Spirit of the JCPOA

What is the “spirit” of the weirdly unsigned Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran? The JCPOA obligates the parties to protect Iran’s nuclear program, arranges for its financing, and sets it on a path to fruition at a time of Iran’s choosing. Given that the Islamic Republic of Iran is an avowed enemy of the United States, I think the deal reeks of malice and delusion. Yet President Obama hold it out as the harbinger of a rosy future.

Thus Obama expresses disappointment in the mullahs’ actions of late. He finds the actions inconsistent with the spirit of the deal, as in his press conference this past Friday: “Iran so far has followed the letter of the agreement, but the spirit of the agreement involves Iran also sending signals to the world community and business that it is not going to be engaging in a range of provocative actions that might scare business off. When they launch ballistic missiles, with slogans calling for the destruction of Israel, that makes businesses nervous. There is some geopolitical risk that is heightened when they see that taking place. If Iran continues to ship missiles to Hezbollah, that gets businesses nervous. And so part of what I hope happens is we have a responsibility to provide clarity about the rules that govern so that Iran can, in fact benefit, the Iranian people can benefit from an improved economic situation.” Obama professes to find this inconsistent with “the spirit of the agreement.”

Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew has also invoked the “spirit” of the agreement. Lew seeks to facilitate the mullahs’ desire to access the dollar and/or the financial system despite sanctions to the contrary. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei last month accused his friends in Washington of “using roundabout paths to prevent the Islamic Republic from achieving its targets,” adding that “banking transactions come up against problems.” The Wall Street Journal explains in a related editorial: “The White House got the message. On Wednesday Mr. Lew gave a speech in Washington insisting that ‘since Iran has kept its end of the [nuclear] deal, it is our responsibility to uphold ours, in both letter and spirit.’” As always, the “spirit” is willing in the Obama administration even if the mullahs aren’t reciprocating.

The Reuters article on the recently unsealed indictments of seven Iranians for hack attacks on United States financial institutions and infrastructure buries this gem: “U.S. officials largely completed the investigation more than a year ago, according to two sources familiar with the matter, but held off releasing the indictment so as to not jeopardize the landmark 2015 nuclear deal with Iran or a January prisoner swap.” Now that’s the spirit.