The Iran Nuclear Deal: One Year On
One year ago, the world witnessed the implementation of what was supposed to be one of the greatest peace deals ever struck. The Iran nuclear deal, agreed to in July 2015, was formally implemented on Jan. 16, 2016.
The deal was meant to cut off Iran, the world’s number one terrorist-sponsoring nation with aspirations for nuclear weapons, from obtaining the bomb. It required Iran to make numerous changes to its nuclear program, including cutting its uranium stockpiles by 98 percent, reducing the number of centrifuges it installs, and reducing its level of enrichment. In response, the United States, along with other world powers, lifted sanctions on Iran that had been in place because of its illegal nuclear program. All totaled, $150 billion in assets were unfrozen. Vigorous inspections, the threat of snap-back sanctions, and time clauses delaying Iran’s ability to access certain nuclear technology were promised in the deal to ensure that Iran never got a nuclear weapon.
U.S. President Barack Obama called the deal “a milestone in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” while Secretary of State John Kerry said that “the entire world [was] safer because the threat of a nuclear weapon has been reduced.”
Now, one year on, we must ask: Is the world a safer place? Has peace come to the Middle East? Has Iran given up on its nuclear ambitions? All indications from the past year thunder a resounding “No.” Rather, the implementation of this deal has only emboldened Iran and given it access to new military hardware and billions of additional dollars to fund its operations.
Pushing at America
Despite extending an olive branch to Iran through the deal, the U.S. has received nothing in return but harassment. Since the deal was implemented, Iranian naval vessels have made repeated provocative maneuvers around U.S ships operating in international waters in the Persian Gulf.
The most recent episode happened on January 9, when five Iranian vessels harassed three U.S. Navy ships in the Strait of Hormuz over the course of nine hours. The Iranian vessels made six separate approaches against the U.S. vessels, one of which was deemed unprofessional, resulting in warning shots being fired at the Iranian craft. This came after numerous radio calls, flares and whistle blasts were used to deter the Iranian craft.
Referring to these provocative moves, Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said that “a total of 35 in 2016 … were assessed to be unsafe and unprofessional.” Only 35 of these incidents were deemed unprofessional; the January 9 incident saw the Iranian vessels make six passes at American ships, and only one was considered unprofessional. Added to that, Captain Davis said that “the vast majority of those were in the first half of 2016,” which would have only been a few months after the deal was implemented. Why would Iran act so aggressively—and so quickly—against the nation that was so instrumental in reintroducing it to the global community?
In 2016, American forces also came under threat when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired two missiles at a U.S. Navy destroyer operating off the coast of Yemen in the Red Sea on October 9 (the third such attack against U.S. naval forces in the area). Another incident saw a small Iranian vessel pointed its weapon at a U.S. military helicopter in the Strait of Hormuz on November 26. It was as if Iran was taking every opportunity to take a shot at the U.S. in 2016. If it spurns America so much, what do you suppose its attitude is toward the nuclear deal?
Iran has received little more than a tongue lashing for all of its provocative moves over the past year. America has willingly overlooked these acts, because it is desperate to keep the deal intact. Iran knows this and has taken every opportunity to make America look weak to the world.
Pushing the Limits: Ballistic Missile Testing
Last year also saw Iran push against the restrictions placed on its ballistic missile program. During 2016, Iran conducted four ballistic missile tests, despite much opposition from the world community. While these tests did not violate the nuclear agreement, Western powers viewed it as a violation of a United Nations security resolution which “calls upon” Iran to refrain from any activity connected to ballistic missiles. However, nothing significant was done to deter Iran’s missile program.
In reality, Iran was able to forge ahead with these missile tests because of the nuclear deal. Following the deal’s agreement, the UN Security Council adopted a new resolution that outlined the conditions of lifting its sanctions on Iran. This resolution also carried with it the new wording regarding Iran’s ballistic missile programs. While a previous resolution stated that Iran “shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons,” the new resolution softened the language, simply “calling upon” Iran to stop. As many point out, this weak wording makes it impossible to enforce the resolution, and thus it is not legally binding. It would be up to the Security Council to determine how to interpret the language of the resolution, and Russia, having veto power, stated it would not allow any sanctions to be imposed on Iran.
The Washington Post reported that the new wording also dictates that Iran stop testing missiles “designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons” instead of just being “capable” of delivering such warheads. Iran argued that the missiles it tested were not “designed” to carry those warheads, giving it more legal coverage.
So instead of making the world a safer place, the nuclear deal actually gave Iran the green light to press ahead with developing ballistic missiles. Iran now has one year of research and development under its belt, and it’s unlikely that the UN will pass any new resolutions to deter Iran’s progress.
Iran also proved that its ambitions to destroy the State of Israel have not been abated by the nuclear deal. During a test in March 2016, Iran launched a missile carrying the Hebrew message, “Israel must be wiped out.” The test occurred the same day that U.S. Vice President Joe Biden visited Israel. Though Iran has frequently called for the destruction of Israel, “this was the first reported post-deal display of anti-Israeli messaging in an Iranian [missile] test,” Newsweek reported.
