Even for those who support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in principle, President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry’s post-JCPOA serial concessions and excuse-making for the sake of “preserving” the deal have been troubling. First, Congress discovered delivery of cold hard cash as ransom for Americans held in Iran. Then came Kerry’s efforts to open up the U.S. banking system so that Iran could get the “benefit” of the deal. Kerry followed up by acting as Tehran’s chamber of commerce, trying to cajole businesses to set up in Iran. Coupled with the lack of response to Iran’s illegal missile tests, continued support for terrorism, actions to abet genocide in Syria and putrid human rights record, the administration’s behavior surely has given both Iran and our Sunni allies the impression that Iran is in the driver’s seat.
On Monday, we saw just how lopsided the U.S.-Iran relationship has become. “The 2015 nuclear deal obligated Iran to keep no more than 130 metric tons of heavy water, a material used in the production of weapons-grade plutonium,” explains Iran analyst Omri Ceren. “But the Iranians have continued to produce heavy water, and they exceeded the cap in February and November. The violations [are] functionally blackmailing the Obama administration: Either someone would purchase the excess heavy water, allowing Iran to literally profit from violating the deal, or the Iranians would go into formal noncompliance, endangering the deal.”
So now the Associated Press has reported:
Iran is to receive a huge shipment of natural uranium from Russia to compensate it for exporting tons of reactor coolant, diplomats say, in a move approved by the outgoing U.S. administration and other governments seeking to keep Tehran committed to a landmark nuclear pact.
Two senior diplomats said the transfer recently approved by the U.S. and five other world powers that negotiated the nuclear deal with Iran foresees delivery of 116 metric tons (nearly 130 tons) of natural uranium.
Rather than police the deal to ensure compliance, the Obama administration is assisting Iran in violating the JCPOA. Ceren remarks, “That’s enough for more than 10 nuclear bombs.” We both allow the Iranians to exceed the heavy-water limits in the deal — and then richly compensate them with uranium that can be used for bombs. Our allies would be excused for thinking we are now promoting Iran’s interests, not the West’s.
In a rare on-the-record comment, Marshall Whitman, a spokesman for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, told Right Turn, “There is absolutely no justification to provide further benefits to the Iranian regime as it fails to comply with the nuclear agreement. Instead, it should be pressured to stop its malign behavior and live up to its commitments.” That was supposed to be the policy of this administration.
Also on Monday, Reuters reported, “Iranian lawmakers approved plans on Monday to expand military spending to five percent of the budget, including developing the country’s long-range missile program which U.S. President-elect Donald Trump has pledged to halt. The vote is a boost to Iran’s military establishment –– the regular army, the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and defense ministry — which was allocated almost 2 percent of the 2015-16 budget.” This, of course, refutes the notion peddled by Iran and echoed by the administration that the deal would empower “moderates” and without the deal “hard-liners” would get the upper hand. It seems that the deal has empowered the hard-liners (the IRGC), just as critics of the deal anticipated. The report noted:
[Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali] Khamenei supported last year’s nuclear deal with world powers that curbed Iran’s nuclear program in return for lifting of international sanctions. However, he has since called for Iran to avoid further rapprochement with the West, and maintain its military strength.
Iran has test-fired several ballistic missiles since the nuclear deal and the U.S. Treasury has imposed new sanctions on entities and individuals linked to the program.
Former U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said last year that the missile launches were “not consistent with the constructive spirit” of the nuclear deal, but did not say whether they actually violated the U.N. resolution.
And if that were not enough, the secretary general has concluded that “Iran may have violated an arms embargo by supplying weapons and missiles to Lebanese Shi’ite group Hezbollah, according to a confidential report, seen by Reuters on Sunday. The second bi-annual report, due to be discussed by the 15-member council on Jan. 18, also cites an accusation by France that an arms shipment seized in the northern Indian Ocean in March was from Iran and likely bound for Somalia or Yemen.” Once again, the administration has been mute when it comes to Iran’s blatant disregard of international obligations.
And with all of this, Kerry made his final U.N. push not to get tough on Iran, but to pummel Israel for housing construction. From all appearances, Obama does seem to have made every effort to shift to a policy of one-sided detente (i.e. appeasement policy) with Iran and of open hostility toward our closest ally in the region.
The Trump team has made clear that it intends to take a different approach to Iran. While “ripping up the deal on Day One” does not seem to be in the cards, Iran’s recent behavior and the Obama team’s acquiescence have helped unify Congress, which passed an extension of the existing sanctions laws. Trump will enjoy the opportunity to work with Congress on a bipartisan basis and with our allies to reverse the Obama concessions, begin to enforce the deal and ratchet up pressure on Iran for its non-nuclear conduct. The one hitch: Trump will soon realize that Russia is Iran’s most important ally and will almost surely oppose a return to sanctions. Trump must choose between getting tough on Iran and continuing to lavish praise on Vladimir Putin. The most recent concession handed over by the Obama team may be the last one Tehran sees in a very long time — and the last straw for Democrats who have been obliged to support a Democratic president’s flawed policy.