Nuancing our way to Armageddon?

Nuancing our way to Armageddon?

The Iran Nuclear Deal: Barack Obama’s Latest “triumph”

Or a catastrophic mistake


By Jay B Gaskill

The buzz from the pro- Obama commentariat is that the GOP candidates are going off the reservation without reading the full “treaty” (i.e., a document that the administration wants to have the effective force of a treaty, but without the consent of the US Senate) – which, of course, these writers also have yet to read. Recall that the same clique were comfortable actually passing the massive Obama-care package with little debate, and without reading the actual legislation.

All this was based on misplaced trust. A large dose of skepticism is perfectly warranted. Recall that Secretary of State Kerry, who ran these negotiations with Iran, masterminded the last nuclear disarmament failure (North Korea).

The watchword with the Soviet arms control negotiations was “Trust, but verify.” This time it appears to be “trust without full, timely and reliable verification.”

The problems with this pending agreement are less with what’s on paper, that what is left out.

The Iranians have been stockpiling highly enriched uranium (civilian use uranium is enriched with chain reaction grade fissile material at less than 4%), and by highly enriched I mean several times the level needed for any power-generating reactor, and much closer to weapons grade.

Significantly, the regime has pre-agreed to no inspections on its military sites; and has not given up its goal of getting a working a-bomb arsenal, building ballistic missiles or destroying Israel.


At the end of his trip to Asia in May 2014, with press corps witnesses present, Mr. Obama described his overriding foreign policy guide as: “Don’t do stupid ‘stuff’”—he actually said “Don’t do stupid shit.” We know the context – his disdain for the muscular “cowboy” approach of his predecessor, George W Bush. In lieu of “stupid” military action, we are presented with red lines retracted, indecision; then nuance.

Our president is widely known to shun quick decisions, especially when they involve deploying American military assets in defense of US interests. To many observers, he is decision-challenged. To others he is thoughtful, careful, possibly to a fault.

No one disputes the assessment that Barack Obama is no Harry Truman.


On the international stage, Obama is drawn to soaring rhetoric and clever, nuanced solutions. The Iran nuclear weapons’ deal is a classic Obama exercise in nuance.

It is fairly easy to tease out the underlying assumptions that drove this approach.

The administration is working on the assumption that Iran policy is being driven by a single radical cleric, Sayyed Ali Khamenei, age 75; hard line policy will almost certainly liberalize once he is out of the way. Hence the high price for a delay. The sanctions that brought Iran to the negotiating table are hurting the common Iranian people (the so called Iranian “street”) and the people should not be made to suffer because of their bad leadership. {Senator Diane Feinstein expressed this concern in April.} The Iranian “street” really does not want to destroy the state of Israel; really does not regard the USA as the great Satan; and does not want Iran to have nuclear weapons. The 150 billion dollar windfall that flows into Iran’s coffers as a direct result of this agreement (read ransom here, for reasons I develop below) will be spent to improve civilian economic conditions. A military solution cannot permanently prevent Iran’s atomic bomb program from succeeding, only delay it.

These assumptions have very little support from the facts on the ground.

The supreme cleric, Khamenei, has countless radical allies within the governing apparatus. These radicals inhabit the Revolutionary guard; stubbornly cling to power; and will probably continue to do so until they are dislodged by force.

The economic sanctions have actually damaged the regime and crippled its plans to export terrorism and develop a nuclear weapon. In a sense, the “innocent” people of Iran are seen by Team Obama as hostages. Mr. Obama’s bargain to release them has an interesting precedent. Consider to the recent release of one American soldier (Private Bergdahl, now charged with leaving his unit) in exchange for the repatriation of several terrorist leaders.[1] Even analysts friendly to Obama’s foreign policy concede that the relaxation of sanctions and the $150 billion “signing bonus” represent a windfall for Hezbollah and other terrorist proxies.[i] In other words, this is money for use in killing our citizens, allies and other friends, little if any of which will trickle down to the common people in Iran.

Large crowds of Iranians have cheered for an Iranian atomic bomb as a matter of national pride. The so called “liberal” president of Iran, former president, Mohammad Khatami, did nothing to alter Iran’s ambitions to attain nuclear power status.

{ } Bottom line: Iran has no Mikhail Gorbachev.

The economic windfall from the Obama agreement is money that will go to support terrorism. {Even the Saudis agree. See }

Obama has effectively taken the military option off the table. This is due more to ideology and political calculation than prudent policy. It appears to the world and the Iranian leadership that our president just can’t pull the trigger. Part of the seeming paralysis stems from humanitarian concerns and from the aversion to a “quagmire scenario”. It seems that this president will kill individuals with drones but not attack atomic bomb facilities with planes.

But in a surgical military scenario, the goal is to do punishing damage and leave. The economic sanctions are a necessary adjunct to that exercise and must continue or increase. Iran’s enrichment facilities can and should be completely disabled from the air, by deploying some of the Pentagon’s inventory of bunker-busting bombs. The argument that the regime will just try to rebuild these facilities depends on whether they are practically able to do so, especially when economic sanctions remain tough. If satellites detect renewed activity at one of more of the nuclear sites, the economic sanctions can and should increase, and the sites can and will be bombed again.

NOTE: Military punishment, kinetic sanctions if you will, operates as a deterrent to others as well as a demonstration to the current Iranian regime of the futility of its atom bomb ambitions. Mr. Obama has complained that the critics of the negotiations have no alternative. He makes a specious point, because the president really means that military options and even harsher sanctions are simply off the table, and therefore out of the discussion.


