The centrifuge issue is no small matter. Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, has been closely involved in sanctions development and implementation. He tells me, “Permitting Iran to conduct research and development on advanced centrifuges is a dangerous proposition and fundamentally at odds with a peaceful civilian nuclear program. The verification of Iran’s current centrifuge production capabilities is already sufficiently challenging without opening the door to Iranian development of even smaller and more efficient centrifuges that are easier to hide.” He adds, “This is further proof — as if more evidence is needed — that Iran is building an industrial-size nuclear infrastructure that will give it multiple overt and covert pathways to a bomb.”
It tells us several other things as well.
First, the interim deal is not a deal at all but a unilateral gift of sanctions relief for a deal that is vague and incomplete and that may never be implemented. Either president Obama was snookered or he is snookering us, trying to erect a barrier to military action by Israel and/or further sanctions by Congress.
Josh Block, a longtime Democrat and head of the Israel Project, observes via an e-mail to Right Turn, “Clearly there is growing concern and realization that the ‘interim deal’ is actually just another stalling tactic by Iran, but worse, one we are paying Iran billions of dollars to perpetrate. The six month ‘deal’ was announced in November, so either that is the moment the 6 month clock started or there is no ‘deal’ at all.”
Second, those demanding a new round of sanctions, including 53 Senate Democrats and Republicans co-sponsoring sanctions legislation, again have been proven to be savvier about the Iranians than the president and his State Department. Without reimposition of sanctions and passage of stringent banking sanctions, Iran will merely continue its pattern of delay, obfuscation and wordsmithing. The number of co-sponsors is up to 51, enough to pass the Senate by a majority; word of this latest Iranian gambit may persuade others to join. (The timing of a vote is still up in the air, although the delay has given pro-sanctions senators time to make their case and gain proof of Iran’s mendacity.) As Block put it, “Congress is not fooled. The American people are not fooled. Iran is playing us for the fool. Only more pressure backed by the credible threat of military force will bring Iran to recognize the costs of keeping their program outweigh any benefit.”
Third, the latest news is another blow to an administration already low on credibility. They had an “agreement,” but not really. And the document said Iran’s right to enrich would be the subject of mutual agreement in a final deal. Even this news reveals more spinning, as the State Department briefing yesterday revealed:
QUESTION: Do you have anything to say to the senators that haven’t committed yet, given the fact that – actually this morning, it’s now 51, so the bill could pass?MS. PSAKI: Well, our position on this hasn’t changed. It’s the argument that the Secretary – that Under Secretary Sherman and many Administration officials have been making to Congress, which is that new sanctions in any capacity would undermine the prospects for a successful comprehensive nuclear agreement with Iran. We continue to strongly oppose any action taken by members of Congress which we feel is unnecessary and directly contradicts the Administration’s work to resolve the concerns about the Iranian nuclear program peacefully.And the other piece of this that’s very important is the Secretary, the President of the United States, were two of the strongest advocates for sanctions and the effectiveness of sanctions. That’s one of the major reasons why we’re here. And if we got to a point where we needed to put new sanctions in place, they would be leading the charge, and I don’t think anyone thinks there would be a challenge in passing sanctions.So the question is: Why risk this important pivotal stage we’re at by putting new legislation in place?QUESTION: Right, and the Iranian point of view on this is that enacting new legislation is a violation of the Joint Plan of Action. Is that – does the Administration have the same perspective that enacting new legislation is the same as imposing? And I cite that the Joint Action Plan says the U.S. Administration, acting consistent with the respective roles of the President and the Congress, will refrain from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions. It doesn’t say “enacting.” It says “imposing.” Are those the same?MS. PSAKI: As I understand it, putting new legislation in place would be – would violate it. Obviously, if the President were to veto it, then it’s not being put in place. So — . . .QUESTION: On the answer to the penultimate question, is that supposed to mean that you – that the Administration believes that giving the President authority to impose new sanctions is the same as imposing sanctions?MS. PSAKI: No, I was saying the opposite of that; that obviously, if sanctions legislation is not put in place. Putting new sanctions legislation in place is the question.QUESTION: Yeah. But the —QUESTION: Jen —MS. PSAKI: And implementing it.QUESTION: No, but the legislation that’s being discussed doesn’t impose new sanctions; it gives the President authority to impose sanctions. Isn’t that correct? And your line of – by your line of reasoning, granting authority is the same as imposing them, and thus a violation under the agreement.MS. PSAKI: I did not mean to make that point. . . .
The administration’s evasion and refusal to carry through on its own stated policy (hike sanctions until Iran comes into compliance with United Nations resolutions) are depressingly obvious. This is why Congress needs to step forward and exercise leadership. If not, Iran will have gotten the bomb, relief from sanctions, encouragement for its hegemonic ambitions and a nuclear blackmail card. In fact, it’s most of the way there.