Commentary Magazine


Topic: U.S. State Department

U.S. Seeks Post-Deal “Parameters,” Not Pre-Deal Answers from Iran

Friday afternoon — for the third day in a row — the press sought a straight answer from the State Department on Iran’s obligation to answer the longstanding questions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). UN Security Council Resolution 1929 (June 9, 2010) requires Iran to “cooperate fully with the IAEA on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions [PMDs] of the Iranian nuclear program,” and to provide “access without delay to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested by the IAEA” (emphasis added). Iran has provided virtually no answers to the IAEA, which reported recently that it “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.” Here is part of the Friday exchange at the State Department:

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Friday afternoon — for the third day in a row — the press sought a straight answer from the State Department on Iran’s obligation to answer the longstanding questions of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). UN Security Council Resolution 1929 (June 9, 2010) requires Iran to “cooperate fully with the IAEA on all outstanding issues, particularly those which give rise to concerns about the possible military dimensions [PMDs] of the Iranian nuclear program,” and to provide “access without delay to all sites, equipment, persons and documents requested by the IAEA” (emphasis added). Iran has provided virtually no answers to the IAEA, which reported recently that it “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.” Here is part of the Friday exchange at the State Department:

QUESTION: In your briefing two days ago, you stated from the podium that Iran must give the IAEA the access that they need to resolve any possible military dimensions of their program. And I just want to confirm with you that it is the policy of the United States that Iran must resolve those questions, not just address them.

MR KIRBY: … [A]s part of any deal and before there can be a deal, it needs to be determined … that the IAEA will have the access that they need to resolve their concerns about the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program, past and present.

QUESTION: … so they will get the access before the deal is signed?

MR KIRBY: I didn’t say that. I said that —

QUESTION: Aha.

MR KIRBY: I said that in order for there to be a deal, they have to have provided the parameters for the access that IAEA needs (emphasis added).

QUESTION: Right. You – but you realize the problem with that? Iran has made promises, many promises in the past, and not followed through or fulfilled them. So you’re saying that they don’t have to give the access before a deal is done; they just have to say they will give access (emphasis added).

MR KIRBY: Yeah.

So while there is a UN resolution obligating Iran to provide immediately whatever the IAEA requests, the administration will settle for post-deal “parameters” for “access,” rather than pre-deal compliance — much less a completed IAEA report on Iran’s undisclosed nuclear activities. On Friday, reporters sought to clarify what “parameters” for “access” meant, and got this:

QUESTION: Just to clarify the remarks you just made in response to Matt’s question, is it the case that when we have a final deal with Iran, if we reach one, it will contain the parameters for access, as you just stated? Or it will be – it will contain, that deal, the specific terms of access?

MR KIRBY: I’m certainly not going to talk about the issues that are still under negotiation … [T]he IAEA will need to have the access it needs to resolve the issues of possible military dimensions of Iran’s program. And without the parameters for that sort of access, there’s not going to be a deal….

QUESTION: But when you say “parameters of access,” what you’re essentially telling us is that as part of a final deal, those parameters could themselves be subject to further negotiation. And it’s always been understood here that the final deal will have the actual terms of a deal, not further parameters to be worked out, correct?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to get into the details that are being negotiated now….

The question of whether the specifics of “access” will be set forth in the Iran nuclear deal, or will only be general principles subject to further negotiation, is not exactly a “detail.” So the reporters tried a third time:

QUESTION: Can I do a follow-up? I’m a little confused … because, one, Iran is a member of the IAEA, so it should already be subject to the IAEA’s overview; two, those are already enshrined in UN Security Council resolutions. So why did you need 18 months or however many months of negotiations to merely say what they are already required to do and haven’t been doing all along?

MR KIRBY: I don’t – all I can tell you is what was agreed to in Lausanne … about the IAEA getting the access – being able to get the access it needs. And again, I’m just not going to go beyond that right now. There are still issues that are being negotiated in Europe …

QUESTION: Well, given that the PMD issue was supposed to be resolved in a deal, and now that it’s – that resolution process would continue past a deal if a deal is reached – does lack of access or lack of resolution require the breaking of the deal? Or would that be a deal-breaker even after a deal is already signed?

MR KIRBY: I’m not going to get into hypotheticals, Brad. I’m just not.

The latest IAEA report states that at Iran’s Parchin military site, the IAEA “has continued to observe, through satellite imagery, the presence of vehicles, equipment and probable construction materials,” and that “the activities that have taken place at this location since February 2012 are likely to have undermined the Agency’s ability to conduct effective verification.” In the years since UN Resolution 1929 was adopted, Iran has used the time well.

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If Iran Still Backs Terror, Why is the U.S. About to Lift Sanctions?