Pushing the Limits: Heavy Water Production
In 2016, Iran also disregarded limitations on the amount of heavy water it had. Over the past 12 months, Iran twice exceeded those limits: in February, one month after the deal was implemented; and again in November. Both events were met without any major criticism.
U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner didn’t seem overly concerned about the excessive production. “It’s important to note that Iran made no effort to hide this, hide what it was doing from the [International Atomic Energy Agency],” he said
While that might seem well and good, the Institute for Science and International Security has raised serious concerns over a heavy water “loophole” that exists in the nuclear deal. Iran is only allowed to have 130 metric tons of heavy water; any additional heavy water that it produces has to be shipped to Oman were it is to be sold off.
This loophole exists, though, because Iran had no desire to stop producing heavy water once it reached the cap nor to dispose of any excess. The institute’s report stated:
Iran did not want to either stop production of heavy water or blend down its excess, and finding enough international buyers to take the heavy water at the time was not possible. Instead of saying no to Iran’s desire to “have its cake and eat it too,” the Obama administration endorsed a major concession. The Joint Commission ruled in secret during late 2015 or early 2016 to allow Iran to park its unsold heavy water in excess of the limit in Oman while Iran sought buyers, which ultimately turned out to be the United States and Russia, two countries that did not need the heavy water.
Over the past year, Iran has been free to continue producing heavy water and sell it off for additional cash to fund its operations. In total, 81 metric tons of heavy water have been shipped to Oman, all of which needs to be sold. Already America has bought some of this heavy water, effectively funding Iran’s dangerous purposes. If it continues to buy more out of a sense of obligation, it will disrupt the established market of heavy water produces by legitimate and viable companies. Added to that, the heavy water Iran production comes from the Arak heavy water production plant, which has been illegally outfitted with “goods in violation of sanctions and export control laws.”
Is it any wonder Iran is more than happy to exceed the limit of heavy water it produces and fess up to it? It has everything to gain by doing so.
Pushing the Limits: Arms Purchases
Following the implementation of the nuclear deal and the lifting of sanctions, Iran was quick to begin making arms deals. The first arms deal with Russia was made in February for $8 billion, which included purchasing a more sophisticated antiaircraft missile system and a batch of warplanes. Then, in November, U.S. officials voiced concern after another $10 billion deal was inked between Iran and Russia for more military hardware, including tanks, planes and artillery systems. All these deals would see Iran take possession of the hardware over the course of the next few years.
Under current UN Security Council resolutions, Iran is banned from purchasing offensive weaponry without permission from the Security Council. But Iran has yet to request permission to purchase these arms.
This past year, Iran also received its shipment of S-300 surface-to-air missiles from Russia, thanks again to the nuclear deal. The missile system had been purchased in 2007, but Russia blocked delivery after the U.S. and Israel protested the sale. Once the nuclear deal was agreed upon in 2015, Russian President Vladimir Putin allowed the sale to proceed. After receiving the first shipment in May, Iran deployed the system around the Fordow underground uranium enrichment facility in August. Why would Iran deploy state-of-the-art antiaircraft missile batteries around an underground nuclear facility if it’s just being used for civilian purposes?
While 2016 looked to be an aggressive year for Iran’s arms purchases, 2017 looks to be even more so. In May, Iran announced its 2016–2017 budget, which has $19 billion allocated for the military. This is a 90 percent increase over the previous year. Once again, Iran has the nuclear deal to thank for the increase. With sanctions lifted, Iran now can seek more loans from international banks to fund its military expansion. The most belittling aspect of Iran’s budget increase is the fact that Iran earmarked all $1.7 billion it received from the U.S. last January for the release of hostages to go toward its 2017 military budget.
Iran, One Year On
It is true that the iaea, which monitors Iran’s nuclear program, issued several reports last year saying the country is in compliance regarding its nuclear-related obligations. But one year on from the implementation of the nuclear deal, it’s clear Iran has gained much from it. Thanks to the deal, Iran has spent the last year using every opportunity to stick it to America’s military with no consequences, develop its ballistic missiles, and gain access to billions of dollars of additional funds as it continues to be the number one state sponsor of terrorism.
The nuclear deal has not made the world safer but more dangerous. Iran has already reaped all these benefits, and it’s now one year closer to the expiration of the nuclear deal, assuming the Iranians don’t violate the deal before then.
If all this happened over the course of 2016, what does 2017 hold? This nuclear deal has plunged the world into a dangerous age. As Trumpet editor in chief Gerald Flurry wrote after the deal, “Iran changed nothing in its policies of aggression, subversion and sponsoring terrorism. It didn’t even say it would reform in any of these areas! Without giving in on anything, Iran was given all it needed in order to greatly accelerate its race toward getting the nuclear bomb.”
If you haven’t done so yet, read our free booklet The King of the South. Bible prophecy makes clear that Iran is steering the world to a devastating conflict that will touch the lives of every person on Earth. However, there is great hope in all of this: Following on the heels of the soon-coming destruction, Jesus Christ will return to put an end to all war and suffering. Mankind will finally be free of the threat of nuclear war forever!