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Menendez won’t accept Kerry’s concessions on Iran

As we noted yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry’s remarks concerning more concessions to Iran in the nuclear talks lit a fire under critics whose anxiety level increases with each utterance. I just got a chance to watch the CSPAN coverage of Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), who took to the floor Wednesday afternoon to share his concerns.

He declared:

Secretary of State Kerry said — in response to a question about whether or not Iran’s atomic work by the military . . . would have to be resolved before sanctions would be lifted — the secretary said that we’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point or another.
What we’re concerned about is going forward.
Well, Mr. President, given Iran’s history of deception, I am very concerned about what they did at “one point or another.”

Citing the work of sanctions experts, he blasted the administration’s unfounded confidence:

The deputy director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Olli Heinonen, has said: “Without addressing those questions of the possible military dimensions of Iran’s program, the IAEA secretariat will not be able to come to a conclusion that all nuclear material in Iran is for peaceful use, which is essential in building confidence of the international community over Iran’s nuclear program. A comprehensive deal — that would include uranium enrichment — can only be reached if uncertainties over Iran’s military capability are credibly addressed. That should be an unambiguous condition to achieving a final accord that is meaningful in safeguard terms.” . . . He also warned that outsiders really can have no idea where and how fast the mullahs could build a nuclear weapon unless they know what Iranian engineers have done in the past.

In some of his most emphatic language to date, Menendez stated, “I’m concerned — very concerned — when the secretary of state says we are prepared to ease sanctions on Iran without fully understanding how far Iran progressed on its secret nuclear weapons program. . . . It has been a fundamental question to which we need — not just want — a full and verifiable answer . . . and that has been the case as long as I’ve been working to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear-weapons state.” He noted that Kerry was now saying PMDs only had to be “addressed.” He continued, “That . . . is simply unacceptable, in my view — and it should be unacceptable to everyone in this chamber.”

Unacceptable in Menendez’s nomenclature does not mean — as when President Obama says a nuclear Iran would be “unacceptable” — this is merely a development to be regretted. He is saying, if I heard him correctly, that without a satisfactory resolution on this and other issues, the deal would not be acceptable, i.e., it should get voted down. Departing from his prepared remarks, he also noted that he has been “increasingly concerned about the moving of goal posts” all in Iran’s favor. Once the administration said of the Arak heavy water facility, “They will dismantle it or we will destroy it.” Now they get to keep it. He quoted the president as saying Fordow was unnecessary if the Iranian program was peaceful. Now they are getting to keep it. All of this leads Menendez — and many other critics of the serial concessions — to ask: If after a decade of pressure and sanctions, Iran has not come clean on PMDs or dismantled its program or allowed anywhere/anytime inspections, why in the world would the regime do so after we lift sanctions? I wonder what the former secretary of state has to say. Given the clarity and frequency with which Menendez speaks, maybe he should be running for president rather than her.