Obamaís Iran Deal Surrender Confirmed

Jonathan S. Tobin

Commentary

June 12, 2015

Among the many promises made by the Obama administration after the framework nuclear deal was announced in April was a commitment to insisting that Iran come clean on all its past work on military dimensions of its nuclear project. Secretary of State John Kerry explicitly promised that Iran had to provide all this information to the West before the final version of the agreement could be put on paper and signed prior to the June 30th deadline. Though it was feared that President Obamaís commitment to getting a nuclear deal at any price would lead to such an important aspect of an agreement being jettisoned, we were reassured that the administration would stick to its demands. But now it appears that those promises were worthless. As the Associated Press reports, U.S. and Western diplomats are now saying they ďare prepared to accept a nuclear agreement with Iran that doesnít immediately answer questions about past atomic weapons work.Ē That leaves us wondering what other concessions are also imminent and whether Congress will consider, as it should, this abject surrender to be a sufficient reason to reject the pact when it comes before them for approval.

Lest there be any doubt about the administrationís promise to get Iran to open up about its military work, hereís what Secretary of State John Kerry said about the issue in an interview on PBSís News Hour with Judy Woodruff on April 8:

Woodruff: Still, another issue; the International Atomic Energy Agency has said for a long time that it wants Iran to disclose past military-related nuclear activities. Iran is increasingly looking like itís not going to do this. Is the U.S. prepared to accept that?

Kerry: No. They have to do it. It will be done. If thereís going to be a deal; it will be done.

Woodruff: Because itís not there now.

Kerry: It will be done.

Woodruff: So that information will be released before June 30th, will be available.

Kerry: It will be part of a final agreement. It has to be.

Apparently not.

What makes this surrender so appalling is that it is just the latest of a long string of Western concessions to Iran. At every point during the last two years of negotiations, the United States has backed down on key demands on allowing Iran the right to enrich uranium, the scale of the nuclear infrastructure it is allowed and virtually every other vital aspect of the issue. Whereas in the fall of 2012, President Obama was promising Americans during his foreign policy debate with Mitt Romney that any deal would involved the end of Iranís nuclear program, by this year that position had evolved to one that granted it the right to go on enriching uranium and keeping thousands of centrifuges spinning in an agreement that would expire after a set number of years rather than constituting a permanent stricture on Tehranís ability to produce a bomb.

The reason for these concessions was explained away by claiming that the original demands were unrealistic and that a deal that didnít include them was better than no deal at all. That appears to be the same dynamic that is driving the West to back down on Iran revealing its past military work.

Why is this important? The answer is that, without such information, the West can have no real idea about how close the Iranians are to building a weapon. The entire conceit of the current deal is a belief that the structure it imposes on Iran lengthens the period during which they could ďbreak outĒ to a nuclear weapon supposedly leaving the U.S. sufficient time to detect the violations and then take action to stop it. But if the exact level of Iranís military development is unknown then talk about a coherent response to a breakout is meaningless. Far from a meaningless detail, Kerry was right in April to say that a deal wouldnít be possible without this information. But faced with an intransigent Iran that is confident that President Obama will blink any time the deal is threatened, the West has once again backed down.

The commitment to getting complete information about Iranís military research and development wasnít the only such pledge since at the time of the announcement other important details of the pact, such as provisions for lifting and possibly snapping back sanctions, the disposition of Iranís stockpile of nuclear fuel and rigorous inspections of its facilities were also unresolved. To make matters worse, Iran soon made it clear it had no intention of agreeing to any of the Westís requests in order to get a deal signed. Though the administration has continued saying that it will insist on these points, the concession on military research shows that such promises canít be trusted.

Over the course of the past two years, President Obama has consistently demonstrated that his priority is dťtente with Iran, not stopping its nuclear program as he had promised. Where once he and Kerry insisted that no deal is better than a bad deal, itís now abundantly clear that getting a terrible deal at any price is their only objective. Congress should be paying attention to this dispiriting display and send an equally clear message to the White House that it will block adoption of any agreement with Iran that doesnít fulfill the administrationís own pledges.