Yesterday, the State Department issued its annual report on international terrorism and the results are both alarming and unsurprising. Of particular interest is the section on state sponsors of terrorism. On the list as the worst offenders are Sudan, Syria and Iran. The details about Iranian state sponsored terrorism are particularly sobering. It backs terrorists who are aiding the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown in Syria as well as providing funding and arms for Hezbollah and Palestinian terror groups. Just as damning is the fact that State says Iran continues to refuse to bring senior al Qaeda figures to justice or to identify those in their custody. The report also restates the widely reported fact that Iran “continued to be in noncompliance with its international obligations regarding its nuclear program.” But unless the Obama administration grows a spine and changes its policies within weeks the United States will sign a nuclear deal with Tehran that will soon result in a vast windfall of cash falling into Iran’s hands. Yet nowhere in the nuclear framework agreement is there any promise, however lacking in credibility, that Iran will foreswear the same activities that the State Department just reported and which, by U.S. law, ought to mandate continued sanctions rather than an end to restrictions on doing business with the Islamist regime.

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Yesterday, the State Department issued its annual report on international terrorism and the results are both alarming and unsurprising. Of particular interest is the section on state sponsors of terrorism. On the list as the worst offenders are Sudan, Syria and Iran. The details about Iranian state sponsored terrorism are particularly sobering. It backs terrorists who are aiding the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown in Syria as well as providing funding and arms for Hezbollah and Palestinian terror groups. Just as damning is the fact that State says Iran continues to refuse to bring senior al Qaeda figures to justice or to identify those in their custody. The report also restates the widely reported fact that Iran “continued to be in noncompliance with its international obligations regarding its nuclear program.” But unless the Obama administration grows a spine and changes its policies within weeks the United States will sign a nuclear deal with Tehran that will soon result in a vast windfall of cash falling into Iran’s hands. Yet nowhere in the nuclear framework agreement is there any promise, however lacking in credibility, that Iran will foreswear the same activities that the State Department just reported and which, by U.S. law, ought to mandate continued sanctions rather than an end to restrictions on doing business with the Islamist regime.

The State Department report is quite clear on what the law demands from the government as to its policy toward state sponsors of terror:

A wide range of sanctions are imposed as a result of a State Sponsor of Terrorism designation, including:

  • A ban on arms-related exports and sales;
  • Controls over exports of dual-use items, requiring 30-day Congressional notification for goods or services that could significantly enhance the terrorist-list country’s military capability or ability to support terrorism;
  • Prohibitions on economic assistance; and

Imposition of miscellaneous financial and other restrictions.

It should be recalled that during the Congressional debate over the Corker-Cardin bill that the administration was adamant that any approval of the impending Iran deal should not be conditioned as Tehran ceasing its terrorist activities. We now see why. As the State Department reports makes clear, Iran has done nothing to step back from its role as world’s leading state sponsor of terror.

Iran’s role in Syria plays a key part of the report. Iran’s role in sending Hezbollah cadres into Syria has been widely reported and Tehran has even admitted that it has sent members of its own Revolutionary Guard Corps into Syria to act as advisors to those carrying out mass slaughter of civilians and dissidents. But just as interesting is the State Department’s assertion that Iran has equipped, trained and funded Iraqi and Afghan fighters who have been sent into that country to help suppress opposition to the Assad regime.

Iran is also a primary obstacle to peace between Israel and the Palestinians because of its funding and arms supplies funneled to terror groups such as Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Iran had previously been a primary supporter of Hamas but broke with the rulers of the independent Palestinian state in all but name in Gaza over differences on Syria. But now that Iran and Assad appear to be in no danger and short of money and arms after last summer’s war, Hamas appears to have come back into Tehran’s good graces. But even during their split, Iran was still doing its best to keep other radicals so as to ensure that Palestinian leaders are too afraid to make peace with Israel even if they wanted to do so.

But in spite of this activity reported by its own State Department, there is little doubt that the administration is bound and determined to go ahead and sign a nuclear deal with Iran. The agreement will almost certainly ensure that the Islamist regime will have all the cash it needs to keep funding terror and perhaps even up the ante with regard to groups threatening Israel or moderate Arab governments. Given Iran’s need for economic sanctions to be lifted, the U.S. ought to have plenty of leverage over the ayatollahs. But as with the nuclear negotiations, Western negotiators have simply acquiesced to Iran being allowed to carry on with its state sponsorship of terror in order to get them to sign a deal. Just as the U.S. has caved in on finding out about Iran’s military research, its right to enrich uranium, its possession of thousands of centrifuges and even putting a time limit on the deal, the administration has also ignored the issue of terrorism.

This raises interesting legal questions since Congress will be within its rights to demand to know how the U.S. can lift sanctions on Iran and thereby giving its economy an enormous shot in the arm while simultaneously branding it as a state sponsor of terrorism. The answer is that this administration has punted on its responsibility to act against Iranian-backed terror just as it has bailed on its duty to stop Tehran from getting Western approval for becoming a threshold nuclear power.

The administration has made concession after concession on nuclear issues but on terror, it hasn’t even tried to get Iran to “get right with the world” as President Obama hopes it will.

By itself, this report ought to stand as a damning indictment of the administration’s conduct during the nuclear talks. It also should be held as sufficient, even without the copious evidence that the nuclear deal is too weak to stop Iran from either cheating its way to a bomb or waiting patiently for the pact to expire before getting a weapon, as a reason for the proposed nuclear deal to be rejected by Congress.

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