The bad, no, terrible, deal — no, sorry, terrible “understanding” – that the Bidenites are about to conclude with Iran is now clear. It is so bad that the Bidenites don’t want it to be reviewed by the Senate, where even Democrats, such as the Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Robert Menendez, and Richard Blumenthal, have expressed great reservations. The Bidenites think that by sleight of word, calling this agreement a mere “understanding” rather than an “agreement,” Joe Biden won’t have to submit it to the Senate for its approval. Robert Spencer wrote about this here, and more on this mini-deal, that gives Iran potentially tens of billions of dollars in exchange for the same kind of promises the Islamic Republic broke before, can be found here: “Biden admin. won’t acknowledge Iran deal explicitly to skirt Congress – analysis,” by Lahav Harkov, Jerusalem Post, June 18, 2023:
In the Harry Potter books, characters call the villain “He Who Must Not Be Named,” for fear that saying “Voldemort” will conjure up the evil villain.
The Biden administration won’t say “Iran Deal,” apparently because it fears Congress. It is negotiating “the deal that must not be named.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee chairman Yuli Edelstein have called it a “small agreement,” a “mini-deal” and a “memorandum of understanding,” but the State Department is doing the rhetorical equivalent of whistling and saying “nothing to see here.”
The reason for this is the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), which requires the US president to bring any agreement relating to Tehran’s nuclear program to Congress for a 30-day review period.
Legally, the president may enter into an executive agreement without approval from Congress, so in that sense, INARA-based congressional review can’t stop President Joe Biden from doing what he wants.
The mini-deal is being talked about as if it were a mere “understanding” between the US and Iran, an “executive agreement” that does not require Congressional approval. Of course, members of Congress may then be up in arms over this sleight of word, and demand that the Iran deal – or “Iran understanding” – be subject to their approval, and judging by the remarks of many members so far, including powerful Democrats, that approval will not be forthcoming.
A lesser-known element of INARA is what former State Department adviser on Iran, Gabriel Noronha, has called “legislative snapback.” The law states that “if the President does not submit such 90-day compliance certification” – that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) – “or has determined that Iran has materially breached an agreement and not cured it, legislation reinstating statutory sanctions against Iran introduced within 60 calendar days of such event shall be entitled to expedited consideration.”
In other words, if Iran is violating the JCPOA – which it has been, for years – then Congress can fast-track a bill to reinstate sanctions.
There is a question of whether that is relevant after the US left the JCPOA in 2018, but there’s a fair chance someone in Congress will test it.
At a recent J Street event, former Obama administration lawyer Tess Bridgeman, who worked on JCPOA, essentially called to keep the details of the new Iran agreement secret.
Why does she want to keep the details of the Iran “understanding” secret? Even Bridgeman realizes they are so bad, giving Iran a great deal of what it wants — money — with nothing tangible given in exchange by Iran save for releasing from prison three Iranian-Americans. The rest of what Iran is giving are mere promises about limiting the enrichment of uranium, precisely the same kind of promises Iran made under the JCPOA in 2015, and then proceeded to break. Why should we expect Iran to keep its promises about uranium enrichment this time, especially since it already has far more uranium enriched at levels tantalizingly close to what would be needed to make.a bomb, than it did in 2015?
“With elections coming up, we are not going to see the administration do anything that requires voting in Congress, so I think it’s really important to keep in mind… that [agreements] be in that realm of discretionary, unilateral gestures,” she said. “Something that’s written down on a piece of paper for all sides to try to implement is a recipe for Congress making it impossible.”
Bridgeman’s astonishing remarks boil down to this: 1) most people will find this is a very bad deal; 2) so let’s keep the promises the US is making about lifting sanctions on Iran in the realm of “discretionary” gestures, so that the US will appear not to have locked itself into certain concessions to Iran when it fact it has; 3) don’t put in writing any hard and fast commitments to Iran that Congress can look at, be infuriated by, and try to shoot down; 4) the elections are soon coming and we don’t want this agreement, so obviously bad, to damage Joe Biden’s prospects for re-election, so let’s call it by another name, to minimize its significance — it’s not a “deal,” but merely a series of “understandings,” not even requiring Senate approval.
The Biden administration, many of whom are Obama alumni, clearly understands that INARA is a political landmine, because of the weaknesses of the “not-a-deal” that they are concluding.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken started to talk about the need to put Iran “back in the box” of the 2015 JCPOA, soon after Biden was elected president. This unnamed agreement seems to be their way of doing that, except that if the JCPOA put Iran in a box, the new understandings are a shipping container.
Back in 2012, Iran had enriched large quantities of uranium to 20%, and a small quantity to 27%, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency. That was enough to rouse Netanyahu to display a cartoon bomb at the UN and urge the world to take action. The subsequent JCPOA limited Iranian uranium enrichment to 3.67% purity.
The 2015 JCPOA deal was based on the fear of Iran already having enriched uranium to the level of 20% (and a smaller amount to 27%). This seemed at the time to the Western powers to be dangerously high, and the 2015 agreement was intended to get Iran’s enrichment of uranium back down to a maximum level of 3.67%. Needless to say, from 2015 until now the Iranians have been enriching uranium far beyond that level of 3.67% they promised, and far beyond, too, the 20% enrichment that had filled the Western powers with such alarm before the 2015 JCPOA.
