Can the Iran deal get any worse?
“The worst agreement in U.S. diplomatic history,” that was the way Charles Krauthammer characterized the Iran deal back in July 2015. Of course, when Krauthammer made that very accurate assessment, he had no way of knowing that the deal was even worse than originally envisioned.
The Iran deal’s ancillary aspects, which the administration tried to keep secret from Congress, included ransom payments totaling $1.7 billion to Iran and secret side agreements negotiated between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Islamic Republic. One of the most absurd provisions of that secretive side agreement enables the mullahs to collect their own soil samples at their highly opaque Parchin facility, in lieu of on-site inspections. The Obama administration even conducted lobbying efforts on behalf of the Islamic Republic, in a failed attempt to convince banking institutions to conduct business with the world’s premier state-sponsor of international terrorism.
The notion that the Obama administration would trust the Iranians to collect their own samples to establish compliance demonstrates with utmost clarity just how far divorced from reality Obama has become. The notion that Obama would place national security interests in the hands of a non-U.S. body demonstrates just how utterly reckless he is. The notion that the U.S. would actively lobby on behalf on an entity responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in Syria, Yemen and Iraq and responsible for supplying anti-U.S. insurgents with sophisticated Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFP) that killed and maimed hundreds of U.S. soldiers, demonstrates how morally depraved the Obama administration has become.
Since the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran has been testing the resolve of the U.S. in enforcing the agreement. Twice since the JCPOA went into effect, Iran exceeded its 130 metric ton limit for heavy water, which is used to cool reactors that produce plutonium. The cumbersome JCPOA mechanism put in place to abrogate the agreement in the event of breach means that all but the most serious Iranian transgressions will likely go unpunished. In the meantime, Iran continues to push the envelope while receiving all the benefits including sanctions relief and lump sum cash payments, including nearly $12 billion received in the past three years.
The Obama administration’s dealings with the Islamic Republic borders on sycophantic. The AP reported today that the Obama administration, in its twilight weeks, issued its consent to allow the Iranians to receive 116 metric tons of natural uranium from Russia as compensation for its export of tons of reactor coolant. The move requires U.N. Security Council approval but is expected to easily pass.
Administration officials have issued assurances that Iran’s usage of the uranium shipment will be carefully monitored but those familiar with the administration’s “assurances” have ample reason to be wary. The administration’s track record on transparency, especially in its dealings with the Islamic Republic, is abysmal.
Adding to the worry is the assessment of David Albright of the Institute of Science and International Security (ISIS), a monitoring group that keeps tabs on Iran’s nuclear program and consults with congressional officials. According to Albright, the uranium could be enriched to weapons-grade sufficient for the production of at least 10 nuclear bombs. Albright adds that the quantity of bombs depends on “the efficiency of the enrichment process and the design of the nuclear weapon.”
The scheduling of the shipment ironically comes at a time when Iran is ramping up regional tensions, defying UNSC resolutions and causing mayhem in the Arabian Gulf. Iran continues to brazenly develop and test-fire ballistic missiles in defiance of UNSC resolution 2231 and on Sunday, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan was forced to fire three warning shots at four Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) speed boats near the Strait of Hormuz. The fast-approaching and menacing IRGC craft disregarded numerous warnings to alter course and veered away only after the warning shots were fired.
The action comes on the heels of numerous other Iranian transgressions in the Arabian Gulf. According to U.S. defense officials, U.S. and Iranian naval vessels interacted on at least 600 occasions in the past two years. Many of the encounters were relatively benign but some were provoked by egregious Iranian actions, the most outrageous of which occurred on January 12, 2016 when Iran committed an act of piracy on the high seas by kidnapping 10 American sailors whose Riverine Command Boat (RCB) encountered mechanical problems.
The sailors were forced to endure taunts and humiliation by their Iranian captors and a female sailor was forced into Sharia compliance by being made to wear an Islamic style head covering. The Iranians also stole or copied sensitive U.S. equipment on board the RCBs.
Instead of outrage, a groveling John Kerry, who will go down in history as the nation’s most ineffective secretary of state, disgracefully thanked the Iranians. It was a reprehensible display of weakness typical of Obama’s pusillanimous approach to foreign diplomacy.
Donald Trump has voiced disdain for the JCPOA and rightfully termed the agreement as a “terrible deal,” a view shared by the majority of Congress, military and intelligence analysts and many foreign leaders. Given the complexity of the JCPOA and its international dimensions, it would be difficult to simply “tear it up” the day Trump assumes office as some have advocated. A more reasoned approach would be for Trump to renegotiate the most egregious aspects of the deal and hold Iran accountable for any transgression, however slight. When Iran then violates the accord – and judging by their past actions they most certainly will – the inevitable breach will convey international legitimacy to whatever action the U.S., acting in concert with its allies, including Israel, wish to pursue.