We were astounded by the latest development in the Obama administration’s continuing efforts to conclude an agreement with Iran over restrictions on its nuclear development. While the process heretofore has featured disconcerting concessions in substance and appearance, the most recent surrender breaks new ground – it’s downright embarrassing for the country and does great violence to our standing in the world.
As reported in Saturday’s New York Times,
President Obama on Friday directed his diplomats to use “creative negotiations” to bridge a sharp divide with Iran over the fate of sanctions if it agrees to curb is nuclear program, signaling flexibility in hopes of keeping a tentative agreement from unraveling.
Iranian leaders have insisted in recent days that the punishing sanctions be lifted as soon as a written accord is signed, a position that the country’s foreign minister reinforced on Friday. Mr. Obama did not repeat past American assertions that sanctions would be removed only in phases as Tehran follows through on obligations to scale back its nuclear facilities.
Instead, Mr. Obama suggested that negotiators seek a solution that would seem “more acceptable” to Iran’s political constituencies, while preserving leverage to force the government to abide by the deal. Rather than the timing and structure of sanctions relief, he said his priority was creating a system for reimposing the punitive measures if Iran is caught cheating.
“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,” Mr. Obama said at a White House news conference…. The negotiators, Mr. Obama said, need to “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 don’t have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to reinstate sanctions,” Mr. Obama continued. “That’s our main concern.”
With Secretary of State John Kerry seated in front of him in the East Room, the president said: “And it will require some creative negotiations by John Kerry and others. And I’m confident we will be successful.”
Interestingly, until a recent bipartisan bludgeoning by an outraged Senate forced him to reverse himself, Mr. Obama adamantly refused to allow any congressional input on a deal with Iran. So his fulsome solicitude for the sensitivities of Iran’s “political constituencies” seems more than a little odd.
More important, Mr. Obama is simply acceding to Iran’s position on the timing of the lifting of sanctions. However the president attempts to package the turnaround, Secretary Kerry’s many unequivocal assurances that the lifting of sanctions will be calibrated to various evaluations of Iran’s compliance with the terms of any agreement are now rendered meaningless.
Of course, even the notion of a “snap back” reimposition of sanctions is grossly misleading. There would have to be a complaint, an airing of it, and a decision made either way, followed by the time-consuming back and forth about actually reimposing the sanctions. The polyglot makeup and sharply differing interests of the P5+1 coalition –Russia is already negotiating a $20 billion oil deal with Iran even with all the sanctions still in place – make that approach plainly unrealistic.
And then there is the matter of the U.S. stand on another key issue: the inspection regime. We obviously will be relying on inspections to know whether Iran is living up to its commitments. And it is plain that for inspections to be reliable, they have to be unscheduled and unrestricted in terms of what facilities are subject to inspections.
Here again, Mr. Kerry has regularly given assurances that inspections would be unrestricted. Yet the fact sheet put out by the State Department following the interim framework deal last month contains vaguely worded references concerning the right to investigate “suspicious sites” or allegations of covert activities “anywhere in the country.”
In addition, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, deputy head of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps, declared on Saturday that international inspectors will be barred from all military sites under any deal. He said allowing foreign inspections would be tantamount to “selling out.”
Inspectors, he said, “will not even be permitted to inspect the most normal military site in their dreams.”
So forgive us for our concern that we will soon be hearing about another presidential call for “creative diplomacy.”