Consistent with every other aspect of the Iran nuclear deal, which seeks to restrict Tehran’s nuclear program in return for sanctions relief, there are two sharply opposed narratives regarding the success or failure of the landmark agreement one year after it was signed.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who oversaw the negotiations between Iran and six world powers, including the U.S., says the pact has “lived up to its expectations” and that Tehran is “living up to its part of this bargain and obligation.”
Critics concede that Iran has stuck to the specifics, giving up 98 percent of its nuclear material, allowing inspectors to do their job and filling its plutonium reactor with cement. But they maintain that in every other way, Iran is proving to be even more belligerent than before, violating the spirit of the deal by conducting missile tests and continuing to demonize the U.S. and Israel with hateful rhetoric. What’s more, the AP reported this week that a confidential add-on to the nuclear deal allows Iran to start replacing its key centrifuges as of January 2027, 11 years after the implementation of the agreement, which calls for a 15-year ban. A State Department spokesman denied such an agreement; the AP says it has a copy of the document.
And so it goes, with each side in the debate focusing on a different aspect of the complex relationship between the U.S. and Iran.
Even Israeli officials acknowledge that for now, the threat of a nuclear Iran has been “greatly reduced.” IDF Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eisenkot said in January that “the deal has actually removed the most serious danger to Israel’s existence for the foreseeable future.” Prime Minister Netanyahu has been noticeably quiet on the subject.
But even Secretary Kerry noted that “nobody pretends that some of the challenges we have with Iran have somehow been wiped away.”
According to the agreement, after 15 years Iran will be free to move ahead with its nuclear program.
The administration had hoped that the nuclear deal would begin to soften the antagonism of Iran’s leaders toward the West and lead to more open contact. So far it appears the opposite has occurred, with Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lashing out against the U.S. and Israel, no doubt to indicate that the deal with the devil has not moderated his opposition to them. In addition, Iran is disappointed that the sanctions relief has not taken place more quickly, leading to reduced internal support for the deal and for President Hassan Rouhani.
The regime continues to arm and fund Hamas and Hezbollah, support President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, violate human rights and ignore UN resolutions opposed to ballistic missile testing. Earlier this year Germany reported that Iran may have sought to obtain materials for nuclear development, in violation of the agreement.
A year ago the American Jewish community was bitterly divided over the deal, with each side accusing the other of jeopardizing Israel’s very existence if its position was not followed. The debate has died down but an indication of the still-sharp feelings was evident from the results of the Democratic primary here last month. Longtime Rep. Jerrold Nadler, whose support for the Iran deal made him a lightning rod of controversy among pro-Israel constituents opposed to the deal, overwhelmingly defeated Oliver Rosenberg in a district that includes the Upper West Side and parts of Brooklyn. But in Borough Park, with its heavily Orthodox constituency, Rosenberg, a political novice who is openly gay, reportedly won 90 percent of the vote — a clear sign that bitterness remains over Nadler’s backing of the Iran deal.
One year on, in the narrowest sense, it is working; beyond that there is much reason for continued concern and vigilant monitoring of Tehran’s actions.