• 18 May 2010
  • Posted By Patrick Disney
  • 14 Comments
  • Diplomacy, Events in Iran, Nuclear file, Sanctions, UN

Here’s your answer

Leading up to this weekend’s meeting between Brazil, Turkey, and Iran that ended in a nuclear fuel swap agreement, inside-the-Beltway watchers played their favorite game: administration in-fighting.

It was obvious to many that the White House was hopeful that a deal would be struck with the Brazilians and Turks mediating; but what was also obvious was that the State Department opposed such a deal.

Now, only one day after the news broke that Iran is willing to ship its uranium abroad to Turkey, Secretary Clinton announced that the major UN Security Council members have agreed on a new sanctions package.

The Obama administration announced Tuesday morning that it has struck a deal with other major powers, including Russia and China, to impose new sanctions on Iran, a sharp repudiation of the deal Tehran offered just a day before to ship its nuclear fuel out of the country.

“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a Senate committee. “We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today. And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”

The sanctions agreement Mrs. Clinton announced on Tuesday was reached by the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council — plus Germany.

So, though Iran has yet to communicate its formal commitment to the IAEA in writing, the Secretary of State today sent a pretty clear signal that the US isn’t interested.

I can only imagine the celebration going on inside the Supreme Leader’s headquarters.  Not only do they get to play the victim card — saying the West isn’t interested in playing fair and is only out to get them — but now they don’t even have to follow up with any of the things they said they would to the Brazilians and Turks.  No letter to the IAEA.  No shipment of LEU out of the country.  No movement away from a nuclear weapon.

If, as it appears, this move is intended to scuttle the fuel swap agreed upon yesterday, this is an unbelievably stupid move on the part of the Obama administration. Not only are we rejecting our own terms of the agreement, but we are doing so in as tactless and diplomatically insulting way possible.

Just one week ago US officials reiterated that the fuel swap proposal is still on the table — and that its terms cannot be altered. Now that Iran has accepted those terms, Clinton says it’s not enough.

Absent some major fence-mending, this ill-timed move could cost the US every single one of the short, medium and long-term goals of this latest initiative.  Those included: suspending Iran’s 20% enrichment activities, securing the freedom of 3 American citizens unlawfully detained in Evin prison, and kick-starting comprehensive negotiations over Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA, regional issues, and internal human rights issues.  All of that is in addition to the substance of the deal — that Iran would take one unprecedented step backward from a nuclear weapons capability.

Posted By Patrick Disney

    14 Responses to “Here’s your answer”

  1. Anonymous says:

    I think you fell for the media’s framing of the comments. Read carefully, all that is said is that the sanctions path is going to continue until actual deeds are carried out by the Iranians. The reservations about continued 20% enrichment that the deal allows (which go against the initial deal offered by the Obama administration which was to have Iran enriching at only 3%), are always quoted separate from the other statements. The deeds referred to here could well mean that the U.S. will continue to seek sanctions until they actually see Iran’s Uranium in Turkish hands. After all, there are still details to be determined and until they are smoothed out AND an actual swap is made, the U.S. doesn’t want to look as though it were duped into delayed sanctions again (remember, the first time Iran agreed to a deal and then backed out later). This move increases the urgency of getting things.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Btw, even if things are as I have suggested they might be, I don’t think it was an appropriate response. They could have said that we are reviewing the deal, but because of Iran’s past delay tactics we cannot put much faith in any deal until an actual swap is made. Given that no moves were made for negotiations for several months, we will indeed go ahead with plans for sanctions unless a deal is reached and a swap is made within the next few weeks.

  3. Anonymous says:

    Wow I skipped the blurb with the quote thinking that it was from the articles that were posted yesterday, which seemed like they might have been rash in their conclusion that the deal was rejected. Clinton’s response is absurd!

  4. DrSmooth says:

    How does this cost the US something major? The Iranian’s agreed to terms from 8 months ago, terms that only made sense then. Now after continuing to enrich, they have added to their stockpile and now they agree? The deal’s main purpose was to remove breakout capacity for a period to allow negotiations. Now, after Iran has added enough LEU to agree to the deal and still maintain breakout capacity, the US is supposed to be happy with the deal? It clearly was a play for time to be able to agree to the deal and undermine it.

    Additionally, they are refusing to stop enriching at 20%. The sole stated purpose to enrich at this level was for the medical isotopes. Yet, after the deal to get those isotopes, they are going to continue to enrich at this level. This deal is a deal for nothing, it’s rightfully rejected.