This is what I think has happened (and I am pleased to be corrected):

About 18 months ago, this administration suddenly realized that Iran had gotten much closer to making an atomic bomb than the one year time window that had blithely been assumed. Team Obama panicked. A military strike would adversely affect the coming election and damage Mr. Obama’s legacy. An agreement – any agreement that seemed adequate on its face – was urgently needed. Bold negotiating goals were stated, then quietly abandoned as the Iranians sensed weakness, and pushed back.

When will the radical mullahs who run Iran let go of power? … When they are dead or imprisoned. And not before the country has gotten its nuclear power status. The regime in control of Iran has outlasted all expectations. It is not going away via moral pressure, any more that Hitler was going to yield power before the invasion of Normandy succeeded. This is a tenacious, ruthless cohort of radical Islamist fundamentalists who are aping the methods and mindset of criminal gangs like the Mafia. If there ever is be political room for this group to be replaced by moderates, the ruling clique and its allies in the Revolutionary Guard will need to be crushed.

We do not need to invade Iran in some WWII style attack, nor should we. But we cannot prevent this regime from getting nuclear weapons by words alone. Like the Mafia, the ruling thugs need money to maintain their power. But when deprived of finance, the regime will take (and is taking) desperate risks to place its rich enemies in a hostage situation – hence the current “negotiations” ploy. The beleaguered Iranian civilians, suffering from sanctions, are the hostages.

I strongly suspect that Mr. Obama has been played. If you are still in doubt, here are some the questions you need to ask:

The Iranian regime is in possession of a large cache of enriched uranium – several times the civilian grade enrichment level, shortening the time for a sprint to full weapons grade enriched stock. Where is this cache kept? How many kilograms? [Fewer than 3 kilograms of highly enriched uranium can make a Hiroshima-scale a-bomb.]

How do we know the Iranians are not lying? Why isn’t the entire cache of over-enriched uranium to be immediately surrendered (or sold to the US or Russians) as part of any deal?

Why does the proposed agreement give the regime weeks after a refusal to allow inspections before there are consequences? Why are not compliance inspectors allowed wherever there is a suspected violation on scene 24/7?

“The agreement allows for a “long-term IAEA presence in Iran” to monitor materials and nuclear development that wouldn’t be used in weapons. Inspectors will have continuous monitoring capabilities at known nuclear facilities like Fordow fuel enrichment plant and the Natanz enrichment facility. For other areas in the country, including military sites where there is suspected nuclear activity, IAEA inspectors will have to request access.” [ii]

I and many other reasonable observers believe that Iran’s regime fully intends to make atomic bombs, and intends to use this agreement to get economic relief while it covertly presents the world with a fait accompli. Knowing this – or even strongly suspecting this is the case – why would this president rely exclusively on sanctions that require a small bureaucracy to implement and would not bite for months at best?

Keep in mind that the regime was brought to the table because the sanctions finally (after months and years) started to bite?

Here is the bottom line for me: The administration has no instinct for the jugular. When a deadly enemy who is trying to kill your family starts to flag, you don’t give him water and a rest, you finish him off.

I hope and pray that I am wrong. Please demonstrate that I am. For now it appears that we are being nuanced by this intelligent, but common-sense deficient president, into a looming Armageddon scenario.[2]


[1] “Among the seven special operations troops who captured Fazl in 2001” (one of the terrorist released for Bergdahl) “and were interviewed for this report, Col. Mitchell was alone in expressing confidence that the released Taliban leaders” (I;e;, traded for Bergdahl) “would not return to the battlefield before their supervision ends.

[2] Even a small nuclear exchange in the Middle East can trigger catastrophic climate change. See

[i] “Do we think that with the sanctions coming down, that Iran will have some additional resources for its military and for some of the activities in the region that are a threat to us and a threat to our allies?” Obama said at the White House in response to a question about the Iran nuclear deal. “I think that is a likelihood, that they’ve got some additional resources.” { }

[ii] CBS NEWS: If inspectors have concerns that Iran is developing its nuclear capabilities at any of the non-official nuclear sites, they are allowed to request access “for the sole reason to verify the absence of undeclared nuclear materials and activities or activities inconsistent with” the agreement. They must also inform Iran of the basis for their concerns. Iran, in response, can propose alternatives to inspection that might satisfy the IAEA’s concerns, the deal says. But if they can’t come to an agreement to satisfy the inspectors within 14 days of the original request for access, the issue goes to a joint commission that consists of representatives from the P5+1 powers (the U.S., China, Russia, France, the United Kingdom and Germany), Iran, and the European High Representative for Foreign Affairs. They have another seven days to reach an agreement that must be supported at least five of the eight members. If they decide inspectors should get access, Iran has three days to provide it. That means a total of 24 days could elapse between the time inspectors first request access to a suspicious site and the time they are allowed entry. The deal does not explicitly state what would happen if the Joint Committee deadlocks, four to four. “It’s not anytime anywhere. It doesn’t allow [inspectors] to go to a site and say, ‘hey I think something must be going on there, give me 24 hours and I’m in,'” Sharon Squassoni, the director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Proliferation Prevention Program, told CBS News. {Op Cit}

Copyright © 2015 by Jay B Gaskill, Attorney at Law

A license to link to this article or to publish pull quotes from it (with full attribution) is hereby granted. For all other permissions and comments, please contact the author via email at The author served as the chief Public Defender for the County of Alameda, CA, headquartered in Oakland for 10 years, following a long career as an Assistant Public Defender. Then, Gaskill left his “life of crime” to devote more time to writing. Learn more about Jay B Gaskill, attorney, analyst and author, at

Jay B Gaskill graduated from the University of California Law School at Berkeley (Boalt Hall), having also studied at Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, The University of Idaho, in Moscow and the University of Washington, in Seattle. He served as the Alameda County Public Defender from 1989 to 1999.

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