The Obama administration previously excused evidence of Iran cheating on the Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) as merely a mistake by a low-level employee. Yesterday we learned: “Britain has informed a United Nations sanctions panel of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network linked to two blacklisted firms, according to a confidential report by the panel seen by Reuters. The existence of such a network could add to Western concerns over whether Tehran can be trusted to adhere to a nuclear deal due by June 30 in which it would agree to restrict sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief.” The report continued:
The UK government informed the Panel on 20 April 2015 that it “is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network which has been associated with Iran’s Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) and Kalay Electric Company (KEC),” the Panel of Experts said in its annual report. The panel monitors Iran’s compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime. KEC is under U.N. Security Council sanctions while TESA is under U.S. and European Union sanctions due to their suspected links to banned Iranian nuclear activities. Iran, which is has been under sanctions for years, has a long history of illicit nuclear procurement using front companies and other methods of skirting sanctions. That has enabled it to develop a substantial atomic program in spite of aggressive international efforts to curtail it, U.N. diplomats say. But analysts and Western intelligence officials say sanctions have slowed the development of Tehran’s nuclear program.
In other words, Iran is still cheating and the administration has remained mum.
A State Department spokeswoman fenced with reporters and tried to brush it off as no big deal. She did not dispute the report but instead suggested that all was well since this was not a violation of the JPOA. But wait. Those U.N. resolutions have not yet been repealed. Ah, as with immigration Obama, I suppose, is using “discretion” not to enforce them. It is a frightful reminder what a canard “snapback” sanctions are. This administration is loath to ever admit that Iran is cheating. No one seriously believes that it would call foul and insist sanctions be reapplied (even if that were possible).
You would think that the gravity of the deal unfolding, the utter contempt with which Iran views the Obama administration and the administration’s total lack of spine would force the Senate to get serious. But you would be wrong. Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) figured out a procedural maneuver to force a vote on amendment to make a deal contingent on recognition of Israel. It is obvious that Iran would never agree, and such a demand has never been included in any U.N. or U.S. sanctions provision or resolution. It’s a classic “poison pill” that will provoke a veto and wreck Corker-Menendez.
Cotton and Rubio seem to believe a congressional vote of disapproval would be vetoed and sustain an override vote, therefore giving Obama “cover,” and the deal would be legitimized. Huh? A broad-based vote of disapproval is in essence a vote to repudiate the president’s lark, which is precisely why the administration threw a fit when the bill moved forward. Without it, Congress does not go on record with a bipartisan vote of disapproval, a critical step in de-legitimizing an awful act of appeasement. Without Corker-Menendez, Congress is not entitled to get the entire deal and Obama could lift sanctions immediately, depriving anti-appeasement forces of time to make their case before Obama presents the deal as a fait accompli. Some voices on the right who misread the current situation in which Congress finds itself (powerless) have egged Cotton and Rubio on. In the case of Rubio, one is reminded of his ill-fated participation in the shutdown, another brainstorm from many of the same voices who now cheer him on. As brilliant and inspirational as these two senators can be, it pains me to say, they at times severely lack judgment. For some, the Senate can become a refuge from reality in which cleverness masquerades as wisdom and guerrilla tactics substitute for strategy.
In all likelihood, Corker and Senate leadership will find a way to move forward, but this is one more reminder that some GOP senators still act as though they are in the minority, free to break the china and ambush colleagues. The perfect is the enemy of the good, and they cannot comprehend how they appear to the public at large. The Senate and House, however, have to govern, and part of that requires creative thinking to hem in the president and devise ways to either prevent a deal or rally the country in opposition. In the absence of any other plan to regain congressional authority, the senators’ conduct yesterday was downright irresponsible.
UPDATE: And things get worse. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew today with a straight face tells the Washington Institute that Iran won’t use the sanctions relief for terrorism, but for schools, roads and such. They can’t imagine the public doesn’t find that shockingly dumb. And in the Senate, Rubio’s latest poison pill would bind a final deal to the fact sheet, which he acknowledges he opposes. So his own party would vote it down, and he’d be stuck with authorship of a position he knows to be dangerous. Really, senator?