Radio America, November 25, 2013
Alireza Jafarzadeh, Foreign Affairs Analyst and Iran Expert contributes to the Radio America story
The Obama administration is trumpeting a weekend deal with Iran and five other nations that will freeze certain parts of the Iranian nuclear program and open facilities for greater inspection in exchange for the relaxing of some crippling financial sanctions.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is incensed at the deal, calling it an “historic mistake”. Congressional Republicans as well as many Democrats are worried that the deal results in the U.S. giving up key diplomatic leverage while Iran technically gives up nothing.
The group responsible for exposing Iran’s clandestine nuclear program is also unimpressed. Officials with the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) say the west wasted a golden opportunity to demand major Iranian concessions.
“The very fact that this regime agreed to whatever it agreed to shows their weakness, their vulnerability. This is something that should have been exploited. If the international community, and particularly the United States, was decisive enough, this was a regime that you could have actually forced them to abandon their entire program,” said Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director in the office of the U.S. representative of the NCRI.
Jafarzadeh says the Iranians came to the table for three main reasons, including the economic toll of sanctions, major protests against Ayatollah Khamenei and additional NCRI revelations of additional nuclear facilities.
“This was a regime that was in trouble. This was the time that you needed to increase the pressure and force them to make the serious concessions that they were supposed to do. They didn’t press them hard enough. The agreement could have been much much stronger that would have in effect really abandoned and dismantled the nuclear weapons program of Iran. It didn’t,” said Jafarzadeh.
While President Obama says the deal removes the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran, Netanyahu and others believe it greatly increases the likelihood the Iranians will get the bomb because the deal provides legitimacy for the program and the easing of sanctions allows Iran to be more bold in pursuing it’s goals.
“Those are very valid allegations to take into consideration because you don’t want to provide financial assistance to this regime because that money is definitely going to be used, at least partially, in funding the very same program that you want to stop,” said Jafarzadeh. Critics of the deal also point out Iran has repeatedly flouted United Nations Security Council sanctions, leading many to conclude Iran simply cannot be trusted to honor any agreement. Is there any reason to think this time will be different? “Absolutely not. They have never honored any agreement at all on any issues but particularly on the nuclear weapons program of Iran,” said Jafarzadeh, who also rips the agreement for completely ignoring Iran’s weaponization programs that are being developed simultaneously with the nuclear weapons. “It’s not all about enrichment.
It’s also about the nuclear weaponization program of Iran, the kind of research and development they have been doing along with their enrichment program,” said Jafarzadeh, who says it’s not too late for the U.S. and our allies to demand access to those sites as well if Iran truly has nothing to hide. The agreement struck over the weekend is designed to last six months and give the seven nations time to forge a permanent treaty concerning Iranian nukes. Jafarzadeh says where we stand six months from now depends mostly on the United States. “It all depends on how seriously and how strongly this administration will pursue it. If Iran detects that the White House is pretty much happy with what they got, they can play games with the White House and the State Department about this. Then you’re either going to be back to square one or in a worse situation six months from now,” said Jafarzadeh.
“On the other hand, if this administration would stress on some of the points in this agreement and really really press it hard, we could actually be several steps ahead of where we are,” he said.
“The ball is in the court of the United States. How they’re going to pursue this and where we’re going to stand six months from now, it’s all in the hands of the U.S. period,” he said.