Last July, we responded to President Barack Obama’s challenge to read the nuclear deal he made with Iran and concluded that it was awful.

One of the worst parts of the deal was language (appearing twice) that said, “Iran has stated that if sanctions are reinstated in whole or in part, Iran will treat that as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.”

Or in the words of Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, this is Iran’s “nuclear snapback.”

In the past couple of months, concessions that the Obama administration has made in the wake of Iranian pressure – in terms of the visa waiver program and allowing Iran access to the American banking system – that show the consequences of that language.

In December of last year Congress passed and Obama signed legislation tightening up the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). Citizens of 38 countries are eligible to come to the United States without visas, unless they have traveled to countries who are considered sponsors of terror since March 1, 2011. One of those countries is Iran. So a business traveler from France who had visited Iran within the past 5 years must apply for and receive a visa to travel to the United States just like citizens of the more than 150 other nations for whom the VWP does not apply.

Nonetheless Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif complained to Secretary of State John Kerry, saying that forcing those who have been to Iran to apply for a visa was an undue burden on Iran and would thus violate the nuclear deal. Kerry responded by assuring Zarif that the State Department would issue waivers for such travelers with legitimate business interests.

Kerry’s assurance precipitated outrage among Congressional Republicans, but the administration seems intent in appeasing Iran and violating the intent of a law that Obama himself signed.

The latest administration attempt to appease Iran is going on right now.

The Wall Street Journal reported (Google link) today that the administration is going to allow Iran access to the American banking system and even to dollarize transactions, something the administration had repeatedly assured Congress it would not do. This time it’s not only Republicans objecting:

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio of Florida and Mark Kirk of Illinois wrote Mr. Lew on Wednesday seeking assurances that Iran wouldn’t be granted dollar access. Their offices said they haven’t received responses.

In a letter to President Barack Obama on Thursday, Rep. Brad Sherman (D., Calif.), said, “I believe this will set bad precedent, and it will not be the last time the Iranians and/or their business partners receive additional relief not contemplated” under the nuclear deal. …

House Speaker Paul Ryan said that the administration should abandon the dollar-access idea.

And House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, who gave qualified support to ending the sanctions regime during congressional debates, said he was opposed to granting Tehran any new relief “without a corresponding concession. We lose leverage otherwise, and Iran receives something for free.”

Secretary of Treasury Jack Lew has said in apparent explanation of this latest planned concession that the United States was committed to keep the “letter and spirit” of the nuclear deal. Iran has been complaining that it has seen little improvement in its economy. Allowing this access would make it easier for international companies to do business with Iran and would possibly address Iran’s stated concerns. (Of course the massive corruption in Iran and the control of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps over significant portions of Iran’s economy may play a role in the lack of its growth.)

Twice now the administration has capitulated to Iran, accepting the Islamic Republic’s expansive definition of impermissible sanctions. And of course there’s irresponsible language in the nuclear deal that gives Iran the leverage to make these claims.

What’s going on is the predictable result of the differing goals of the United States and Iran in the nuclear negotiations. Iran wanted to be rid of sanctions and have its violations of Security Council resolutions expunged. The United States wanted  a deal. (It’s arguable that the United States didn’t even get that, because the nuclear agreement was not signed.) More than the administration fears Iran developing nuclear weapons, it fears Iran walking away from the deal. Iran’s leverage comes not just from the terms of the deal but also from the American negotiating posture.

Lew’s wish to keep the “letter and spirit” of the deal comes in the wake of Iran’s continued mocking the United States over its illegal capture of ten sailors in January, and its continued development of nuclear-capable ballistic missiles. Did the Ayatollah have any similar concerns about the “letter and spirit” of the deal?

[Photo: European External Action Service / Flickr ]


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