As the White House tries to squelch the congressional revolt against its interim deal with Tehran, Iran’s behavior since the deal’s announcement is likely to fuel more opposition.
For starters the sanctions relaxation, contrary to White House spin, is proving to be a significant boon to Iran’s economy. The Times of Israel reports, “Iranian oil exports rose 10 percent in November after sanctions against the Islamic Republic were eased as part of an interim deal with world powers, the International Energy Agency reported Wednesday.” Despite administration assurances, “the IEA reported that Iranian oil exports rose by 89,000 barrels per day to a total of 850,000 barrels per day last month, as the sale of crude to China and Taiwan rose.” Of course, the Iranians are crowing about their new riches. (“On Sunday, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said the deal had already boosted the country’s economy. Rouhani told an open session of parliament that, after the ‘success’ of the talks, investors were gravitating to businesses and the stock exchange. ‘Economic activities have been shifted to the stock exchange from gold, hard currency and real estate,’ said Rouhani in his televised speech.”)
Moreover, with the ink not yet dry on the interim deal and no implementation agreement in place, Iran is already re-interpreting the interim agreement to allow expansion of its nuclear weapons program. According to the Jerusalem Post, Emily Landau, who heads the Arms Control and Regional Security Program at the Institute for National Security Studies, has identified areas in which Iran is already stretching the pseudo-deal to bless its activities:
According to Iran’s publication of its own interpretation of what was achieved in Geneva and an announcement by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, within days of the agreement, Iran will continue construction work at Arak. On Monday, Landau noted, Iran announced that it is testing its advanced new-generation centrifuges. . . .
These developments have affirmed concerns that any partial deal will “quickly become a platform for continuing bickering between the two sides, as Iran pushed its own interpretations of what was agreed, which would not be acceptable to the P5+1,” Landau said.
“We saw a lot of this in the 2003-2005 period – continuous arguing over who agreed to what, who is upholding what. That period ended with the EU3 totally disillusioned with Iran and its lack of good faith,” she said. “What we have seen so far, since the late November agreement, is Iran indeed demonstrating that it will continue to push the envelope with its interpretations, with statements and pronouncements that certainly do not indicate ‘good faith’ as far as its intentions to back down from military aspirations,” Landau continued.
Most disturbingly, the P5+1, and the US in particular, are “not even reacting,” she said. In fact, the Obama administration “seems focused exclusively on Congress,” and appears to have prioritized the prevention of Congress from passing new sanctions against Iran over countering Iran’s conduct, she added.
Of special concern, said Landau, is the lack of clarity as to what occurs if the diplomatic track fails. (“Perhaps if the criteria for failure were clear – at least to Congress – it would be less nervous about the obvious loopholes in the interim deal.”) Moreover, the Parchin site seems to have been ignored entirely.
In sum, the administration’s two central claims about the interim deal — it doesn’t afford Iran real relief from sanctions and it halts progress on its nuclear weapons program — are demonstrably false. Those opposed to the deal will take this as confirmation of their objections while the administration’s few defenders will be hard-pressed to keep up their spin. And meanwhile, it is those centrifuges in Iran that keep spinning.