the Ayatollah Wants
Obama keeps giving and giving and giving.
By WSJ Staff
Wall Street Journal
April 19, 2015
Give Ayatollah Ali Khamenei
credit for knowing his opposition. Two weeks ago the Supreme Leader declared
that Western sanctions had to be lifted immediately as a condition of a nuclear
deal. And sure enough, on Friday President Obama said Iran would get significant
sanctions relief immediately upon signing a deal.
The Ayatollah knows that Mr.
Obama wants an agreement with Iran so much that there’s almost no concession
the President won’t make. So why not keep asking for more?
Keep in mind that the talks
began with the U.S. and its European partners demanding that Iran dismantle its
nuclear program. But to persuade the Ayatollah to accept the recent
“framework” accord, Mr. Obama has already conceded that Iran can keep
enriching uranium, that it can maintain 5,060 centrifuges to do the enriching,
that its enriched-uranium stockpiles can stay inside Iran, that the
once-concealed facilities at Fordow and Arak can stay open (albeit in altered
form), and that Iran can continue doing research on advanced centrifuges.
All of these concessions are
contrary to previous U.S. positions, and we’re no doubt missing a few. But
none of that was enough for the Ayatollah, who quickly asserted two new
deal-breaking objections: immediate sanctions relief, and no inspections under
any circumstances of Iran’s military sites.
The White House has insisted
that sanctions relief would be phased out based on Iranian compliance with the
accord. Iranian negotiators quickly denied they had agreed to any such thing. At
first White House spokesman Josh Earnest dismissed this as mere face-saving
domestic politicking inside Iran. But then the Ayatollah weighed in with his
demand for immediate sanctions relief, adding to reinforce the goodwill that the
Obama Administration was “lying” and had “devilish” intentions.
On Friday Mr. Obama
nonetheless turned the other cheek and suggested a compromise on sanctions
relief is likely. White House sources whispered to reporters that the immediate
windfall to Iran could be between $30 billion and $50 billion from access to
frozen offshore Iranian accounts.
Mr. Obama even suggested at
a press conference that sanctions relief wasn’t really that large an issue as
long as the U.S. could reimpose sanctions if Iran cheats. “Our main concern
here is making sure that if Iran doesn’t abide by its agreement that we
don’t have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to reinstate
sanctions,” the President said. He added that this “will require some
It sure will. How
“snap-back” sanctions would work is far from clear. The U.S. framework
summary concedes that charges of cheating would go to a so far unspecified
“dispute resolution process” that sounds like some kind of international
That surely means
foot-dragging by West Europeans who won’t want to interfere with their new
commercial business with Iran, and it probably gives Russia and China an
opportunity to take Iran’s side. As former secretaries of state Henry
Kissinger and George Shultz argued recently on these pages, the U.S. would then be the isolated nation, not
The word “snap-back” in
any such arrangement is spin to sell a deal, not a realistic description of the
process. Mr. Obama nonetheless said on Friday that “I’m confident” the
negotiations on sanctions “will be successful.” Look for more U.S.
concessions on sanctions as the June deadline approaches.
As for inspections, a senior
commander in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps reiterated Sunday that all
military sites are off-limits. Iran’s news agency reported that General
Hossein Salami, the Guards’ deputy leader, said such inspections would be
“selling out” to the enemy. “Iran will not become a paradise of spies. We
will not roll out the red carpet for the enemy,” he said.
This contradicts the U.S.
summary of the framework accord, which claims that U.N. inspectors would have
access to any “suspicious sites.” It didn’t say only non-military
suspicious sites. Mr. Obama has already conceded that the inspectors would need
Iran’s permission to visit certain sites, rather than having on-demand and
immediate access. If military sites are off-limits, then those sites are where
Iran would do the cheating when it wants to. The entire inspections regime would
be an act of Western self-deception.
These latest events
reinforce a conclusion that the Iranian talks are heading toward a deal that
confers Western blessing on Iran as a nuclear-threshold state. Tehran will
retain the facilities and means to develop a bomb at the moment of its choosing.
The main question now is how many more concessions the Ayatollah will squeeze
from a U.S. President he believes is desperate for a deal.