Our Supreme Leader to cave creatively to theirs

Omri Ceren has sent out two messages today on developments related to the arrangement in process with Iran. They will come as a surprise to no one. In the first, Omri expanded on the Reuters story reporting “No breakthrough between Iran and UN nuclear watchdog” on the nondisclosure of past nuclear work conducted by Iran’s military. For those keeping score at home, the second of the two messages provides this preview of the fiasco to come complete with a nausea inducing quote from Obama to make a point:

Last week’s speech by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei laid down two new red lines. First, he said that there would be no inspections of atomic work on military sites, let alone the snap inspections that the IAEA has long insisted were necessary. Second, he said that sanctions relief would have to be immediate. Both of these contradicted the framework agreement, as described by the factsheet that the administration presented to lawmakers and the public.

Regarding inspections, the factsheet had stated “Iran will be required 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.” It has to be that way so inspectors can baseline what the Iranians are doing and make sure they’ve stopped. Regarding phased sanctions relief, the factsheet had stated “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.” It has to be that way to keep the Iranians honest, since they’d have no incentive to uphold the deal if the sanctions regime was torn down all at once.

Khamenei’s speech created a firestorm of criticism. If his interpretation was correct, the US would have no ability, first, to detect, and second, to respond, to Iranian cheating.

The administration responded by telling lawmakers and journalists that the factsheet was accurate and that Khamenei’s speech was just for domestic consumption. Critics responded that the issue wasn’t about who was lying. Instead the concern was that the Americans would fail to stand up to the Iranians, even at the expense of contradicting the White House’s original (maybe originally accurate) factsheet. The Iranians, after all, have 100% record of ‘winning’ factsheet disputes with the Obama administration.

The critics appear to have been justified in their concerns. The administration appears to be conceding to the new demands.

On inspections, [White House national security adviser Ben] Rhodes started floating language last week indicating that the White House was preparing to cave. See my last email for his exact quote from Panama [“there will have to be the ability for the IAEA to conduct inspections that are consistent with what is in framework… if the United States and other countries, again, present information and seek access through the IAEA to those sites”], but it now appears that the administration will accept some kind of mechanism that falls far short of the “anytime, anywhere” inspections that had long been touted. Instead inspectors will have to make a request to Iran, then the Iranians will get to evaluate it, and then they’ll decide whether or not to grant access. If they ever do grant access to any military site – which they’re currently refusing to do, even while under sanctions – enough time will have passed for them to have moved or destroyed any evidence.

On immediate sanctions relief, President Obama was just asked point blank whether he would rule out lifting Iran sanctions at time of nuclear deal. The President pointedly refused, instead talking about “creative negotiations”:

“With respect to the issue of sanctions coming down – I don’t want to get out ahead of John Kerry and my negotiators in terms [of] how to craft this. I would just make a general observation and that is that how sanctions are lessened, how we snap back sanctions if there’s a violation – there are a lot of different mechanisms and ways to do that. Part of John’s job and part of the Iranian negotiators’ job and part of the P5+1’s job is to sometimes find formulas that get to our main concerns while allowing the other side to make a presentation to their body politic that is more acceptable. Our 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. And I think that goal, of having, in reserve, the possibility of putting back and applying forceful sanctions, in the event of a violation, that goal can be met. And it will require some creative negotiations by John Kerry and others, and I’m confident that we’ll be successful.”

For the last quote, Omri links to this video (timestamp 6:03).