To the editor:
Ivan Lang wrote (December 2019 Chronicle) that the Iran nuclear deal “gave Israel’s number one enemy, Iran, access to $150 billion and guaranteed they would get the nuclear bomb within 10 years.” This is a gross mischaracterization of the agreement.
American intelligence had estimated that Iran had the capability to produce a nuclear weapon in 2-3 months. This was viewed by many (including President Obama) as a major threat. As bad an actor as Iran has been, allowing it to have a nuclear weapon would pose a new and much greater threat to peace.
The agreement extended this “breakout time” to a year and put in place restrictions that would freeze the situation for a decade. This is the opposite of “guaranteeing” that Iran “would get the bomb within 10 years.” Iran acceded to extremely intrusive inspections as part of the deal.
Part of the deal unfroze $100 billion of Iranian assets that the U.S. had frozen in order to pressure Iran to negotiate. It was not a gift of American dollars.
The agreement was the result of an unprecedented negotiation involving the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council plus Germany and the European Union. Obama recognized that Iran’s government is “anti-American, anti-Israeli, anti-Semitic,” and “sponsors terrorism” (interview with Thomas Friedman, July 15, 2015) but felt that keeping it from developing a nuclear weapon was paramount.