Fig leaves falling

Certain impediments complicate Barack Obama’s selling of the arrangement with the Islamic Republic of Iran. Obama seeks to camouflage the arrangement as one that deters Iran from the acquisition of nuclear weapons. In reality, the arrangement will finance and expedite the mullahs’ acquisition of nuclear weapons.

John Kerry has issued ludicrous “guarantees” in connection with the arrangement. One such guarantee is categorical, but it’s not a money-back sort of a guarantee: “I say to every Israeli that today we have the ability to stop [the Iranians] if they decided to move quickly to a bomb and I absolutely guarantee that in the future we will have the ability to know what they are doing so that we can still stop them if they decided to move to a bomb.”

We may doubt the omniscience that is the predicate of Kerry’s guarantee. But this is strictly a limited warranty. Kerry doesn’t even “guarantee” that his boss would do anything about it if Iran were to break out. Kerry only guarantees that “we” could. Good to know. Kerry’s “guarantee” amounts to nothing more than meaningless verbiage two or three time over.

The arrangement will also provoke an equal and opposite reaction from the Sunni rivals of Iran such as Saudi Arabia. The Sunni rivals understand the nature of the arrangement in process. Their understanding accounts for Obama’s “lonely Arab summit.”

President Obama’s dubious fact-sheet setting forth Parameters for a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action reflects the fig leaves with which the president seeks to cover the nuts of the deal. Senator Rubio couldn’t get to first base in his proposal requiring any final deal to include the fig leaves. (Eli Lake dubbed it “Rubio’s new and improved poison pill.”)

The fig leaves are falling. The official Farsnews outlet reports that inspection of military sites is not included in the arrangement in process — this according to Iranian envoy to the IAEA Reza Najafi and despite the alleged parameter requiring Iran “to grant access to the IAEA to investigate suspicious sites or allegations of a covert enrichment facility, conversion facility, centrifuge production facility, or yellowcake production facility anywhere in the country.”

The alleged parameters regarding sanctions provide that Iran “will receive sanctions relief, if it verifiably abides by its commitments” and that “•U.S. and E.U. nuclear-related sanctions will be suspended after the IAEA has verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps. If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.”

We have already learned that President Obama intends to reward Iran with a huge “signing bonus” at the outset of the arrangement. He will agree to the removal of all United Nations sanction on Iran at the same time. He will also waive our own statutory sanctions on Iran. Just about the last fig leaf remaining on this element of the deal is the (utterly meaningless) assertion: “If at any time Iran fails to fulfill its commitments, these sanctions will snap back into place.”

Now Bloomberg News reports that this fig leaf is falling too: “Russia rejects automatic sanctions return if Iran cheats on deal.” Bloomberg quotes Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin bluntly asserting yesterday, “There can be no automaticity, none whatsoever” in reimposing UN sanctions if Iran violates the terms of an agreement to curb its nuclear program.

Omri Ceren writes to comment this morning (footnotes omitted):

The statement really shouldn’t count as breaking news, even though it is. Reuters reported toward the very end of Lausanne that the Russians and Chinese were still rejecting the multilateral snapback. But then the Lausanne announcement happened, and President Obama declared from the Rose Garden that in fact “if Iran violates the deal, sanctions can be snapped back into place.” But then a week later the Associated Press reported that, no, “Russia and China are unlikely to accept any process that sees them sacrifice their veto power.”

At the end of April the American Enterprise Institute quoted Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov saying the exact same thing that Churkin just told Bloomberg News: “in the hypothetical situation that Iran should fail to honour its commitments, then this process should not in any way be automatic.”

And yet the policy conversation has been proceeding as if multilateral snapback is actually a real thing that could happen in our reality.

Part of the reason is that snapback is all the Obama administration has left on the sanctions debate. White House officials had assured lawmakers for literally years that sanctions relief would be phased out only as Iran met a series of nuclear obligations. But after Lausanne, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei set a new red line, in which he demanded that the relief must be immediate. The administration began trying to find ways to concede to his demand without violating its previous “phase out” promises, which is how the WSJ’s scoop about a $50 billion signing bonus came to be.

That apparently didn’t work, and so instead the administration went all-in on snapback. At his press conference with Renzi in the middle of April the President signaled the that he was prepared to cave on upfront sanctions relief because – he told journalists – what was actually important was snapback: “with respect to the issue of sanctions coming down, I don’t want to get out ahead of John Kerry and my negotiators… [o]ur main concern here is making sure that if Iran doesn’t abide by its agreement that we don’t have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to reinstate sanctions. That’s our main concern.”

The arrangement’s alleged Iranian concession are, you might say, phony baloney all the way down.