The trouble with compliance

Secretary Tillerson’s tough talk on Iran prompts a look back to the time when the Obama administration entered into the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran. Under the JCPOA, Obama claimed to have “blocked” Iran’s paths to nuclear weapons. This was the “narrative” disseminated by Obama soulmate Ben Rhodes to the Democrats’ moronic media adjunct.

The JCPOA, it should be noted, is not a treaty. What is it? That’s a difficult question. To reverse the formula of the immortal J. Wellington Wimpy, we’ll gladly pay Iran today for the development of nuclear weapons next Tuesday. It’s that sort of a deal. This, you might say, is Wimpy according to Obama. It’s Obama’s world; we just have to live in it.

For those who may be confused or who may wish to sow confusion, here let me quote from the November 19, 2015 letter sent by Obama’s State Department to then Rep. Mike Pompeo: “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document” (emphasis added). Rather, as explained by Obama’s State Department, the JCPOA isn’t anything in particular. It’s a reflection of something seen through a glass darkly:

The JCPOA reflects political commitments between Iran, the P5+1 (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Russia, China) and the European Union. As you know, the United States has a long-standing practice of addressing sensitive problems in negotiations that culminate in political commitments.

Obama’s State Department helpfully advised: “The success of the JCPOA will depend not on whether it is legally binding or signed, but rather on the extensive verification measures we have put in place, as well as Iran’s understanding that we have the capacity to re-impose – and ramp up – our sanctions if Iran does not meet its commitments.”

In short, the JCPOA is not even a pure executive agreement but rather a political agreement or political commitment. At best, Obama’s “team cleverly stitched together the President’s authority to lift domestic sanctions, his authority to make political agreements, and his authority to vote for the United States in the Security Council, in order to make sure the Iran Deal would stick unless supermajorities of Congress reject it.”

Under the JCPOA, a rough beast slouches toward Tehran to be born. I think it is fair to say that the JCPOA essentially finances, facilitates and accommodates Iran’s development of nuclear weapons on a given timetable consistent with the technical restrictions set forth under its terms.

This is the key to understanding the JCPOA and it is the key point made by Michael Oren in his Wall Street Journal column (behind the Journal’s paywall) this past weekend: “Tehran can look forward to building [weapons of mass destruction] swiftly and legitimately in the late 2020s, once the JCPOA expires.” Oren comments:

This, for Israel and our neighboring Sunni states, is the appalling flaw of the JCPOA. The regime most committed to our destruction has been granted a free pass to develop military nuclear capabilities. Iran could follow the Syrian and North Korean examples and cheat. Or, while enjoying hundreds of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, it can adhere to the agreement and deactivate parts of its nuclear facilities rather than dismantle them. It can develop new technologies for producing atomic bombs while testing intercontinental ballistic missiles. It can continue massacring Syrians, Iraqis and Yemenis, and bankrolling Hamas and Hezbollah. The JCPOA enables Iran to do all that merely by complying.

That’s the trouble with compliance. From Obama’s perspective, however, it must have constituted an additional advantage.


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