I was one of the Air Force’s B-1 pilot representatives for the verification of the START treaties with the former Soviet Union during my 14 years in the military. In those years I learned much about implementing a credible national-security policy. Two lessons in particular were crucial: For an international agreement to hold, both parties must be viewed as reliable partners who want the agreement to succeed. And any nation can and will cheat on an agreement if it determines that doing so is in its national interest.
Watching President Obama ’s Iran negotiations, I wonder if he realizes this.
The president seems to view Iran as a reliable partner that is simply looking for an opportunity to join a peaceful league of nations seeking to bring stability to a violent and chaotic part of the world. But the record is bare of any examples of Iran partnering with the U.S. or any U.S. ally in a productive way.
Iran is a state sponsor of terror and has been officially listed as such for more than 30 years. It has developed an extensive military-industrial complex, the Defense Industries Organization, which is capable of supplying all of its own military equipment, weapons and ammunition. With this capability, Iran has become the primary supplier of weapons to two other state sponsors of terror, Sudan and Syria, as well as the primary sponsor of other foreign terrorist organizations, including Hezbollah, Hamas and numerous Shiite militias in Iraq. With Iran’s help, Hezbollah has stockpiled about 60,000 surface-to-surface rockets in Lebanon while Hamas has stockpiled about 10,000 surface-to-surface rockets in Gaza, all for the stated purpose of wiping Israel off the face of the earth.
Tehran’s regime suppresses internal dissent and has executed tens of thousands of its own citizens for opposing the regime. It is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of U.S. military personnel in Iraq through improvised explosive devices supplied to Shiite militias in the past decade. Iran counts as close allies Russia, China and North Korea, which team with the regime in developing ballistic missiles and nuclear capabilities.
Iran is not just a problem for the Middle East. In South and Central America it has engaged in money laundering, drug and arms trafficking, counterfeiting, promoting jihad, and plotting terrorist attacks.
When considering the above facts, not to mention Iran’s recent backing of the coup in Yemen, how can we believe Iran is a trusted and reliable partner?
Compliance with the terms of a nuclear-weapons treaty cannot be based on trust alone. Verification requires, among other things, complete access to every suspect nuclear site at any time and upon a moment’s notice. Yet even with the most rigorous verification agreement, if one party wants to circumvent inspections or international treaties, it is always possible. We have to look no further than North Korea, Pakistan and India, all of which secretly developed nuclear weapons despite international agreements, to know this is true.
Iran has made clear it wants to be the leading actor in the Middle East, and nuclear weapons are a paramount means to achieving this goal. For that reason I don’t believe the regime would give up billions of dollars in investments and a generation of sacrifice and ambition as part of a deal with the U.S. It is not surprising that the New York Times reported on Feb. 20 that the International Atomic Energy Agency accused Iran of continually refusing to answer critical questions about its nuclear-weapons program.
A shrewder president would know to walk away from a bad deal. Mr. Obama seems intent on doing the opposite. Fortunately, Congress has a constitutional role to play in precluding such an enemy from becoming a nuclear-threshold state. I look forward to the debate, starting Tuesday with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu ’s speech before Congress.
Iranian leaders have covertly waged war on the West for many years. They certainly consider us their enemies. For the sake of our national security, I hope the president realizes this is true as he continues his negotiations.
Rep. Stewart (R., Utah) is a former Air Force B-1 pilot and a multiple New York Times bestselling author. He sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Orginally Published in The Wall Street Journal on March 3, 2015.