As the United States returns to the negotiating table with Iran on Wednesday, there is only one deal that should be put on the table. If Iran is finally, truly serious about resolving this crisis, and not just trying to string us along again, then they will stop enriching uranium and honor all United Nations resolutions, now. Not next week, next month or next year, but now. Sanctions should stay in place until transparent, verifiable procedures are established to ensure that Iran cannot build an atomic bomb.
In November 1993, President Clinton emphatically declared that North Korea could not be allowed to develop a nuclear bomb. Less than one year later, in October 1994, the Clinton administration signed the "Agreed Framework" with North Korea in Geneva. The framework granted North Korea two light-water nuclear reactors, 500,000 metric tons of free fuel oil annually, as well as tons of grain, all for the promise to freeze all nuclear weapons ambitions. In 2002, when confronted by the Bush administration with evidence of their lies, the North Koreans finally admitted to pursuing a secret nuclear program in blatant violation of the agreement. In February, North Korea announced it had conducted its third nuclear test in recent years.
"There should be no doubt," said President Obama in 2010, that "the United States and the international community are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons." Flash forward to Geneva 2013. Under new leadership and with its economy in tatters (much like North Korea was in 1994), the Iranians are ready to deal, they say. Instead of insisting that Iran stop enriching uranium and honor all U.N. resolutions, what does the Obama administration offer? To ease economic sanctions — letting tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars flow back into Iran's crippled economy — in exchange for a partial Iranian freeze on its nuclear program. Iran could still enrich uranium, building a stockpile of low-enriched material that could be turned into nuclear-bomb fuel at a later date. Tehran could still build advanced centrifuges — although it promised not to turn them on — and continue running its old centrifuges. Iran could also continue erecting a heavy-water nuclear reactor near the city of Arak — creating a second pathway to a bomb as the reactor's spent fuel could eventually be reprocessed into plutonium.
The Agreed Framework with North Korea was stupid. The proposed deal with Iran is suicidal. Repeated findings by U.N. weapons inspectors indicate that Iran appears to be conducting nuclear weapons research. Even with the United States and our allies offering Iran a virtual surrender in the standoff, the Iranians still refuse to accept the deal. If you aren't convinced now that Iran isn't serious about giving up its nuclear bomb ambitions, you are likely delusional.
The administration's bumbling in Geneva is more than just an embarrassment; it is dangerous. Israel and the Persian Gulf nations have long been alarmed about the prospect of a nuclear weapons-armed Iran, but they accepted the assurances that the United States and the international community would prevent Iran from acquiring such weapons. Now, it looks as though those assurances may have been empty words. The consequences of this lie could be war.
By tradition, some inductees to the Israeli Defense Forces take their oath of loyalty to the Jewish state on top of Masada, the ancient rock fortress. Others take it at the Western Wall, the remnant of the sacred Temple in Jerusalem. Wherever they take it, the oath ends: "Masada shall not fall again." It is an affirmation that Israel will not submit quietly to those who would destroy her. Israel will not let Iran have a nuclear bomb. Period. If she cannot trust her greatest ally to protect her from Iran's nuclear ambitions, Israel will defend herself. A pre-emptive Israeli strike will spark a broader conflict. Even if, by some miracle, the Israelis could be persuaded to live within the shadow of a nuclear-armed Iran, there is still Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and the other Gulf states to consider.
I have said many times before that Mr. Obama and his advisers have a dangerous tendency to view world affairs through the prism of a textbook. They see what they would like to see, not reality. Once again, their naive worldview has created a foreign-policy debacle. Further miscalculations with Iran could cost millions of lives in a nuclear holocaust. Appeasement does not work. It did not work in the 1930s with Hitler. It did not work in the 1990s with North Korea. It will not work in 2013 with Iran.
Dan Burton is a former Republican congressman from Indiana and was a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and chairman of its Europe, Eurasia and emerging threats subcommittee.