How Iran Fooled the United States

April 21, 2015

The National Interest:

The recent interim framework struck by the United States, its partners, and Iran in Lausanne has generated a tremendous amount of commentary from both supporters and opponents of the deal. Unfortunately, little of that commentary has focused on what Iran was trying to achieve in these negotiations.

Looking at the framework the negotiations produced it seems that U.S. negotiators suffered from this same myopia. In any negotiation, success rests, in part, on the ability to see things from the other party’s point of view. The failure to understand Iran’s actual goals in Switzerland has led to a deal that focuses on things that don’t matter very much, like breakout times and the logistics of inspections, and not at all on the things that matter most. The result is a deal that gives Iran what it wanted most: time and money. The United States and its international partners received in return vague assurances and a press conference that Iran is already backing away from…

Even if Iran had a working bomb design, it would still need a reliable delivery system. The most glaring flaw in the agreement struck by the United States is that it does not even touch on Iran’s ballistic missile program. Iran could launch a round of long-range ballistic missile tests tomorrow and it would not violate one word of the agreement struck in Lausanne. Unlike other nuclear states that have air forces with advanced fighter-bombers or submarines capable of delivering submarine launched ballistic or cruise missiles, Iran does not have such platforms capable of delivering a nuclear weapon. Thus, Iran is developing long-range ballistic missiles so it can deliver the weapon it wants to build.

Iran’s main ballistic missile is the Shahab 3. Experts differ on the exact capabilities of the Shahab 3 but most agree that it is capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and can reach Israel. Iran has hundreds of these missiles and is working to develop a new missile, the Sejjil, which will have an even longer range and carry a larger payload.

Nothing in the Lausanne agreement requires Iran to give up any of its existing missiles or curtail tests for its next-generation missiles. More troubling, the agreement promises to give Iran the financial means to revive and expand its testing program. Iran has spent over $1 billion in the last decade on missile development. Ballistic missiles have proven an expensive pursuit and the cost helps explain why development of the Sejjil stalled out as sanctions ratcheted up and money became scarcer. That situation is about to change…

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