Goodnight Vienna (4)

Omri Ceren writes to take note of the report by Reuters UN bureau chief Louis Charbonneau: US and Iran: The unbearable awkwardness of defending your enemy,” datelined Vienna. Even if Omri is unreasonably optimistic regarding the impact of reports such as Charbonneau’s and the others he notes below, Omri’s updates have helped us keep up with the mind-boggling surrender in process to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Omri writes:

In recent months the Iranians have violated the interim JPOA by busting through energy export caps, injecting uranium gas into advanced centrifuges, and falling short of the deal’s oxidation requirement. They’ve also violated United Nations Security Council resolutions by seeking to procure illicit nuclear infrastructure and refusing to cooperate with the IAEA.

In all of those cases the Obama administration played Iran’s lawyer, arguing either that the Iranians weren’t cheating or that the cheating didn’t matter. Reuters just published what basically amounts to a long-read on some of the examples:

[F]or a month now the U.S. State Department has been defending Iran from suggestions that it was on the verge of violating a requirement to reduce its low-enriched uranium stockpile under a 2013 interim nuclear with major powers… It was not the first time Washington has defended Iran. After the IAEA reported that Iran had begun feeding uranium into a single advanced centrifuge last year, which would be a violation of the 2013 deal, U.S. negotiators said it was apparently a mistake on Iran’s part… A U.N. panel of experts that monitors compliance with Security Council sanctions has repeatedly reported that Iran is suspected of buying equipment linked to the activities it is now negotiating to suspend. But in its annual report in April, the panel said it had received no formal notifications from U.N. member states of Iranian breaches of sanctions, and suggested this may be because countries were trying to avoid damaging nuclear talks.

The most recent cheating was the oxidation violation that was confirmed last week. The Iranians were obligated by the JPOA to turn all of their excess uranium gas (UF6) into dioxide powder (UO2). In the JPOA factsheet the requirement was broadly written as the Iranians having to create “oxide.” But there are different kinds of uranium oxide, and this is an area where you want precision, and so on an expert scientific level the requirement was defined more precisely as being about dioxide. Both of the annual Congressional Research Service reports about the JPOA – which were posted to – tersely noted that “Iran is also to, in effect, freeze its production of enriched uranium hexafluoride containing up to 5% uranium-235 by converting the material to uranium dioxide.”

But when the Iranians violated the requirement this past week, administration officials started telling reporters there’s a loophole because the JPOA factsheet only talks about “oxide.” There was a background briefing here in Vienna two days ago where a senior State Department official tried to convince reporters that the requirement was about just any form of oxide. A senior administration then jumped in and declared that the requirement was actually really clear. The irritating punchline is part of a broader rhetorical strategy they’ve been using for a couple of days, where the argument is that critics just haven’t read the JPOA or don’t understand it.

If you’re wondering why top journalists are publishing stories about the administration playing Iran’s lawyer, this is why.

Nobody serious pretends that the oxidation requirement was about any form of oxide. It was about converting UF6 to UO2. That’s how it was always understood and that’s what – until last week – the State Department promised the Iranians would do. But when the Iranians cheated the Obama administration went to work retroactively rewriting the deal on Iran’s behalf. Now the State Department is trying to convince reporters to forget about canonical CRS reports were posted here and here on the State Department’s own webpage.

In the last few days the AP published that the Obama administration’s coziness with Iran is the “new normal,” the WSJ revealed that the administration started secretly seeking reconciliation with Iran almost from day 1, and Reuters assessed that the Obama administration has become Iran’s lawyer. These aren’t neocon opinion pieces. They’re full-blown news articles from top diplomatic writers at some of the world’s leading outlets. The Obama administration will need to somehow overcome these suspicions if it’s going to convince Congress that the White House will enforce an Iran deal. Thus the record has been 100 percent the opposite.