Buried within the 150-plus pages of technical minutia and regulations that make up the recently concluded nuclear deal between the P5+1 powers and the Islamic Republic of Iran lies a stunning revelation, the full import of which has not yet been adequately appreciated by the international community. It is that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the agreement is formally known, is designed to serve as nothing less than a Marshall Plan for the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism.
This may sound like an exaggeration, but it most assuredly is not. Under the terms of the JCPOA, later this year (or early in 2016), once the United Nation's nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, verifies that Iran has divulged the requisite details of its military-related nuclear work, the U.S. and other nations will begin unblocking $100 billion or more in frozen Iranian oil revenue. Up until now, those funds have been locked in escrow accounts in China, South Korea and elsewhere. But, once green-lighted by the UN, they will be quickly released and rapidly repatriated to the Islamic Republic.
The sum is so large as to be difficult to put it in context. It amounts to roughly a quarter of Iran's annual gross domestic product, which totaled $415 billion in 2014. A similar windfall for the United States would be in the trillions.
In historical terms, it also matches or exceeds America's entire post-World War II plan for the reconstruction of Europe.
That effort, the brainchild of then-Secretary of State George C. Marshall, was formally launched by the Truman administration in 1948 with wide bipartisan approval in Congress. The European Reconstruction Program, as it was officially known, facilitated the disbursement of some $13 billion (equivalent to $120 billion in today's dollars) to 17 separate countries in southern and Eastern Europe over the course of four years, ushering in a prolonged era of prosperity on the Continent in the process.
Now imagine if the Marshall plan was spent in a single country. Will Iran's financial windfall be used the same way? The Obama administration certainly hopes so. White House officials have expressed hope that the Iranian regime will use the added funds to focus on improving domestic conditions. Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, for example, said that "the vast majority of these resources are likely to go to the Iranian economy, which is in a terrible state, and address certain debts of the Iranian government."
Perhaps they will. But the sheer scope of the anticipated relief means that the Islamic Republic will also have more resources than ever before to spend on its sponsorship of global instability.
The scope of that investment is already enormous. Even constrained by sanctions, Iran has long served as the "central banker" of international terror. Among other things, Iran provides as much as $200 million annually to bankroll Lebanon's Hezbollah militia, tens of millions of dollars to the Palestinian Hamas movement in the last year alone, and $6 billion or more a year to prop up the regime of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, underwriting one side of a brutal civil war. Now, thanks to the agreement now before Congress, Iran will be able to do far more on these fronts. Its regional ambitions, currently playing out in places like Yemen and Iraq, will likewise inevitably be stoked, much to the detriment of international peace and security.
This past April, commenting on the pending nuclear agreement with Iran, President Obama expressed his hope that the deal would serve as a vehicle for the Islamic Republic to at long last shed its international pariah status and "rejoin the community of nations." But by vastly expanding the funds available to Iran's ayatollahs to pursue their strategic objectives, the West's new nuclear bargain risks nudging the Iranian regime in precisely the opposite direction.