Obama Let Iran Cheat on the Deal

By Jonathan S. Tobin

Commentary Magazine

September 1, 2016


This past January, as the Iran nuclear deal was implemented, the Obama administration justified its eagerness to end sanctions by asserting that Tehran had scrupulously kept all its promises. But it turns out that the demands placed on Iran weren’t as strict as we were led to believe. The United States granted “exemptions” to the Islamist regime in order to more quickly end the international restrictions on doing business with it. These exemptions were revealed today in a Reuters story based on a report by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security.The institute’s sources were highly placed Western officials with knowledge of the decision to give Iran a pass on several key points. These exemptions were kept secret from the public.

This is shocking for two reasons.

Today’s news stands in direct contrast to the consistent line taken by the administration about Iranian compliance. Even as Iran flouted United Nations restrictions on ballistic missile tests and continued to act as the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism, we were told by the administration not to be concerned since its terms were being observed. But we now know that the assurances about compliance were rooted in fiction. The exemptions granted to Iran mean that almost everything President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have said about the Iran deal since January was a lie. That’s a breach of faith with the American public as well as with U.S. allies in the Middle East, like Israel and Saudi Arabia, that are in Iran’s cross hairs. The exemptions also may have been kept secret from Congress. Senator Robert Menendez, a senior member of the Foreign Relations Committee, told Reuters he had not been informed of the them in briefings.

But what’s more, the details of these “get out of jail free” cards granted to Iran are in themselves appalling.

As Reuters reports, the exemptions included a provision that allowed Iran to exceed the agreed-upon amount of low-enriched uranium at its nuclear plants. That’s important because such material can easily be converted to the highly enriched uranium that is used in nuclear weapons. Another exemption, regarding the removal of low-enriched uranium, calls into question whether either the commission supervising compliance or the International Atomic Energy Agency has any idea how much fuel Iran has kept or can convert. Yet another exemption involved letting Iran operate 19 so-called “hot cell” radiation containment chambers—which the deal had prohibited. According to the institute, these chambers can be used for processing illegal plutonium fuel for nuclear weapons.

This report, along with Germany’s revelations about Iran’s illegally seeking to buy nuclear material, makes it clear that the degree of fraud in the supposedly airtight agreement to halt Iran’s quest for a weapon is far greater than even many critics of the administration feared.

There’s no way to undo the damage already done by the administration’s policy of appeasing Iran. So much was sacrificed—including Obama’s 2012 campaign pledge to ensure the end of Iran’s nuclear program—in order to achieve the president’s chief foreign-policy legacy. Iran was allowed a free hand in Syria and the deal was crafted to expire in 10 to 15 years. But now we know that even the provisions that were supposed to postpone Iran’s getting a nuclear weapon were flouted with the full knowledge of the Western governments that signed the deal. The truth about the negotiations is being revealed and it’s clear the president signed off on Iran’s cheating. Congress, therefore, needs to fully investigate what else we don’t know about an agreement that could wind up blowing up in the faces of the American people and our anxious allies.