Investigating Obama Admin Deception on Iran Nuke Deal
By Adam Kredo
April 4, 2016
Congress is investigating whether the Obama administration
misled lawmakers last summer about the extent of concessions granted to Iran
under the nuclear deal, as well as if administration officials have been quietly
rewriting the deal’s terms in the aftermath of the agreement, according to
sources and a formal notice sent to the State Department.
The concerns come after statements from top officials last
week suggesting that Iran is set to receive greater weapons and sanctions
relief, moves that the administration had promised Congress would never
take place as White House officials promoted the deal last summer.
“When multiple officials—including Secretary Kerry,
Secretary Lew, and Ambassador Mull—testify in front of Members of Congress, we
are inclined to believe them,” Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) told the Washington
“However, the gap between their promises on the Iran
nuclear deal and today’s scary reality continues to widen. We are now trying
to determine whether this was intentional deception on the part of the
administration or new levels of disturbing acquiescence to the Iranians,”
Congress is believed to be investigating what insiders
described to the Free Beacon as a range of areas in which
administration officials may have understated the breadth of concessions made to
the Islamic Republic when trying to persuade lawmakers to sign off on the final
Multiple disputes have surfaced in the last week.
In one dispute, congressional leaders are concerned that
the administration no longer considers recent Iranian ballistic missile tests a
“violation” of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which
codifies the nuclear deal.
Top administration officials including Secretary of State
John Kerry vowed
to Congress that Iran would be legally prohibited from carrying out
ballistic missile tests under the resolution.
Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., shifted
course last week, refusing to call recent Iranian launches a “violation” in
a letter she signed criticizing those launches.
A second dispute centers around recent statements from
Treasury Department officials suggesting that the administration is now set to
grant Iran non-nuclear sanctions relief, including indirect access to the U.S.
financial system, weeks after top Iranian officials began demanding this type of
Top administration figures, including Treasury Secretary
Jack Lew, had promised Congress that years-old restrictions barring Iran from
accessing the U.S. financial system in any way would remain in place even after
the nuclear deal.
But new concerns have raised alarm bells among lawmakers,
who fear that the administration will ease longstanding restrictions on Iran.
Kerry “and other administration officials assured the
American people and Congress that UNSCR 2231 still allowed the U.S. to respond
to dangerous actions, like these, from the Iranians,” Reps. Pompeo, Peter
Roskam (R., Ill.), and Lee Zeldin (R., N.Y.) wrote in a letter last week to the
“While many lawmakers, ourselves included, are certain
that Iran’s latest tests violate UNSCR 2231, your decision to cease labeling
the launches a violation is alarming,” they wrote. “We are troubled by
reports that the administration is stifling voices within its ranks for stronger
action against Iran—putting the JCPOA and political legacy above the safety
and security of the American people.”
The United States backed down in recent days from its claim
that the ballistic missile tests violate the deal. The United States now says
that they are “inconsistent with” promises made by Iran while the deal was
“This seeming American refusal to name these Iranian
tests as violation is in direct conflict the administration’s earlier
commitments,” the lawmakers wrote.
As the nuclear deal was being negotiated, Kerry informed
Congress that, under the deal, Iran would be “restrained from any … work on
missiles.” Other administration officials at the time made also clear that
such tests “would violate” the agreement.
The administration has recalibrated its stance in recent
days in the wake of several recent ballistic missile tests by Iran. Officials
are no longer claiming that these tests violate the deal.
“In opposition to this testimony, administration
officials have recently told the press that UNSCR 22231 was
‘drafted/structured in a way to appeal to Iran’s sensitivities,’” the
Mark Dubowitz, executive director for the Foundation For
Defense of Democracies (FDD), told the Free Beacon that the
administration is redefining the terms of the nuclear deal.
“The Obama administration is involved in yet another
sleight of hand on sanctions relief as well as the status of U.N. missile
sanctions,” Dubowitz sai. “This is very familiar to those who tracked the
Iran nuclear talks and recall the many ways in which broken commitments were
justified and redlines were abandoned.”
Iranian allies on the U.N. Security Council, mainly Russia,
have defended the missile tests, arguing that resolution 2231 has only “called
upon” Iran to refrain from these tests.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin recently stated that the
newest U.N. resolution governing the nuclear agreement only suggests that Iran
stop test firing missiles.
“A call is different from a ban so legally you cannot
violate a call, you can comply with a call or you can ignore the call, but you
cannot violate a call,” Churkin was quoted as saying. “The legal distinction
Congressional critics have dismissed the argument and are
pressing on the Obama administration to stand up to Iran’s defenders.
“The Kremlin’s absurd legal argument after Iran’s
March tests that ‘legally you cannot violate a call’ would essentially allow
the Iranian regime to do anything it wants to further develop its ballistic
missile program,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter.
“Russia’s refusal to punish Iran, combined with its
veto and China’s veto on the Security Council, will continue to prevent any
real international effort to respond to Iranian infractions.”
Meanwhile, Iranian officials have said in recent days that
they are preparing to expand the country’s ballistic missile program.
“We have always said we will continue with developing our
defense capacity and the defense equipment has nothing to do with chemical
weapons,” Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif stated on
Twitter. “The missiles are only for defensive purposes and we have not invaded
any country, neither we will do so in the future.”
Other Iranian officials have also said the
ballistic missile tests have nothing to do with the nuclear agreement.
A bipartisan delegation of lawmakers in Congress has
expressed opposition to an Obama administration plan to grant Iran sanctions
relief outside the purview of the nuclear deal.
This new relief is reported
to include access to the U.S. dollar and American financial markets.
Lawmakers have expressed anger over the proposal, citing past comments from
administration officials who claimed this would never take place under the deal.