Obama Offers Further Concessions to Keep Iran Nuclear Deal Alive

Barack Obama
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

As if the Iran nuclear deal farce were not ridiculous enough already, President Obama is ready to reward Tehran for its intransigence once again.

Until now, a sticking point in the deal was Iran’s refusal to come clean about its history of nuclear cheating, to establish an honest baseline from which future compliance can be measured. Secretary of State John Kerry just signaled the Administration is willing to unstick this point and give Iran what it wants, immediate sanctions relief, without resolving those issues.

“In his first State Department news conference since breaking his leg last month in a bicycling accident, Mr. Kerry suggested major sanctions might be lifted long before international inspectors get definitive answers to their longstanding questions about Iranian experiments and nuclear design work that appeared aimed at developing a bomb. The sanctions block oil sales and financial transfers,” the New York Times reports.

In a video conference from Boston, Kerry said, “We’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. It’s critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped, and that we can account for that in a legitimate way. That clearly is one of the requirements in our judgment for what has to be achieved in order to have a legitimate agreement.”

The move reveals this “nuclear deal” as a bit of badly-staged theater in which Obama pretends to be securing Peace In Our Time by working out a tough deal, when in reality Iran is completely driving this process, extracting one concession after another from Obama because they know he cannot afford to walk away from the table. Obama’s concern about his reputation and political legacy, and the damage to his party that would result in the 2016 election cycle if his much-ballyhooed deal falls apart, trump any and all concerns he has about exactly when Iran gets the bomb.

Without knowing what Iran has been up to in the past, it is impossible to accurately judge whether they are complying with whatever sketchy agreement they sign now. The New York Times does a good job of explaining this, and warning that capitulation to Iran will set a dangerous example to other aspiring rogue nuclear states:

Those favoring full disclosure of what diplomats have delicately called the “possible military dimensions” of Iranian nuclear research say that the West will never know exactly how long it would take Iran to manufacture a weapon — if it ever developed or obtained bomb-grade uranium or plutonium — unless there is a full picture of its success in suspected experiments to design the detonation systems for a weapon and learn how to shrink it to fit atop a missile.

For a decade, since obtaining data from an Iranian scientist on a laptop that was spirited out of the country, the C.I.A. and Israel have devoted enormous energy to understanding the scope and success of the program.

Failing to require disclosure, they argue, would also undercut the atomic agency — a quiet signal to other countries that they, too, could be given a pass.

Support for the concessions Kerry teases is based on the idea that Iran will never allow its national pride to be injured by divulging the details of its past mischief. When only one side in a negotiation is permitted to introduce its pride as leverage, that is the winning side. The people trading away vital security considerations to curry favor with the prideful party are the losers.

The Times finds Kerry suggesting “assurances about the future were more important than excavating the past.” What good are those assurances when there is no evidence on where the Iranian program stands on the day a new deal is signed?

Why is current intransigence — the refusal to engage in honest disclosure about past activities — not taken as a very major clue about Iran’s likelihood to make good on assurances about the future? This is like waving aside the arrest record of an infamous thief to hire him as a bank security guard, insisting that what he writes on his employment application today matters far more than whatever the cops were so upset about a few years ago.

No one on Earth, outside the Obama White House and its friends in U.S. media, will interpret capitulation on this issue as anything less than a major victory for Iran. As Lawrence J. Haas notes at U.S. News and World Reportthe White House was loudly insisting it would never make this concession, just a few months ago. “They have to do it. It will be done. If there’s going to be a deal, it will be done,” Haas recalls Kerry saying in a PBS interview in April. But suddenly they don’t have to do it, and it won’t be done.

Another discarded scrap of Obama rhetoric will be the President’s repeated assurances that Iran is X number of years away from having a nuclear weapon. Without the historical evidence Iran refuses to provide, there is really no way to be sure how far Iran is from a deliverable weapon. Once again, it seems as if Obama’s major concern is making sure it happens after he collects a round of applause for striking a “historic” deal, enters a comfortable retirement, and watches the whole mess become someone else’s problem.