Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson certified that Iran was compliant with its commitments under the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known more formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, this is only because of all the concessions that the Obama administration had made, which lowered the bar for Iran’s technical compliance to an absurdly low level. Indeed, Barack Obama’s concessions to the Iran regime, which he offered in order to secure Iran’s agreement on the terms of the disastrous JCPOA, seem to have no bounds. The result is that Iran is marching ahead with perfecting key elements of a full nuclear weapons program, while already receiving many of the benefits of sanctions relief afforded by the JCPOA. And now evidence has surfaced that the Obama administration not only paid a ransom for the release of American citizens imprisoned unlawfully by the Iranian regime as the JCPOA was being implemented. According to an April 24th investigatory report by Politico, the Obama administration also agreed, as part of a prison swap, to release seven Iranian-born prisoners from U.S. custody, at least some of whom could well go back to helping the Iranian regime procure components for its nuclear weapons program.
Moreover, the Politico report found that the administration dropped charges and international arrest warrants against 14 fugitives. Obama Justice and State Department officials, at times after consultations with the White House, reportedly slowed down the extradition process for some fugitives who were in custody abroad. And the administration failed to vigorously go after Iranian procurement networks in the United States, while thwarting career law enforcement officials’ efforts to lure their targets to international destinations where they could be readily arrested.
In short, senior Obama administration officials delivered a major blow to the painstaking work of counter-proliferation task forces that had been trying for years to uncover and break up Iran’s intricate procurement networks supporting its nuclear arms program.
“A lot of people were furious; they had cases in the pipeline for months, in some cases years, and then, all of a sudden, they were gone — all because they were trying to sell the nuke deal,” a former Department of Commerce counter-proliferation agent was quoted by Politico as saying.
And from Obama on down, the small group of officials involved in brokering the trade-offs leading to the nuclear deal misled the American people in the process.
For example, the Obama administration downplayed its release of the Iranian-born prisoners, whom were referred to benignly as “civilians” and “businessmen.” President Obama himself described the prisoner swap with the Iranian regime as “a reciprocal humanitarian gesture.” His Press Secretary Josh Earnest represented that the released prisoners had been caught up in technical sanctions or trade embargo violations – what Earnest referred to as “nonviolent crimes.” In fact, according to the Politico report, “some of them were accused by Obama’s own Justice Department of posing threats to national security. Three allegedly were part of an illegal procurement network supplying Iran with U.S.-made microelectronics with applications in surface-to-air and cruise missiles like the kind Tehran test-fired recently, prompting a still-escalating exchange of threats with the Trump administration.”
As a matter of fact, Barack Obama, in his zeal for a nuclear deal with Iran at any cost, dropped the whole missile issue in President Trump’s lap. As a result of a last minute concession by former Secretary of State John Kerry, the text of the JCPOA itself is silent on Iran’s right to procure, develop or test ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons. Moreover, the unambiguous language of the United Nations Security Council resolutions prohibiting Iran from procuring, developing or testing such missiles was wiped away – replaced with a wishy-washy Security Council resolution endorsing the JCPOA and simply “calling upon” Iran not to undertake such missile-related activities. Now, the missile component dealers released by the Obama administration can resume their assistance to the Iranian regime in obtaining vital microelectronics.
The Politico report follows on the heels of a credible claim last week indicating Iran’s continued work on nuclear explosive trigger technology. With satellite imagery in hand and intelligence gleaned from inside Iran, members of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) held a news conference in Washington D.C. on Friday in which they claimed that the Iranian regime was continuing covert work on nuclear bomb technologies despite the nuclear deal. Reportedly, the Iranians may be using their military base at Parchin, to which UN inspectors have restricted access as a result of another last-minute Kerry concession, to perform work on explosives that are believed to be connected to Iran’s overall nuclear program.
Thus, with the Obama administration willing to look the other way, Iran has focused its resources to perfect two technological elements, in addition to uranium enrichment, it needs to successfully deploy nuclear weapons – detonation and delivery with high explosives and ballistic missiles, respectively. Unless the Trump administration confronts the Iranian regime head-on, as President Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson indicated they were willing to do, the Iranians will continue to get away with what they have been doing.
The monitoring of JCPOA compliance, as certified by Secretary of State Tillerson, has been more narrowly focused on the production of fissile materials, which the Iranians have largely mastered. Centrifuges are still spinning at a relatively low level, but the Iranians can afford to wait for full scale production with more advanced centrifuges when the JCPOA restrictions on production expire. In the meantime, under the terms of Obama’s nuclear deal, Iran is permitted to retain a significant enrichment capacity and to continue to conduct nuclear research and development, including advanced centrifuge R&D. In other words, even if Iran continues to abide by the uranium enrichments limits until they sunset as per the JCPOA, the regime will be in a position within a decade or so to resume full scale production of nuclear fuel with technologically advanced centrifuges. And at least one of the fugitives that the Obama administration let off the hook is in a position to continue helping them do just that, without an indictment and possible extradition hanging over his head.
Seyed Abolfazl Shahab Jamili, an Iranian import-export businessman, was allegedly involved in a conspiracy to procure for Iran U.S. manufactured pressure transducers, used to measure the gas pressure inside centrifuge cascades that enrich uranium. While his alleged conspirator continued to face prosecution, the case against Jamili was dropped on account of what the U.S. Attorney said were “significant foreign policy interests.” Translation: keeping Obama’s nuclear deal alive at all costs. One of those costs was emboldening this Iranian mastermind Jamil to perhaps tap into his sophisticated procurement network again and continue supplying Iran with valuable nuclear enrichment components.
Barack Obama’s disastrous nuclear deal, if unchanged, will enable the Iranian regime to become a nuclear armed state, with advanced ballistic missile delivery capabilities, in a few years. It will be up to President Trump to undertake the thorough review he has promised, including of any secret side agreements, and do what has to be done to prevent Iran from becoming another North Korea.
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