Dennis Ross, a longtime diplomat who was an architect of the 1993 Oslo Accords and who served as US President Barack Obama's Middle East Adviser until 2011, admitted this week that Iran will cheat on the nuclear deal signed with world powers on Tuesday.
In an op-ed in Time magazine on Wednesday, Ross began by saying the deal has some merits, stating that in the estimation of Obama's administration "it has blocked the Iranian pathway to a bomb for at least the next fifteen years."
However, he noted the deal also has severe shortcomings, warning, "knowing Iran has cheated is one thing; ensuring that there is a price for every transgression – no matter how small – is another."
The deal stipulates a "snapback" of sanctions in cases of an Iranian breach, but as Ross noted that option would only be used in major breaches, since Iran said in the deal that it will nullify the agreement if sanctions are re-imposed.
"So what happens if Iran cheats along the margins?," posed Ross. "For example, if they enrich uranium to 7% not the permitted 3.67%. The snap-back function makes little sense in this circumstance but the Joint Commission that brings together all the negotiating parties could obviously address such an issue of non-compliance. In this case, however, Iran will likely to declare it made a mistake and say it will stop doing it."
"Sound fine? Not really. Given Iran’s track record, it will likely cheat along the margins to test the means of verification and see how it might be able to change the baseline – and there needs to be a penalty for each such act of non-compliance and preferably not only by the US."
Even beyond the issue of Iran's ability to cheat, Ross said that "for me the greatest single problem with the agreement is that Iran is going to be left as a threshold nuclear state at the end of fifteen years. The agreement requires Iran to dismantle none of its enrichment infrastructure and starting in year 15, it can have as large a nuclear program as it wants. The gap between threshold and weapons status is small and will not take long to bridge."
"As such, deterrence is what will matter. Iran must have no doubts that if we see it moving toward a weapon that would trigger the use of force. …Proving that every transgression will produce a price will demonstrate that we mean what we say."
Even before the limitations on Iran's nuclear program expire, there are major concerns given that the deal ignores key covert nuclear installations in Iran that have been used to test nuclear detonations, with experts warning that a separate International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) "road map" won't address these issues fully.
Obama's former Middle East adviser concluded with a warning, noting that "Iran will be a threshold nuclear state – one that has deferred but not given up the option of being a nuclear weapon state."
Given Ross's warning that Iran still desires to obtain a nuclear arsenal, it is all the more troubling that the deal stipulates that the West will train Iran to defend its nuclear program from sabotage, meaning a possible peaceful route for Israel to delay Iran's march to the nuclear bomb would be removed due to the West's intervention.