Hayward: Netanyahu Debunks Obama’s Promise to ‘Shut Off’ Iran’s Covert Nuke Program

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attends the weekly cabinet meeting at his Jerusalem office on April 29, 2018
AFP Sebastian Scheiner

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s presentation of documents that prove Iran continued running a secret nuclear weapons program after the nuclear deal went into effect is a direct refutation of promises made by President Barack Obama and his spokespeople.

Their new narrative is that they always expected Iran to cheat, but that is not at all what they told the American people during President Obama’s second term.

President Obama himself flatly stated that the nuclear deal, formally known as the JCPOA, would block precisely the type of program Israeli intelligence uncovered:

This was not a one-off promise Obama tossed out as a thoughtless aside during his public relations campaign for the deal. He made it repeatedly:

Obama adviser Ben Rhodes, creator of the biased media “echo chamber” that was employed to push the deal through, made the same promise:

Rhodes was still repeating this line as recently as last week, as he herded his media cats to blunt President Donald Trump’s criticism of the JCPOA:

A word on Rhodes’ infamous “echo chamber,” which he boasted was easy to create because reporters were gullible and eager to promote Obama’s political narratives: One of the primary functions of the echo chamber is to attack critics of the nuclear deal, including the odd Democrat who strayed off the reservation. It is also employed to suppress reporting that makes the nuclear deal look bad, such as the stunning expose of the Obama Administration’s efforts to shut down a drug and weapons investigation of Iran’s ally Hezbollah. Netanyahu’s revelation on Monday vindicated a large number of people who the Obama administration smeared for the crime of being right about Iran.

It is correct to speak of the Obama echo chamber in the present tense. It is still very much up and running, a year and a half after Obama left office. The conductors of this media symphony were feeling queasy after Netanyahu’s presentation so they took Monday afternoon off and got a late start on Tuesday, but they will be back at their podiums soon enough.

Then-National Security Adviser Susan Rice told an American Israel Public Affairs Committee conference in March 2015 that the JCPOA “would verifiably cut off every pathway for Iran to produce enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon.”

Rice sneered at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s criticism of the nuclear deal, saying, “Sound bites won’t stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Strong diplomacy backed by pressure can.”

“We are not taking anything on trust. What matters are Iran’s actions, not its words,” she declared. As of Monday, the new narrative from the Obama machine is that Iran’s actions don’t matter, only its words.

The Obama White House produced extensive white papers guaranteeing that what the Israelis discovered last month could never possibly happen. Here is a passage about covert Iranian nuclear programs that aged very badly:

Under this deal, Iran will allow robust monitoring of all its nuclear facilities. IAEA inspectors have the right to a physical or technical presence in all of Iran’s nuclear sites and will conduct regular monitoring of Iran’s entire nuclear fuel cycle and supply chain, from uranium mines and mills to centrifuge production, assembly, and storage facilities. This means Iran would need to set up an entirely parallel set of facilities and a separate supply chain if it sought to have a covert nuclear weapons program. This kind of program would be extremely difficult to hide under this deal. Standard practice under the Additional Protocol, which Iran will implement under this deal, is that the IAEA can request access to any suspicious location with 24 hours’ notice. This deal does not change that baseline.

We might charitably grant that it was difficult for Iran to hide a covert nuclear weapons program, but as Netanyahu showed the world, they muddled through.

Another Obama White House document boasted that the JCPOA would do an incredible job of ensuring that Iran could not open a “covert pathway” to a “secret nuclear program”:

The previous three pathways occur at facilities that Iran has declared, but what if they try to build a nuclear program in secret? That’s why this deal is so important. Under the new nuclear deal, Iran has committed to extraordinary and robust monitoring, verification, and inspection. International inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will not only be continuously monitoring every element of Iran’s declared nuclear program, but they will also be verifying that no fissile material is covertly carted off to a secret location to build a bomb. And if IAEA inspectors become aware of a suspicious location, Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol to their IAEA Safeguards Agreement, which will allow inspectors to access and inspect any site they deem suspicious. Such suspicions can be triggered by holes in the ground that could be uranium mines, intelligence reports, unexplained purchases, or isotope alarms.

Secretary of State John Kerry and Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz wrote a Washington Post op-ed in July 2015 giving the same assurances:

Specifically, the deal blocks each of Iran’s possible pathways to producing fissile material for a nuclear weapon: the highly enriched uranium and the plutonium production pathways, as well as the covert pathway. This deal is based on verification, not trust. Before obtaining significant relief from economic sanctions, Iran must roll back its enrichment, its research-and-development and its stockpile of enriched uranium. To preclude cheating, international inspectors will have unprecedented access to Iran’s declared nuclear facilities, any other sites of concern and its entire nuclear supply chain, from uranium production to centrifuge manufacturing and operation.

A year later, Kerry confidently declared the JCPOA had “lived up to its expectations.”

“As of today, one year later, the program that so many people said will not work, a program that people said is absolutely doomed to see cheating and be broken and will make the world more dangerous has, in fact, made the world safer, lived up to its expectations and thus far, produced an ability to be able to create a peaceful nuclear program with Iran living up to its part of this bargain and obligation,” Kerry intoned.

As for President Obama’s other secretary of state, Hillary Clinton and her 2016 presidential campaign proclaimed that the nuclear deal “stopped” Iran’s nuclear program “completely.”

“I’m proud that we put a lid on Iran’s nuclear program without firing a single shot,” Clinton declared at the 2016 Democratic National Convention. “Fact-checkers” scrambled to rate this statement as mostly or completely true, even though they knew that even without the secret program Netanyahu revealed, the “lid” would have come off in ten years at most.

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