John Adams, explaining why even British soldiers accused of the Boston massacre deserved a fair trial, famously stated: "Facts are stubborn things." It's as true today as it was in 1770. But critics almost immediately ignored the facts after President Obama announced that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA, also known as the Iran Deal) was signed in Vienna. Opposition from some members of Congress rallied behind sentiments that the deal was unenforceable, would financially reward Iran for supporting terrorist activity, and would actually help the country develop a nuclear weapon. That was one year ago. Today the facts tell a very different story.
During a rally outside of the U.S. Capitol last year, Senator Ted Cruz argued that the JCPOA "will facilitate and accelerate the nation of Iran acquiring nuclear weapons." The implication was clear: the Iranians duped the Obama Administration and five other international partners who negotiated the agreement.
It wasn't accurate then and it has been proven false now. Iran's breakout time -- or the time needed to produce enough fissile material for one nuclear weapon -- is widely considered to be one year, compared to the two to three months before the agreement. That's because more than 25,000 pounds of low-enriched uranium were shipped out of the country -- 25,000 pounds that would still be in Iran if the JCPOA never came to fruition.
That's not all. With the most invasive, comprehensive, and thorough verification regime ever created, including the use of continuous online enrichment monitors and frequent site visits, the international community has an unprecedented tracking ability to enforce the deal and catch attempts at further developing nuclear technology. How do we know for sure? We already caught Iran barely exceeding its threshold of stocked heavy water, a moderator that can be used for enriching uranium. It was corrected almost immediately. Rather than facilitate and accelerate, the JCPOA has severely constrained Iran's nuclear weapons program.
Other opponents relied on technical critiques. Senator Bob Menendez, for example, claimed that the agreement "requires no dismantling of Iran's nuclear infrastructure and only mothballs that infrastructure for 10 years."
This just isn't accurate. Due to the agreement, Iran removed the core of the Arak heavy-water nuclear reactor and filled it with cement, rendering it unusable and blocking Iran's pathway to a plutonium-based nuclear weapon. Iran has also reduced its installed centrifuges by two-thirds and only the most primitive and often unreliable centrifuges are currently operational. The more advanced centrifuges are in storage and will be for at least a decade -- a long enough time for nuclear infrastructure to experience serious deterioration and likely impairment.
The attacks didn't stop there. Senator Cruz also alleged that, due to nuclear-related sanctions relief required by the JCPOA, "over $100 billion dollars will flow to Iran" and much of it will get funneled directly to terrorist groups. Senator Menendez held similar concerns, arguing that Iran would receive $100-150 billion of its own frozen assets within a year of meeting its obligations.
Both of these statements are inaccurate. Iran has not -- and will not -- receive anywhere near $100-150 billion. In fact, the U.S. Treasury Department estimates that, because $50-70 billion are unfrozen assets that they owe, only about $50-55 billion will be available - of which just $3 billion has thus far been sent back to Iran as of April. This is a small portion considering that Iranian demand for domestic investment, like unpaid military pensions and salaries, as well as infrastructure, is estimated at over $500 billion.
Left with only refuted claims about the specifics of the JCPOA, critics have changed course. Now, the argument goes, it doesn't matter whether the deal is working or not because the "sunset provisions" -- whereby aspects of the deal are phased out after 10, 15, 20, and 25 years -- mean that Iran is simply waiting to leverage its newfound sanctions relief to covertly build a nuclear weapon in the future.
But yet again the argument falls flat to the facts. Augmenting the JCPOA, Iran agreed to implement the International Atomic Energy Agency's Additional Protocol, which never expires and allows increased access to inspectors, including to military installations if nuclear activity is suspected. Before the Iran Deal, inspections in the country were a pipedream. They're now a long-term reality.
The Iran Deal is working, plain and simple. It's not a perfect accord (few diplomatic agreements are), but it's the best option to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon - by a long shot. Other routes, like the elusive "better deal" or military confrontation, are either not viable or drastically less effective. If Iran cheats, the U.S. can issue snapback sanctions. And if the situation ever reaches a boiling point, our newfound understanding of Iran's nuclear infrastructure only enhances military options. One year later, the facts are as clear as they are stubborn.
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