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The Administration’s Reckless Nuclear Surrender To Iran

The Administration’s Reckless Nuclear Surrender To Iran

How can you verify the deal if you neuter the verifier?

If you ask me what the most important article in The New York Times of the past week, it would not be the front page editorial advocating stricter gun control. That editorial was important in terms of the mindset of the Times, but had little real new value.

The most significant new article in The New York Times during this past week was Friday’s analysis of the nuclear deal with Iran. The article is a devastating indictment of the administration and its zeal to reach a nuclear deal with Iran at all costs. To be sure the reporter, David Sanger, an excellent journalist, presented the administration’s positions respectfully. But there’s no getting around that however President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry justify their capitulations, they are willing to lift sanctions on Iran without requiring Iran to come clean about its past illicit nuclear research.

In the wake of last week’s IAEA report about Iran’s past nuclear research, the administration is reportedly satisfied that Iran has provided the IAEA with enough information to close the investigation into Iran’s past nuclear work and move ahead to the implementation of this summer’s nuclear deal. The administration’s rationale is that “preventing a nuclear-armed Iran in the future is far more important than trying to force it to admit” its past illicit nuclear research.

One problem with this approach is that, as Sanger puts it, it allows Iran to avoid answering questions that the administration “once insisted could not remain unaddressed.”

The more important issue though is the future. The administration has said that the deal is not based on trust but on verification. It would be up to the IAEA to verify Iran’s compliance in the future. But the IAEA report essentially said that Iran lied about its past nuclear research and verified that Iran was doing nuclear weapons research until 2009, 6 years later than previously believed.

Iran gave the IAEA enough information to reach this understanding but didn’t answer all the questions it was supposed to. Closing the investigation now would reward Iran for stonewalling (in addition to the billions it would reap in sanctions relief) and it would cut the IAEA off at the knees. As Sanger asked rhetorically, “If Iran could avoid fully answering many of the questions about 12 different technologies it was pursuing, will it be emboldened to stiff-arm inspectors as they seek to enforce the nuclear deal?”

An IAEA official told Sanger, “I worry we have created a poor precedent for the future.” The official added, “We have no way to force states to come clean, and never have.” Enforcement depends on the nations on IAEA’s board of governors. But despite the damning IAEA report, the United States is pushing the board of governors to end the investigation.

The administration’s zeal to end the investigation and get on with sanctions relief is opposed by a number of nuclear non-proliferation experts.

David Albright, a former weapons inspector and president of the Institute of Science and International Security, wrote in a paper (.pdf) last week (co-authored by Serena Kelleher-Vergantini, a research analyst at the institute)  that “[the] Parchin file can in no way be considered closed. It should remain open and the IAEA should continue its investigation into the activities that took place at the site. It is time that Iran starts to admit what really happened at Parchin.”

Last week The Tower published an analysis by Emily Landau, head of the Arms Control Program at the Institute for National Security Studies, who argued that the IAEA report “must not be ignored, because it does break Iran’s narrative of having done no wrong in the nuclear realm.”

And Tuesday, Olli Heinonen, the former deputy director-general of the IAEA wrote in a report for the Foundation of Defense of Democracies that the IAEA report showed that Iran “Iran had a parallel clandestine weapons program.” The existence of this covert program means that the IAEA, can’t verify with high confidence that no undeclared activities exist” which would “complicate its ability to effectively monitor Iran’s nuclear activities.”

To some degree the administration acknowledges the IAEA’s conclusions. The Associated Press reported earlier this week that it had obtained the draft resolution the United States had drawn up urging them IAEA’s board of governors to close the investigation into Iran’s past nuclear activities.

Although the tone of request to end the probe is dispassionate, Western diplomats familiar with the drafting of the document said some statements at the board meeting will be critical of what the U.S. and its allies continue to say were Iranian attempts to develop nuclear arms.

At the same time, they said, the language in the resolution had to be neutral and acceptable to the Iranians in order to be able to advance early next year to implementing the July 14 deal that promises sanctions relief for Iran in exchange for cuts in its nuclear programs.

