A signing bonus for Iran?

One gets the impression that President Obama would be open to throwing in a couple of nuclear devices of the Supreme Leader’s choice to be named later if only Iran will sign a nuclear agreement with him on the dotted line. Consider Omri Ceren’s latest email update:

This Wall Street Journal article by Carol Lee and Jay Solomon went live yesterday [evening] just as everyone was going home, but it’s everywhere this morning so I wanted to pass it along. It reports out the President’s comments from yesterday [discussed here], in which he moved to placate Khamenei’s new demand for immediate sanctions relief upon signing a deal.

The White House is trying to spin the new concession, which contradicts the factsheet they distributed the evening of the Lausanne announcement, in two ways.

1st — they’re telling journalists that the new concession doesn’t matter because the snapback mechanism is more important than the sequencing of sanctions relief. That’s a difficult position to defend politically, because it’s obvious the White House caved again, and even more difficult to defend substantively, because snapback only works in theory if the Iranian economy is sufficiently fragile for pressure to matter – and immediate relief would stabilize that economy. Beyond the optics and the theory, very few people believe the administration’s Rube Goldberg mechanism for restoring sanctions would even work (FDD’s Mark Dubowitz has been saying so for months – http://www.foreignpolicyi.org/content/hill-briefing-wrap-iran-p51-and-congress – and David Rothkopf was brutal on the question last week – https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/04/09/hillary-clinton-is-the-real-iran-snap-back-obama-china-russia-sanctions/). It’s just not a great position to defend.

But this is what the administration has left, so this is what they’re going with. You’ll see more of it – ‘snapback more important than sanctions’ – over the weekend and into Monday as White House officials do damage control.

2nd — they’re trying to borderline-gaslight journalists by insisting that there was no new concession, that the President didn’t signal any new flexibility, and that sanctions relief will still be phased out. That line is falling a bit flat – Obama said what he said – but now the question is how they intend to square the circle. How do they make sanctions relief phased in principle, so they can keep saying they didn’t cave, but instantaneous in practice, so that the Iranians will take the concession? On that point there’s a suggestive little scooplet buried in the WSJ article:

“The Obama administration estimates Iran has between $100 billion and $140 billion of its oil revenue frozen in offshore accounts as a result of sanctions. U.S. officials said they expect Tehran to gain access to these funds in phases as part of a final deal. Iran could receive somewhere between $30 billion and $50 billion upon signing the agreement, said congressional officials briefed by the administration. Complicating negotiations, U.S.-ally Saudi Arabia has repeatedly charged in recent weeks that Iran has provided significant funding, arms and training to Shiite insurgents in Yemen who gained control of the country’s capital, San’a, and forced the country’s president to flee. Iran has denied these allegations. Iran also is a major supporter of the Lebanese militia Hezbollah, the Assad regime in Syria and a group of Shiite militias fighting in Iraq.”

An immediate and irreversible infusion of $50 billion would boost Iran’s GDP by more than 10% overnight and signal the end of meaningful financial pressure. But it would also allow the White House to continue insisting that sanctions relief was being phased out in principle: all the sanctions that matter would get removed immediately, but there would still be a few sanctions left as a legal matter.

The trick could still prove politically toxic on the Hill. It would provide the Iranians with an infusion of $50 billion for their terror infrastructure and their march across the Middle East, which would panic our Arab allies. who are at war with Iran because of those campaigns. It’s also $50 billion to a regime that is dedicated to America’s destruction and that killed over a thousand American soldiers. That spins itself.

Omri seeks to maintain our fighting spirit and keep hope alive as Obama seeks to sell us out, but the Democrats will fall into line with Obama as necessary to support the consummation he devoutly wishes with the Supreme Leader. Otherwise, you know, war. War is coming too, but it will arrive down the road, under circumstances less advantageous to us than those that prevail now.

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