Yesterday Bloomberg News broke news of the UN report concluding that the United States and other countries with knowledge fail to report Iran’s sanctions violations. The Bloomberg News story is here.
Bloomberg News reports: “United Nations monitors said governments reported no new incidents of Iran violating Security Council sanctions against its nuclear program, even though some have unfolded in plain sight.” The story provides an example from the UN report: “No country reported that General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the elite Quds force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, violated a UN-mandated travel ban despite ‘a number of media reports with photographs and videos’ showing him in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, ‘reportedly organizing and training militia and regular forces in those countries.'” Bloomberg News adds: “The report included examples of such photos.”
Omri Ceren writes to follow up with these notes:
First the key quote, courtesy of Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, then context and background below. “The Obama administration has bent over backwards to try and whitewash Iranian violations”:
The report provides fresh ammunition for critics, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and members of both parties in the U.S. Congress who say that President Barack Obama and America’s allies are too eager for a deal with Iran. The Islamic Republic, they say, is likely to cheat on any nuclear accord reached in negotiations that face a self-imposed June 30 deadline. “This is a clear political decision not to publicize these examples of sanctions evasion in order to ensure that public reporting on this doesn’t in any way jeopardize the talks or harden congressional resolve,” Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, who has advised Congress on expanding sanctions, said in an interview. “The Obama administration has bent over backwards to try and whitewash Iranian violations both on the nuclear side and also on the sanction-busting side.”
Louis Charbonneau from Reuters had already reported on a leaked version of this UN report last April (!), including the line about politicizing intelligence: “The current situation with reporting could reflect a general reduction of procurement activities by the Iranian side or a political decision by some member states to refrain from reporting to avoid any possible negative impact on ongoing negotiations between … Iran and (major powers).” The UN panel knew that the Iranians were engaging in ongoing nuclear work, because it was getting intelligence from a stream of channels, and it knew that the major powers had for some reason stopped providing updates on those violations. So it drew the obvious conclusion.
The Reuters story isn’t the only one. Since April there have been a raft of stories suggesting that the US and its allies are downplaying Iranian mischief across the region – including mischief related to the delivery of nuclear weapons – so as not to blow up negotiations. The whole thing would have the feel of a conspiracy theory – lack of evidence being treated as evidence – except there are specific stories on the specific reports and violations being withheld. The just-published UN report is probably the most blunt – it’s an all but explicit accusation that the Obama administration and others are downplaying Iranian violations – but it’s nowhere near the only example:
Gertz / WFB — Pentagon: Iran Continuing Work on Nuclear Systems — A Pentagon report obtained by the WFB describes how Iran “continues to develop technological capabilities that also could be applicable to nuclear weapons, including ballistic missile development.” The report was due to Congress last January but had been withheld until last week, a move that the WFB said “appeared designed to avoid upsetting Tehran and the nuclear talks.” (June 3, http://freebeacon.com/national-security/pentagon-iran-continuing-work-on-nuclear-systems/)
Shalabi and Duff / WINEP — Changing Iran Trends in the Worldwide Threat Assessment — The past two editions of the annual intelligence report show a marked shift away from discussing Iran’s hegemonic regional ambitions and terrorism sponsorship. (April 14, http://www.washingtoninstitute.org/policy-analysis/view/changing-iran-trends-in-the-worldwide-threat-assessment)
Mukasey and Carroll / WSJ — The CIA Needs an Iran ‘Team B’ — John Brennan has put the spy agency in an impossible position regarding analysis of Iran’s nuclear program. (April 14, http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-cia-needs-an-iran-team-b-1429052586)
Gertz / WFB — North Korea Transfers Missile Goods to Iran During Nuclear Talks — Intelligence suppressed by Obama administration. (April 15, http://freebeacon.com/national-security/north-korea-transfers-missile-goods-to-iran-during-nuclear-talks)
The obvious point from the skeptics’ camp: if the West is willing to look the other way on Iranian activity while they’re trying to seal a deal, they’ll be even more inclined to ignore Tehran’s destabilizing and sanctions-busting activities after a deal, when everyone’s credibility is on the line. Judging by the reports that have already been withheld, looking the other way means tolerating Iran’s march across the Middle East and any nuclear-related work it’s doing that’s not covered by the final deal.