The reporting here is incredible. The United States knows that Iran cheated but doesn’t want to offend it with harsh words. As I’ve written above, closing the IAEA’s investigation will render the IAEA ineffective in enforcing Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal. But if the administration is concerned with sparing the Ayatollah’s feelings there is no way it would even ask the IAEA to investigate future suspicions.

If the United States won’t even use harsh language against Iran how can it be expected to enforce Iran’s compliance with the (admittedly weak) terms of the nuclear deal?

The administration’s abandonment of any means of verification of the nuclear deal, comes at the same time it is getting blasted for its failure to enforce resolutions against Iran for its recent ballistic missile tests, as Jonathan Levin blogged yesterday. Interestingly the administration’s failure to enforce the ballistic missile ban has been hit not only by Republicans (Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R – N.H.) and Sen. Mark Kirk (R – Ill.)) but also Democrats (Rep. Joe Kennedy (D – Mass.) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D – Fla.))

As Jonathan wrote:

There was always a risk that President Obama would opt to ignore Iranian violations that might further call into question the wisdom of his Iran policy, and that is precisely what has come to pass. Whether it is due to his misguided quest for rapprochement with Iran at all costs or unwillingness to concede his own mistakes, there is virtually no possibility that Obama will take action against Iran.

The repercussions are potentially disastrous. Iran will proceed with progressively more aggressive ballistic missile tests until either satisfied with the results or prevented from doing so. Iran will restart or continue an illicit nuclear weapons program impenetrable under the JCPOA’s feeble inspections regime, or merely wait out the JCPOA’s laughable 10-15 year sunset clause.

The United States cannot possibly ensure that Iran complies with even the JCPOA’s paltry requirements if it is unwilling even to acknowledge and denounce Iranian violations.

[Photo: UNVIE U.S. Mission To International Organizations in Vienna / Flickr ]


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There isn’t a “deal”. There is a series of acts of treason by the Obami.

They are not EVER going to break that series. That is as clearly established as anything done during this regime.

    This is an action with multiple intents:
    1) It makes the present administration look like it is “Doing Something” about Iraq.
    2) The transfer of billions of dollars to the Iranian government allows for an immense amount of graft and kickbacks to this administration’s officials and politicians.
    3) Whenever the next Republican administration comes into office, it allows the democrats to blame everything that Iran does from then on due to “Those insensitive Repubs who failed to live up to the conditions of the deal negotiated by us”

    In short, when Iran gets nuclear weapons and uses them, somehow the democrats expect to be able to blame the republicans because of this.

      I recommend that the incoming Administration send the deal to Capitol Hill for ratification via the “treaty route”.
      Then it gets harder to point finders, with 100 additional coconspirators.

        Milhouse in reply to Neo. | December 11, 2015 at 11:40 am

        Why should the next president want to seek ratification for a bad deal? What if the senate were to lose its mind and consent? Then it would be US law, the same as an act passed by both houses! (The president would still be able to abrogate it, as he can any treaty, but until then it would be law.) No, if the next president wants to stop abiding by this unofficial deal, he can and should simply do so.

    From what I read, this is really a deal between Iran and the IAEA, with the remaining “partners” nodding their heads.

      David Gerstman in reply to Neo. | December 11, 2015 at 11:38 am

      The deal between the IAEA and Iran is separate from the P5+1. The IAEA actually seems to take its responsibilities mostly seriously unlike the P5+1. Read the Emily Landau essay for a better understanding of the Iran-IAEA relationship.

      Milhouse in reply to Neo. | December 11, 2015 at 11:41 am

      On the contrary, the IAEA seems to be taking its responsibilities seriously now, and is not submitting its report until it’s ready, which means the UN sanctions on Iran are still in place.

        PhillyGuy in reply to Milhouse. | December 11, 2015 at 12:05 pm

        December 15th is when this “agreement” becomes “real.”

          David Gerstman in reply to PhillyGuy. | December 11, 2015 at 12:25 pm

          Iran was supposed to provide the IAEA with all it needed to close the file by Dec 15. Iran says, “close the file by Dec 15.” The United States and the rest of the P5+1 say, “we know enough, close the file.” So when a formal vote is taken, it will probably be closed and that is what will make it “real.” (i.e. sanctions will be lifted, UNSR resolutions will be lifted.)

