The new Iran Strategy Council
of retired senior U.S. military leaders, which we co-chair, was commissioned by the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs to provide objective analysis of the deal's potentially grave strategic implications and what that could mean for U.S. policy. And what we see is troubling.
Iran's adversarial intentions and activities are well known. As President Barack Obama said last month: "We have no illusions about the Iranian government or the significance of the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force. Iran supports terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. It supports proxy groups that threaten our interests and the interests of our allies -- including proxy groups who killed our troops in Iraq. They try to destabilize our Gulf partners."
However, the JCPOA will actually compound these threats. The deal will provide Tehran access to resources, technology, and international arms markets required to bolster its offensive military capabilities and support for proxy groups like Hezbollah. And even if only a fraction of the roughly $100 billion in overseas assets to be unfrozen as part of the agreement -- more than the government's entire budget for the current fiscal year -- is devoted to military spending, Iran will be able to begin revitalizing its defense industrial base. Plus, it is also set to acquire advanced S-300 air defenses from Russia at the end of this year.
Over the medium term, the removal of economic sanctions and the U.N. arms embargo will allow the regime to acquire other advanced technologies and weapons from abroad. And, once sanctions against its ballistic missile program sunset, Iran could more easily develop weapons capable of reaching targets within the Middle East and beyond -- including Europe and the United States.
It is also not just about conventional military spending. The JCPOA also will provide Iran with greater resources to funnel to Shiite militias and similar groups across the region. The infusion of new revenues in the coming years will create opportunities to significantly expand involvement throughout the Middle East (and possibly farther abroad). By giving Iran the means to extend its influence and expand its involvement in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Yemen and elsewhere, the agreement directly threatens to undermine the national security of the United States and our closest regional allies.
Already, Saudi Arabian officials, despite accepting the deal, have explicitly threatened to pursue their own nuclear arsenals in response to Iran attaining nuclear weapons, while others have at least suggested they might. We have served in the region, and we take those remarks very seriously.
The president has made clear that the JCPOA does not preclude the need for robust military capabilities: "[I]f 15 or 20 years from now, Iran tries to build a bomb, this deal ensures that the United States will have...the same options available to stop a weapons program as we have today, including -- if necessary -- military options."
And yet, even as the agreement boosts Iran's ability to meddle in the region and strains longstanding alliances, sequestration is already diminishing the U.S. military's ability to project power in the Middle East. The U.S. military will still rise to face any future challenge, but it will do so with less manpower, fewer capabilities, more antiquated platforms, and a lower level of readiness than it has now or has had in a very long time
For all these reasons, the United States is in far better position to prevent
a nuclear Iran today, even by military means if necessary, than when the JCPOA sunsets. Protecting our national interests and our allies will require putting in place a strategy to begin mitigating the deal's downsides now.