved on.
"If one day we are able to complete the [nuclear] fuel cycle, and the world sees that it has no choice … then the situation will be different," he said.
Disarming the Military Option
Once the interim nuclear deal was signed, Russia announced that the changed situation meant that Iran could finally receive its advanced S-300 air defense system. Four modernized versions of the system are due to arrive in Iran by the end of this year. Military experts warn that once they become operational, they will be "game-changers," especially for the Israelis. In addition, Russia is expected to provide advanced combat jets.
Within five years or less, the U.N. arms embargo will be lifted. Iran will be allowed to modernize its military by buying combat aircraft, large artillery systems, attack helicopters, warships and missiles. Iran says it will also continue developing ballistic missile technology.
Iran understands that the question isn't whether the U.S., Israel and other enemies can bomb its nuclear program. The question is whether the political leadership would consider it a viable option. By increasing the cost of potential military action, Iran decreases the chances of that military action taking place.
Military action may only push the Iranian nuclear program back by a few years. Is that worth the casualties, monetary expense, the possibility of pilots being held captive, Iran's retaliation or the political risk for the elected Western leaders? Iran wants a negative answer to those questions.
Disarming the Sabotage Option
There is a long list of apparent covert operations against Iran's nuclear program, with the Stuxnet cyber attack on Iran’s centrifuges being the most famous. The steady pace of apparent sabotaging stopped with the interim deal and now, under this deal, the West must actually help Iran stop future sabotage.
The deal refers to, "Cooperation through training and workshops to strengthen Iran's ability to protect against, and respond to nuclear security threats, including sabotage, as well as to enable effective and sustainable nuclear security and physical protection systems."
Disarming the State/Local Initiative Option
Another effective option against Iran has been divestment measures implemented in 30 states. There are five forms of legislation that have been passed, as pushed by United Against Nuclear Iran: Contracting legislation; divestment legislation/policies; banking legislation; insurance legislation and state authorization legislation.
The deal requires that the federal government must pressure these state and local governments into ending these measures. It states that the U.S. must "take appropriate steps, taking into account all available authorities" to "actively encourage officials at the state or local level" to lift sanctions.
This language would not be in the deal if these measures didn't hurt Iran. Its inclusion also means that the administration has some kind of game-plan to bend the states' arms into complying with the deal.
Disarming the Regime Change Option
The deal runs the risk of stabilizing the regime and saving the Iranian Islamic Revolution. To date, the ideology has brought nothing but misery to Iranians. If the deal produces an Iran on steroids, the regime will be allow to do something it never could do before: present its Islamic Revolution as a viable ideology, one that produces strength and prosperity.
As Democratic Senator Bob Menendez pointed out, the regime would never sign a deal that undermines itself. As I've explained previously, the deal will fatten the wallets of the oppressors of the Iranian people far more than the average Iranian. One of the top priorities of the so-called "moderate" President Rouhani has been dramatically increasing the budget of the security services that keep the regime in power.
The Iranian regime's future has turned bright. Whereas in 2009 its survival was in question, the regime now can look forward to years of growth where its strength increases and its adversaries are increasingly disarmed of their most useful options against it.
Ryan Mauro is ClarionProject.org’s national security analyst, a fellow with Clarion Project and an adjunct professor of homeland security. Mauro is frequently interviewed on top-tier television and radio. Read more, contact or arrange a speaking engagement.