Kerry’s absolute idiocy

The Obama administration’s rush to sell us out to Iran presents a spectacle of deception, prevarication, and idiocy the likes of which we have never seen. It is as though Henry Wallace had been given the keys to the kingdom upon the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945 instead of Harry Truman and made Alger Hiss Secretary of State instead of Dean Acheson.

Among the “parameters” of a final agreement set forth by the White House and supposedly agreed to by Iran is this one: “Iran will implement an agreed set of measures to address the IAEA’s concerns regarding the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of its program.” Sounds a little vague on a key measure that is necessary to provide a baseline against which future activities can be measured, but it was touted as a substantial requirement. In today’s news we have this development, summarized by Omri Ceren in an email this afternoon (including his footnotes):

Earlier today Secretary Kerry addressed the State Department press corps by teleconference. Here’s the quote, in response to a question from the NYT’s Michael Gordon on whether concerns over atomic work by Iran’s military would “need to be fully resolved before sanctions are eased or released or removed or suspended on Iran as part of that agreement.” The term of art for that work – which ranges from mines controlled by the IRGC to full-blown weaponization work – is “possible military dimensions” (PMDs):

Michael, the possible military dimensions, frankly, gets distorted a little bit in some of the discussion, in that we’re not fixated on Iran specifically accounting for what they did at one point in time or another. We know what they did. We have no doubt. We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in. What we’re concerned about is going forward. It’s critical to us to know that going forward, those activities have been stopped, and that we can account for that in a legitimate way. That clearly is one of the requirements in our judgment for what has to be achieved in order to have a legitimate agreement. And in order to have an agreement to trigger any kind of material significant sanctions relief, we would have to have those answers [1].

This is new. I don’t think the administration has ever tried to spin up reporters on the claim that the US “has absolute knowledge” of Iran’s military nuclear work. Certainly it’s never been a top message. But administration officials have no choice: the Associated Press confirmed last week that the P5+1 has collapsed on the demand that Iran come clean about its past atomic work, which would gut the verification regime that the White House has made the key criterion of any deal [2]. Without knowing what the Iranians did in the past there’s no way confirming they’ve stopped doing those things, which means there’s no way that Kerry’s other line about confirming that prohibited “activities have stopped” could ever be true. So the new argument is – as it sort of has to be – that Washington doesn’t need the Iranians to reveal anything because American officials already know everything.

Couple things to note about the claim:

(1) It’s false – Here is IAEA Director General Amano 3 months ago: “what we don’t know [is] whether they have undeclared activities or something else. We don’t know what they did in the past. So, we know a part of their activities, but we cannot tell we know all their activities. And that is why we cannot say that all the activities in Iran is in peaceful purposes” [3]. And here he is again a few weeks ago: “the Agency is not in a position to provide credible assurance about the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in Iran, and therefore to conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities” [4].

And here is a partial list of things the West doesn’t know about Iran’s past atomic work (the first few are from current and former IAEA inspectors): how far Iran got on testing nuclear detonators [5], whether Iran maintains the infrastructure to do further tests and build on that work [6], whether Iran diverted nuclear material, including enriched material, for past or future clandestine purposes [7], what nuclear assets and knowledge Iran acquired from North Korea and is keeping on the shelf [8], same about nuclear assets and knowledge acquired from Russia [9], how Iran skirted inspectors in the past and whether they could repeat those tricks in the future [10], what the Iranians managed to destroy when it literally paved over the Parchin site where it did nuclear work [11].

(2) It’s a collapse the administration’s core promise to lawmakers on any deal – Every time the administration needed to defend negotiations they asked Congress and the public for breathing room by promising they’d force the Iranians to meet their PMD obligations. Lead negotiator Wendy Sherman sold the interim JPOA to Congress in December 2013 by telling Senate Banking that under the interim agreement Iran had agreed to “address past and present practices, which is the IAEA terminology for possible military dimensions” and that “we intend to support the IAEA in its efforts to deal with possible military dimensions” [12]. A few months later she told SFRC that “in the Joint Plan of Action we have required that Iran come clean” [13]. The same month she told AIPAC attendees to “create space” for talks because “the possible military dimensions of the Iranian nuclear program will have to be addressed” [14]. Kerry told PBS in April, in the immediate aftermath of Lausanne, that on PMDs the Iranians will “have to do it. It will be done” [15].

The administration told Congress to hold off pressuring Iran by declaring they were going to bring home a deal in which the Iranians capitulated on PMDs. They failed. Now they’re claiming it never mattered anyway.