Yesterday morning the Israel Project’s Omri Ceren wrote us to point out Colum Lynch’s Foreign Policy scoop: The Iranians got caught trying to buy parts for their plutonium-producing reactor at Arak. “Remember that when the Iranians cheat,” Omri wrote, “they have two goals in mind.” He elaborated:
(1) Most obviously, cheating advances their nuclear program.
(2) More subtly, cheating shifts the leverage in negotiations to the Iranian side.
#1 is the most straightforward angle, but #2 is the one that will drive the political debate when Congress gets back into town. Lawmakers were already convinced there’s an imbalance of leverage in negotiations, because the P5+1 hasn’t been able to secure a deal with Iran. Either the Iranians have too much of it, or the West has too little, or both. So Congress was already looking give the good guys a boost via new sanctions legislation.
Cheating supercharges those concerns. When the Iranians cheat to advance their nuclear program it increases their leverage in negotiations by giv[ing] them more to trade away.
This isn’t the first time they’ve been caught cheating on their nuclear program either. This time it was for their plutonium track but they’ve also cheated to advance their uranium program at least twice before: once when they tested their IR-8 centrifuges and then again when they fed uranium gas into their IR-5 centrifuges. Links here and here on each of those tries.
Omri followed up in a subsequent message:
Thought this might help with context…
When the Obama administration halted Congress’s push for new sanctions, they swore up and down that if the Iranians cheated they would personally race back to the Hill to help craft new legislation. They promised to “lead the charge” and “be the first ones.” They said it would happen “very quickly” and “in a day, on a dime” (that last line was from President Obama).
Some of the examples:
Psaki (Nov 2013): if Iran cheats “we’d move to – we’d support moving to additional sanctions. We’d be leading the charge.”
Kerry (Dec 2013): if Iran cheats “we will be the first ones to come to you if this fails to ask you for additional sanctions.”
Carney (Dec 2013): if Iran cheats “we are very confident that we can work with Congress to very quickly pass new, effective sanctions against Iran.”
President Obama (Dec 2013): “Congress would be more than happy to pass more sanctions legislation. We can do that in a – in a day, on a dime”
Sherman (Dec 2013): if Iran cheats “we would be prepared to work with Congress to ramp up sanctions.”
Sherman (Feb 2014): if Iran cheats “we have made it clear to Iran… we would ask the Congress to ramp up new sanctions”
Applying Occam’s razor to this matter, I continue to infer that the Obama administration performs public relations on behalf of Iran as it seeks to facilitate Iran’s development of nuclear weapons.
Lynch followed up with a report on the Obama administration’s reaction to his scoop (written with John Hudson) here. You can check out The Israel Project here. Ed Morrissey wrote about the Foreign Policy scoop at Hot Air yesterday here.
UPDATE: Jonathan Tobin comments “Iran cheating debunks Biden, Kerry boasts.”