July 13 (UPI) -- It will be five years this week since the Iran nuclear deal was signed in Vienna. The five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council -- China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States -- together with the European Union (P5+1) signed what was called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran on July 14, 2015.
It was U.S. President Barack Obama's last-ditch effort to achieve a major foreign policy legacy before he left office.
The one-sided deal contained many clauses and annexes that related mainly to the lifting of sanctions in Iran. In return, the West got very little, apart from a few scant paragraphs detailing Iranian cooperation in slowing its nuclear enrichment process for a period of eight years.
It was a very bad deal for the West and a breakthrough deal for Iran. The JCPOA released over $150 billion in assets that were frozen under the sanctions, revitalizing the broken Iranian economy and enabling the theocratic regime to redouble its funding of Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, the Houthi rebels in Yemen, Bashar al-Assad in Syria and the brutal Shi'ia militias in Iraq.
Page after page of the JCPOA related specifically to the dismantling of all sanctions on Iran's banking, insurance, metals, aviation, shipping, arms and general trade markets, even covering the reopening of Iran's right to sell carpets and caviar to the West. Ludicrously, under the deal the West also had to end its "exclusion of Iranian citizens from higher education coursework related to careers in nuclear science, nuclear engineering or the energy sector."
In other words, Western universities were being told to train Iranians in advanced nuclear technology to ensure that they were properly equipped to build a nuclear bomb. You couldn't make it up.
More ominously, the JCPOA committed the P5+1 nations to supporting Iran's crumbling economy financially with export credit guarantees, grants, financial assistance and even loans to the government of Iran. All "persons, entities and bodies" previously banned from traveling to the West were to have their full rights restored so that they could be issued visas.
The list of these persons, entities and bodies ran to more than a dozen pages and, hidden away near the foot of this long catalog of Iranian banks, petro-chemical companies, sanctions evaders and individuals, was none other than Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the fanatic jihadist and notorious commander of the terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Quds Force. Soleimani was killed by a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad Airport in early January, ending his tenure as one of the Iranian regime's main godfathers of terrorism and murder.
As far as scrutiny of Iran's nuclear program was concerned, regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency were limited to the Natanz site in Isfahan Province, Iran's main underground nuclear facility with over 19,000 operational centrifuges. Natanz was first revealed to Western intelligence agencies by the People's Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), the main democratic opposition group, in 2002. Until that point, it had been a closely guarded secret by the Iranian regime. In February 2015, the MEK revealed another secret site called Lavizan-3 in a military base in northeast Tehran's suburbs. Again, this had been entirely hidden from Western inspectors.
The JCPOA stated that: "Iran will permit the IAEA regular access, including daily access as requested by the IAEA, to relevant buildings at Natanz." The fact that only "relevant" buildings were to be accessed and only at Natanz was indicative of how Iran intended to restrict inspections to the bare minimum.
The West was to be reassured by a clause that stated: "For 15 years, the Natanz enrichment site will be the sole location for all of Iran's uranium enrichment-related activities, including safeguarded R&D." So, from the outset, the West was supposed to trust the Iranian regime, which had previously hidden all their nuclear facilities from the West.
How on earth Obama's secretary of state, John Kerry, and the P5+1 team fell for this is astonishing. For Kerry and the P5+1 to capitulate to almost every Iranian demand revealed a level of weakness that was eagerly exploited by the mullahs.
The ink was hardly dry on the agreement in July 2015 before Iran's supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a fiery address to mark the end of Ramadan in a mosque in Tehran said: "Whether this scheme is approved or disapproved, we will never stop supporting our friends in the region and the people of Palestine, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Bahrain and Lebanon. Even after this deal, our policy toward the arrogant U.S. will not change. Our policy in the region is 180 degrees different from the U.S.," he told an audience of hard-liners who cried: "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."
Obama tried to convince the world that he had struck a good deal with the "trustworthy and moderate" President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. In fact, the opposite was true. Rouhani was not trustworthy and certainly not moderate. It was a terrible deal, which, far from curtailing Iran's expansionist agenda, had significantly strengthened its position in the Middle East. Iran's efforts to build a nuclear weapon continued in secret, hidden from the IAEA's inspectors. Military bases that were declared off- limits under the terms of the nuclear deal, were where most of the regime's nuclear activity was and is still taking place.
From day one of his presidency, Donald Trump decried the JCPOA as "the worst deal in history." During his first year in office, Trump kept signing waivers and repeatedly asked Iran to come back to the negotiation table. The mullahs refused, so the United States withdrew from the deal and reintroduced tough sanctions, which have had a crippling impact on the Iranian economy and curtailed the mullahs' expansionist agenda in the Middle East.
Nevertheless, China and Russia, as close allies of the clerical regime, and the EU as arch-appeasers, have stubbornly clung to the crumbling remnants of the JCPOA, despite recurring breaches of the deal by the mullahs, desperately searching for ways to circumvent the sanctions without severing ties with the United States.
On June 30, the U.N. secretary general received a report indicating how Iran has breached U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 over the past six months. The report, prepared by a team of U.N. investigators, showed how the missiles used last September to hit Saudi Arabia's oil installations were of Iranian origin. The report listed attacks on oil tankers in Fujairah, in the United Arab Emirates, and recorded how a Japanese tanker was attacked in the Gulf of Oman when the Japanese prime minister was in Iran. The fascist regime's continuing aggressive activities in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon and Gaza were also reported.
Five years on, the West must surely recognize that the JCPOA was a disastrous mistake and that the Americans were right to withdraw from it unilaterally. As a key sponsor of international terror and a violent aggressor at home and abroad, the Iranian regime has compounded its role as a pariah state. Some 80 million oppressed and brutalized Iranians now look to the West to end their appeasement of this cruel regime and transfer their support to the people of Iran who long for freedom and justice.
Struan Stevenson is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change. He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and is also president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association.