        David Gerstman in reply to Milhouse. | December 11, 2015 at 12:06 pm

        The problem isn’t with the IAEA but with its board of governors who want to shut down the investigation and probably will.

It’s important to remember that T-rump has promised to “honor” this “deal” and make it work.

It should make your head spin…

    PhillyGuy in reply to Ragspierre. | December 11, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Terd Cruz voted for the Corker bill.

      Milhouse in reply to PhillyGuy. | December 11, 2015 at 1:25 pm

      Sigh. This again? The Corker bill was a good thing, and anyone who voted against it was either pro-Iranian or an idiot. Remember what the legal situation was before any of this started. 0bama had the full authority to waive the sanctions against Iran, without anybody’s consent. All he had to do was make some meaningless declaration to Congress.

      The Corker bill started as an attempt to strip him of this power. And it very nearly got 2/3 support in both houses, enough to pass it, but it fell just a few votes short. However with that kind of support 0bama was pressured to agree to a compromise: his power to waive sanctions was suspended until 60 days after he submitted any deal to Congress. This would give opponents time to try to put together a 2/3 majority in each house to block the deal.

      As it turned out it was irrelevant. Not only weren’t there enough votes to block the deal, the UN decided not to lift its sanctions until it gets the IAEA report, and that has taken much longer than 60 days, so 0bama couldn’t lift the US sanctions within the 60 days, even without the Corker bill. But nobody could have known that at the time.

      The important point is that the Corker bill restricted 0bama’s power to waive sanctions, rather than expanding it as its opponents idiotically claim. It was the only restriction 0bama would accept, and the numbers weren’t there to force anything more on him. All claims that it somehow endorsed the deal, or gave the deal more legal status than it would have had without it, are made either out of a moronic level of ignorance or out of deliberate mendacity.

Every act and every omission by the obama administration regarding Iran should be considered an act of treason.

They are not working with America’s best interest in mind.

    Milhouse in reply to Exiliado. | December 11, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Omissions can’t be treason, by definition.

    Nor can overt acts, unless they are motivated by adherence to the enemy; acts that objectively aid and comfort the enemy, but that are motivated by something else, e.g. domestic political considerations, are not treason.

Sammy Finkelman | December 11, 2015 at 12:21 pm

This has a (bad) precedent.

President Bill Clinton did exactly the same thing and worse in 1993 and 1994, when he prevented North korea from being declared in violation of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. (And I don’t believe that the subsequent trip by Jimmy Carter to Norrth Korea took him by surprise in any way)

Sammy Finkelman | December 11, 2015 at 12:29 pm

Meanwhile, a peace agreement between all the non-terrorist factions in Syria – which is Presidents Obama’s next step in fighting ISIL – seems to be ThisClose.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry welcomed the “positive outcome” of the gathering in Riyadh where an “extremely diverse group of Syrians put aside differences in the interest of building a new Syria.”

“While this important step forward brings us closer to starting negotiations between the Syrian parties, we recognize the difficult work ahead,” he added.

Or maybe not:

Speaking Friday on the sidelines of global climate talks outside Paris, Kerry said there are some questions and “kinks to be worked out” in the agreement put together at an opposition meeting in Saudi Arabia.

He did not elaborate on the questions but says he is in touch with the Saudi crown prince and foreign minister and adds he is “confident” the issues will be resolved.

I don’t think Russia, Iran and Assad have signed on yet in any case. Obama and Kerry probably expect Putin to see the wisdom of settling the Syrian Civil War on terms acceptable to the United States.

Sammy Finkelman | December 11, 2015 at 12:41 pm

Kerry wants to include Original al Qaeda ® ™ in the anti-ISIL coalition:

Although there was agreement on a framework for negotiation, the withdrawal of Ahrar al-Sham, whose founders are linked to al-Qaida, underscored the difficulties that lie ahead as groups with competing ideologies try to forge a common vision for the future.

Stricter gun control for Americans but not stricter nuke control for Iranians? Who voted for this anti-American president?