Opinion

Nuclear talks won't stop Iran's progress toward a weapon

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Opinion,Op-Eds,Iran,Hassan Rouhani,Nuclear Weapons

“The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past,” the American novelist William Faulkner observed.

These words come to mind as negotiations resumed in Vienna this past week over Iran's nuclear program, more than two months after a controversial interim agreement was reached between Iran and the West over the Islamic republic's nuclear program.

In the weeks since the November accord was announced, we have seen troubling signs that this deal -- which effectively recognizes Iran as a threshold nuclear state -- will not bring the peace everyone wants. Rather, it leads us down the path to a nuclear-armed Iran.

Iran continues its research and development on advanced centrifuges and its ballistic missiles system, with the bulk of its nuclear infrastructure intact. With its economy on the mend, Iran has announced it is building a new generation of advanced centrifuges for uranium enrichment, as its research and development on future centrifuges continues unabated.

Just days before talks were set to resume, Iran this past week successfully test fired two missiles, including a long-range ballistic weapon. Iran is now threatening to send warships to the Atlantic Ocean, and will travel close to U.S. maritime borders for the first time.

Let us be clear: The interim agreement did not suspend Iran’s uranium enrichment. Its most enriched uranium is being turned into uranium oxide – a chemical process that is completely and easily reversible. (One commentator said it was like putting it in a safe where Iran has the key.) Significantly, the accord also does not dismantle a single one of Iran’s nearly 20,000 centrifuges. And Iran’s leadership says they have no intention of ever doing so.

“The iceberg of sanctions is melting while our centrifuges are also spinning,” Iran’s nuclear chief boasts, calling it “our country’s greatest achievement.”

In the meantime, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's message is that Iran is open for business.

After years of sanctions, there are now initial indications of an Iranian economic recovery as a result of changing market expectations and a shifting market psychology. Indeed, the economic sanctions against Iran – which were the West’s strongest leverage and were what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place -- are being eroded by other countries eager to resume trade with Iran. Anticipating looser sanctions, trade delegations are flocking to Iran to explore business deals.

The largest European business delegation in more than three decades visited Iran this month. The group included a French delegation of more than 100 potential investors from some of France's biggest companies. Even before that, in the first three weeks of the year, there were more trade delegations to Iran than in all of last year.

Also, an oil-for-goods deal between Russia and Iran reportedly under discussion is worth a cool $1.5 billion a month. In a troubling sign, Russia's economy minister is headed to Tehran in April to discuss a broad range of trade issues.

As market psychology is increasingly turning from fear to greed, the psychological impact of loosening sanctions has begun to change the economic climate. “The Pandora's box has been opened,” Tehran-based economist and financial consultant Rocky Ansari told the Wall Street Journal.

It's worth remembering that Rouhani in his previous role as chief Iranian nuclear negotiator said a decade ago that the goal of diplomacy was to freeze elements of Iranian nuclear program that Iran had perfected, and buy time for those that it had not.

Words matter. So do actions -- both past and present.

There is little wonder that the CNN host who recently interviewed Rouhani called U.S. Iran policy a train wreck.

Rep. Doug Lamborn, R-Colo., is a member of the House Armed Services Committee and co-chairs the bipartisan Congressional Israel Allies Caucus. Thinking of submitting an op-ed to the Washington Examiner? Be sure to read our guidelines on submissions for editorials, available at this link.
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