Today, Iran is enriching uranium to 60%, plus a small quantity reached 84%. The “not-deal” would limit Iran to continuing to enrich to 60%; that’s a lot more than 3.67%….
The “not-deal” of the Bidenites would not force Iran to get rid of any uranium it has already enriched to a level of 60%. Furtherrmore, it could continue to enrich uranium to that level of 60%, so very close to the 90% enrichment needed for a nuclear weapon. It would, however, have to promise to get rid of the small amount of uranium that it has enriched to a level of 84%. Presumably the uranium enriched to that level would be handed ouver to IAEA inspectors. And just how would they know that Iran had really handed over its entire supply of-enriched-to-84% uranium? There is no way.
This is not a deal; it’s a capitulation. What has the Islamic Republic of Iran been doing since the 2015 JCPOA? It’s been perfecting the black art of deception. We would never have known about Iran’s true levels of uranium enrichment, and about the sites where this took place – some of those sites were completely off the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’s radar – had not the Mossad managed in 2018 to steal from a warehouse in Tehran Iran’s entire nuclear archive. And from 2015 to today, the Iranians have been trying, and often succeeding, to run circles around the IAEA inspectors. Sometimes they simply stonewalled, as when uranium metal was found at certain sites where no nuclear activity was supposed to have taken place — confronted with the evidence, the Iranians merely shrugged their shoulders to the inspectors, as if to say “we haven’t a clue.” At other sites, where the IAEA inspectors were supposed to have unfettered access, Iran simply barred them from entering.
The problem is this: once the Americans lift sanctions, and allow Iran to take delivery of tens of billions of dollars, beginning with ten billion dollars that Iraq will now pay Iran for oil and gas it had received, and seven billion dollars that will be handed over by South Korea to pay for oil received in the past, that money can’t be taken back. Iran will likely wait until it has received at least $50 billion previously owed to it that had been frozen, but now will be unfrozen under this “understanding,” before once again enriching uranium to 84% or even, to 90%. At that point, with its bank accounts holding tens of billions of dollars, Iran will start up its enrichment program again, turning its supply of uranium enriched to 60% into uranium enriched to 90%, making it possible for it to create a nuclear weapon within a few days. No financial threats would work against Iran at that point; it will have just had an infusion of $50 billion in unfrozen funds. Only military force will work, and only one country will be willing to take on the task of putting paid to Iran’s nuclear ambitions. That country is tiny Israel, whose job will have been made so much more difficult by the feckless, reckless Bidenites, with their capitulationist “understanding” that will provide Iran with the wherewithal to finance all sorts of weapons, including ballistic and hypersonic missiles and, most of all, Tehran’s nuclear project.
In the details about the deal so far made known, there is nothing that addresses Iran’s work on ballistic missiles – the missiles that would carry nuclear warheads – nor is there any mention of Iran’s recent claim of having built a hypersonic missile that could reach Israel, the Iranians claim, “in 400 seconds.” Is it beyond the Bidenites’ imagination to try to halt any further development by Iran of both ballistic and hypersonic missiles? Furthermore, in this “mini-deal,” there are apparently no restrictions on Iran’s support for terrorist proxies, including the Houthis in Yemen, Kat’aib Hezbollah in Iraq, Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in Gaza. Why did the Bidenites think this Iranian network of proxies and allies was not worth addressing, or did they fear that raising the matter might cause Tehran to pull out of the deal altogether, in a fit of geopolitical pique?
Yes, the new understandings reportedly stop Iran from selling missiles to Russia or having its proxies kill Americans in Syria, according to The New York Times. Even those narrow limitations seem unlikely to be effective. Iran’s post-sanctions “resistance economy” relies on Russia and China, such that alienating the former would be a bad idea from Tehran’s perspective. Plus, Iran does not generally admit to being behind its proxies when they attack Americans, so why would they change now?…
Does anyone really think that at this point Iran would halt the sale of drones to Russia, thereby turning that country from a grateful ally into an enemy — dangerous, powerful, and unpredictable? And Iran will never give up the network of allies that it has so laboriously, and at such great expense, built over the last several decades, a network which now includes the Houthis (Yemen), the Alawites (Syria), Hezbollah (Lebanon), Hamas (Gaza) and Kata’ib Hezbollah (Iraq).
Even those who voted for JCPOA in 2015 have been mugged by reality. Some have seen how Iran managed to consistently deceive the IAEA inspectors; others have been infuriated by how Iran continues to back such terror groups as Hamas and Hezbollah; still others, such as Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA), have been most repulsed by Iran’s suppression of its own people. None of these people would likely approve of the Bidenite mini-deal were it to come before them, which is why the Bidenites are going to treat that deal not as a treaty, but as an executive order, needing no congressional approval. And perhaps they will get away with it, unless there is an explosion of rage at this calculated circumvention of Congress’ authority.