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Thursday, March 05, 2015

Who'd a thunk it? Dennis Ross backs Netanyahu

Dennis Ross, who was President Obama's representative to the Iran negotiations early in his term, has come out backing Prime Minister Netanyahu, urging President Obama not to ignore the Prime Minister's concerns.
While the Obama administration is unlikely to accept his argument that it should simply negotiate better and harder, it should not dismiss the concerns Netanyahu raises about the emerging deal. Indeed, the administration's argument that there is no better alternative than the deal it is negotiating begs the question of whether the prospective agreement is acceptable.
And, here, the administration needs to explain why the deal it is trying to conclude actually will prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons for the lifetime of the agreement and afterwards. It needs to explain why the combination of the number and quality of centrifuges, their output, and the ship-out from Iran of enriched uranium will, in fact, ensure that the break-out time for the Iranians will not be less than one year. Either this combination adds up or it does not, but there should be an explicit answer to Netanyahu's charge that Iran will be able to break out much more quickly.
Similarly, there should be an answer on how the verification regime is going to work to ensure that we can detect, even in a larger nuclear program, any Iranian violation of the agreement. The issue of verification is critical not just because Iran's past clandestine nuclear efforts prove it cannot be trusted, but also because the administration has made a one-year break-out time the key measure of success of the agreement. But we can be certain that Iran will be one year away from being able to produce a bomb's supply of weapons-grade uranium only if we can detect what they are doing when they do it.
Obviously, detection is only part of the equation. We cannot wait to determine what we will do about violations when they happen. Iran must know in advance what the consequences are for violations, particularly if we want to deter them in the first place. This clearly goes to the heart of Netanyahu's concerns: If he had high confidence that we would impose harsh consequences in response to Iranian violations, including the use of force if we caught Iran dashing toward a weapon, he would be less fearful of the agreement he believes is going to emerge.
But he does not see that, and he fears that, as with past arms control agreements, we will seek to discuss violations and not respond to them until it is too late. The administration should address this fear and prove it means what it says by spelling out different categories of violations and the consequences for each — and then seek congressional authorization to empower this president and his successors to act on these consequences.
If applied also to Iranian moves toward a nuclear weapon after the expiration of the deal, the administration would truly be answering the most significant of the concerns that Netanyahu raised.
 Indeed.

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