Deal “Legitimized” Iran’s Nuclear Program
The Associated Press reported earlier this week that a previously secret document showed that a number of restrictions imposed by last year’s nuclear deal with Iran will expire after ten years, allowing Iran to achieve a nuclear breakout time as little as three months by the end of the deal in 15 years.
The AP described the concessions spelled out in the document:
The document obtained by the AP fills in the gap. It says that as of January 2027 — 11 years after the deal was implemented — Iran will start replacing its mainstay centrifuges with thousands of advanced machines.
Centrifuges churn out uranium to levels that can range from use as reactor fuel and for medical and research purposes to much higher levels for the core of a nuclear warhead. From year 11 to 13, says the document, Iran will install centrifuges up to five times as efficient as the 5,060 machines it is now restricted to using.
Those new models will number less than those being used now, ranging between 2,500 and 3,500, depending on their efficiency, according to the document. But because they are more effective, they will allow Iran to enrich at more than twice the rate it is doing now.
One other implication of this document is its formal acceptance of Iran’s uranium enrichment program. Emily Landau, head of the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, told the The Jerusalem Post earlier this week, the document “proves that Iran’s enrichment program has been totally legitimized by this deal.”
This is an important point. Iran had multiple UN Security Council resolutions condemning it and sanctions imposed on it for failing to suspend its enrichment program. So the deal ensures that same activity that was duly punished by the UN and the international community is now allowed even without Iran coming into compliance with its responsibilities. For future proliferators this is a dangerous precedent. If you refuse long enough, your violations may be forgiven.
While the document obtained by the AP may have been secret, the idea that Iran would be able to replace old centrifuges with newer ones has been known since last year. When it wrote its assessment of the deal last year the Institute for Science and International Security took these replacements into account and estimated Iran’s breakout time at the end of the 15-year deal to be about three months. (According to the institute by year 18, Iran’s breakout time would be a matter of days.) This of course goes against the administration’s boast that the deal cut off all Iran’s pathways to a bomb for at least a year.
But aside from undermining the administration’s narrative of the deal, the newly revealed document opens up other questions. The Corker-Cardin legislation passed last year was pretty clear about what the administration was obliged to provide Congress.
Agreement.–The term `agreement’ means an agreement related to the nuclear program of Iran that includes the United States, commits the United States to take action, or pursuant to which the United States commits or otherwise agrees to take action, regardless of the form it takes, whether a political commitment or otherwise, and regardless of whether it is legally binding or not, including any joint comprehensive plan of action entered into or made between Iran and any other parties, and any additional materials related thereto, including annexes, appendices, codicils, side agreements, implementing materials, documents, and guidance, technical or other understandings, and any related agreements, whether entered into or implemented prior to the agreement or to be entered into or implemented in the future.
I’m not a lawyer, but I don’t see an exception for “secret documents that would embarrass the administration if they were made public.”
Needless to say, this revelation has made quite a few (Republican) members of Congress quite furious.
The revelation of the secret deal is being described by congressional insiders as further proof the Obama administration misled lawmakers and the American public about the terms of last summer’s nuclear agreement, which was framed by top U.S. officials as the only way to stop Iran’s march toward a nuclear weapon. There “will be hell to pay” as a result of the disclosure, according to one senior congressional source apprised of the situation.
Newly obtained documents show the Obama administration negotiated a secret side agreement with Iran that removes key restrictions on its nuclear procurement efforts after a decade, paving the way for Tehran to build functional nuclear weapons within six months of the restrictions being lifted.
The terms of this arrangement undermine the credibility of the nuclear deal and call into question claims by top administration officials who promised lawmakers that the deal would block the Islamic Republic’s pathway to a bomb.
Nor would these be the only secret documents kept from Congress. Last year there was a scandal over side deals between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran governing the inspection of military sites. According to those side deals, which were reported in August of last year, Iran, not IAEA inspectors would take samples for testing. This side deal raised questions as to how accurately the IAEA could assess suspicious activity by Iran.
As it happens, the Parhcin testing turned up two uranium particles last year that even the administration, in June, acknowledged came from Iran’s past nuclear research. Yet despite this find, the IAEA, in December of last year, declared its investigation into Iran’s past nuclear activities closed allowing the deal to proceed to Implementation Day and the ending of nuclear sanctions against Iran.
In addition to these problems the IAEA reporting on Iran’s nuclear program is less detailed that it has been in the past. This compromises the vaunted transparency of the deal and has prompted criticism from Democratic senators who supported the deal.
Taken together – allowing Iran to improve its enrichment, giving Iran control over inspections, watering down the reporting of the IAEA – we have a deal that was designed not to stop Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, but rather a deal designed to ensure that Iran is never penalized for future nuclear violations.
None of this should come as any surprise as I observed back in December:
The administration has repeatedly said that the deal was not based on trust but on verification. But for verification to work, the administration has to be willing to confront Iran about its violations. An administration unwilling to confront Iran will not take the steps necessary to enforce the deal. Worse, not wanting to offend Iran, the administration, at the very beginning of the deal, is setting the precedent for allowing Iran to define the parameters of the deal, making future enforcement impossible.
So yes the revelation that Iran will be able to ramp up its uranium enrichment as part of the nuclear is a big deal. But given the administration’s behavior so far it’s hardly surprising. And unless Democrats in Congress demand accountability, the administration’s reckless surrender to Iran will go without political consequences.
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