Deal? What Deal?

Amid debates over whether the Obama administration’s “framework” agreement with Iran is a good deal or a bad deal, an even more basic question keeps arising: is there any deal at all?

The agreement as announced by America’s State Department included a robust program of inspections. The New York Times, which greeted the framework enthusiastically as “a surprisingly specific and comprehensive understanding,” emphasized the importance of the inspections regime as described by John Kerry:

[President Obama] insisted that the deal “cuts off every pathway” for Iran to develop a nuclear weapon and establishes the most intrusive inspection system in history. “If Iran cheats,” he said, “the world will know it.”

… An American description of the deal also referred to inspections “anywhere in the country” that could “investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility.”

But it now appears clear that Iran has agreed to no such thing. Earlier today, a senior Iranian military commander insisted, in colorful language, that there will be no inspections of Iran’s military sites:

The prospects of [a final agreement] being met seemed to weaken further on Sunday after a senior commander of Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) ruled out allowing intrusive inspections of the country’s military sites – one of the putative deal’s main pillars.

“We will respond with hot lead to those who speak of it,” General Hossein Salami, the IRGC’s deputy leader, told state television. “It means humiliating a nation. They will not even be permitted to inspect the most normal military site in their dreams.”

A fact sheet issued by the US state department following the framework accord said Iran would be required to grant International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors access to “suspicious sites” – an assertion Tehran has disputed.

Without inspections of Iran’s military sites, any agreement, whatever else it might contain, would be meaningless.

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