Aug 12, 2015

What’s the Point of Even Having an Arms Embargo?

Despite the continual concession the Obama Administration made to Iran during nuclear negotiations, one concession in particular poses large risks for regional stability and the safety of our allies in the medium-term: the eventual lifting of the arms and missiles embargoes against Iran.

Under the agreement the embargo against arms would be lifted in five years and against ballistic missiles—the kind that can carry a nuclear warhead—in eight years. But it looks like even these small delays are only a parchment barrier without the threat of real enforcement. Secretary Kerry revealed yesterday,

“The arms embargo is not tied to snapback. It is tied to a separate set of obligations. So they are not in material breach of the nuclear agreement for violating the arms piece of it.”

Sanctions are what brought Iran to the table, and whenever faced with questions of how the deal will be enforced, the Obama Administration always points to the snapback sanctions provisions. So what can we do if Iran violates the arms embargo? The deal is unclear and all Secretary Kerry had to say was that we would have “ample tools at our disposal” and that “there is a specific UN resolution outside of this agreement that prohibits [Iran] from sending weapons to Hezbollah. There is a separate and specific UN resolution that prohibits them from sending weapons to the Shia militia in Iraq.”

Sounds like more parchment barriers.

Iran has been completely clear that it has no intention of adhering to the arms embargo, especially considering the likelihood that the embargo won’t be enforced. Iran’s senior nuclear negotiator, Abbas Arachi, said, “Whenever it’s needed to send arms to our allies in the region, we will do so. We are not ashamed of it.”

For all the Obama Administration’s claims, the nuclear deal is riddled with bad consequences, won’t change Iran’s behavior, and is being interpreted completely differently by the Obama Administration and Iran. It’s a bad deal, and no amount of vilification and hyperbole from President Obama will change that.