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An IAEA Report and Obama’s Zeal for a Deal

The decision by the Obama administration to cut Israel out of the loop when it comes to information about the secret nuclear negotiations with Iran has once again put the feud between the president and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu back into the spotlight. The decision was based on White House allegations that the Israelis were distorting the facts about the generous U.S. offer to the Islamist regime. But a new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency about Iran’s refusal to allow inspectors to find out what’s really going on in their nuclear facilities puts this dispute in a very different light. With the Americans seeking to allow Iran the right to keep several thousand centrifuges and a nuclear stockpile, the stonewalling of the IAEA should cause observers to think carefully about the secrets the U.S. is keeping and whether they reflect the president’s zeal for a deal with Iran more than his past promises to stop them from gaining a nuclear weapon.

The IAEA reported yesterday that Iran was continuing to refuse to answer questions or allow inspections of sites that would reveal the extent of their military nuclear research. This is a crucial problem because without the UN body knowing what work Iran has done on nuclear weapons and designs, any accord based on incomplete Western intelligence or untrustworthy Iranian admissions would be meaningless. More to the point, if, as President Obama seems likely to do, the sanctions on Iran are lifted after a deal is signed, the gaps in Western knowledge of the Iranian program may allow the Islamist regime to simply proceed toward a weapon with facilities and research about which the U.S. is currently unaware.

As the New York Times notes:

The report said the agency “remains concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for a missile.”

Because Iran has not provided explanations for the agency’s questions about all nuclear-related work, the report said, “the agency is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.”

The problems with negotiating with Iran are well known.

On the one hand, their negotiating tactics have always revolved around delaying tactics that seek to draw out the talks in such a way that their Western interlocutors are enticed to make a series of concessions in the hope that the Iranians will finally agree. Running out the clock in this manner both sweetens a potential deal for them—as Obama’s shocking abandonment of his past principles illustrates—as well as allowing their program extra time in which to get closer to their nuclear goal.

These tactics have exploited President Obama’s open desire for détente with Iran. But in the absence of credible intelligence on their ability to “break out” to a bomb, Washington is negotiating in the dark.

The outline of a deal with Iran is already clear. As numerous reports have already established, the U.S. is prepared to allow Iran to keep most, if not all of its nuclear infrastructure in exchange for promises that it has no assurances will be kept. That will make Iran a threshold nuclear power even if it doesn’t violate the terms of the agreement. Once sanctions are lifted, it will be difficult, if not impossible to put them back in place. No matter how weak the deal or how unlikely Iran is to keep its word, President Obama will seize on it as a major foreign-policy achievement and not be inclined to question anything the Iranians do.

Thus, the Israeli alarm about this act of appeasement is more than justified. But even if you doubt Netanyahu’s judgment, the stonewalling of the IAEA should worry even the most ardent supporters of the president’s policy. Without firm knowledge of Iran’s capabilities and research—something that is unlikely to be obtained given the secretive nature of the regime and its extensive and widely dispersed nuclear facilities—U.S. guarantees about stopping Iran long before a bomb can be constructed seem like hollow promises. Put in this context, Netanyahu’s sniping about U.S. policy seems less like the pointless spat depicted in the U.S. press and more like reasonable complaints about a dangerous and secret initiative that deserve to be treated seriously.

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One Response to “An IAEA Report and Obama’s Zeal for a Deal”


    There is a twist…

    Daniel Pipes published a brief essay that though it provides some provocative support to your contention that Netanyahu made a tactical blunder in agreeing to address a joint session of Congress on matters Iranian (and bears on this article as well), may yet convince you, along with Caroline Glick’s piece from today, that pressure applied will be pressure rewarded, and that we have found the real kryptonite of our wayward President.

    It is Mr. Pipes’ contention that our President is on the hook to deliver the scuttling of the Kirk-Menendez bill because the Iranians’ have let it be known in their Majlis that all negotiations will cease if the bill passes. It will not be enough to complete a bad deal on favorable terms for Tehran, to cement whatever legacy Mr. Obama has pined for these many years if he is not able also to assure the Iranians they will not have sanctions dangling over them in the aftermath.

    This argument is credible, and, if true, would not only put pressure squarely on the Congress to deliver a veto-proof vote on the merits without Mr. Netanyahu’s intervention, but actually could strike a blow against a failed foreign policy by doing the damage that one could only hope for from the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech. (It was because of my eventual, total lack of faith in the ability of our politicians to muster the courage to vote for the sanctions, and the need of Israel to describe the real consequences of the imaginary détente with Tehran, that I originally switched from your view.)

    Here’s the interesting twist: What Mr. Obama’s entire tenure in office has been about in ‘efficacy’ is controlling the message. As Commentary’s Mr. Wehner noted today, the message of the moment is worse than tone-deaf regarding Islamic radicalism, dangerous in the extreme in the formation of military strategy, and near contemptibly laughable as it gets mouthed out the bagpipe horns of the administration’s spokespeople as raw, nonsensical noise. But it’s the President’s message and there is no backing down from even the most difficult-to-believe positions–a few folks in a deli in Paris, go figure–and with a complicit media, it drowns out everything else.

    Enter Caroline Glick. The Jerusalem Post editor pointed out that Obama is pulling out all the stops to prevent Netanyahu from speaking as invited because it is a direct confrontation to the President’s ability to control the demented message he aims to foist on us. He can corral Democrats who stray from the herd, he has the media in tow, making Teflon appear rough by comparison, and all momentum follows his choices as the wrecking ball is sent smashing through immigration laws, the mock battle against ISIS, denying Iran nuclear weapons, the maintenance of relations with allies, the filters we had against Muslim Brotherhood doctrine penetrating our government, the removal of cover for Islamic radicalism everywhere… we barely scratch the surface of the pieces of governance and social bonds laid waste by his actions.

    Apparently, if there’s even a small chance the message of another might break through, that is enough for an emperor’s tizzy; a snitstorm(sic) for his crew to muffle out and delegitimize.

    Commentary, National Review, Frontpage, PJMedia, Washington Freebeacon, Secure Freedom Radio… these, and like-minded orgs, are the places where the grit of what’s being done by the current Administration is exposed every day, but it is certainly a minority activity… carried out by a few brave souls and read by… not as many as should be reading these sources. It’s possible our President can deal with the pushback, even Commentary grade pushback, when it’s intellectual and not that loud.

    Put someone out there with strong moral authority to disagree, someone not in the fold, who can rouse a crowd, is non-partisan and full of facts about a different message… then, well, one can induce a king-sized temper tantrum in our President at that point.

    Sounds like something worth doing. It doesn’t have to be a Netanyahu, but he’ll do.

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