  5. Patrick Disney says:

    Anonymous:

    I generally agree with your points. What really bugs me is that they announced this today. If Sec. Clinton had waited until Iran delivered its letter to the IAEA within a week (or even if Iran missed the one-week deadline), then the announcement that a deal on sanctions has been reached would make sense.

    But now, all it does is provide Iran with a reason to back away from the deal. That could mean that Iran chooses not to put any of their commitments down on paper, and can then easily wiggle out of this fuel swap arrangement, all the while continuing enrichment at current levels and playing the victim card to the international community.

    Sad, indeed.

  6. Pirouz says:

    A totally insincere engagement effort by the Obama administration, just as Ross advocated.

    There’s no “victim card” needed here, Patrick. The Iranians have been saying all along that there is nothing short of complete and utter capitulation that will satisfy the Americans. That’s now openly demonstrated for all to see. It’s Iraq and the WMDs all over again.

    This still has a ways to play out. All we can do is sit back and bear witness to what is sheer folly.

  7. Patrick Disney says:

    DrSmooth:

    Both of the criticisms you make about the deal are convincing arguments that the deal is worth less to us today than it was 8 months ago. However, neither of these criticisms is a reason to reject the deal.

    It still removes one bomb’s worth of material from Iran for up to a year. It still provides Iran with proliferation-resistant fuel assemblies to power much-needed medical procedures. It still provides the international community with an amount of momentum on which to begin more comprehensive negotiations over things like Iran’s continued enrichment up to 20%, as well as the status of the three American hikers and other issues of vital concern.

    By giving Iran an opportunity to walk away from the deal they struck yesterday, the US is unnecessarily throwing all this away.

  8. DrSmooth says:

    Patrick,

    I agree with your point that the deal provides momentum forward. But that’s all it provides. Eight months ago, we had tangible benefits other than pure momentum forward. However, it looks like another attempt at Iran to play “Lucy” with the football. They are trying to portray it as a deal that alleviates the need for sanctions, that is wrong.

    Clinton is exactly right on two points. Until they agree to suspend 20% enrichment, there is no reason to think they have acted in good faith whatsoever. Additionally, the State Department is saying that the Iranians are still refusing to even consider meeting to discuss their program.

    So what is the deal the US is left with, partial reduction of LEU stock, still left above breakout capacity, refusal to stop 20% enrichment even though they are getting the medical isotopes, and a refusal to negotiate further about the program.

    In that context, my point is, momentum forward is not enough of a benefit to accept the deal. We’ve danced this dance before, until I see a real concession on some of those points, sanctions should be held over their head.

  9. Patrick Disney says:

    Due respect, DrSmooth, but you still haven’t given a single reason to reject the deal.

    Iran said they’ll commit to this fuel swap, in writing, to the IAEA, within a week. Why not wait a week? If they miss the deadline, or if they walk back their commitments, then we can call them out. But if the US doesn’t even wait to see what Iran says in their letter, then who is the one not acting in good faith?

    My larger point is this: if we take the deal as we expect it to be constituted, then we have an opening to begin resolving all of our other areas of concern. If we reject it, then what do we get? Sanctions. Do we honestly think that sanctions are going to make it more likely for a successful resolution over issues like 20% enrichment than negotiations?

    This is truly the US cutting off its nose to spite its face.

  10. Atoosa says:

    Well-said.

  11. Pirouz says:

    From the Iranian perspective, they haven’t been dragging their feet, they’ve been negotiating in good faith. Recall that in previous times, they accepted the Paris Agreement of 2003, where the Europeans negotiated in bad faith and stalled the Iranians for two years, frustrating the efforts of Iran to seek a compromise solution (they even suspended enrichment, temporarily adopted the AP and more, and got nothing in return-remember?) Finally, Brazil and Turkey have stepped forward and provided them with the guarantees they’ve been seeking and they’ve reached an agreement to go forward. Only to see, once again, that efforts are being made against them in bad faith.

    Have you seen the sanctions? They’re going after Iran’s ballistic missile industry. Iran’s ballistic missiles are the cornerstone to the country’s defense. They are primarily responsible for the country’s deterrence against attack. Take that away and they’re as defenseless as Iraq in 2003.

    Once these sanctions are adopted, again, depending on how they are implemented, this could very well be the roadmap to a US initiated war against the Islamic Republic of Iran.

    IT IS IRAQ AND WMDs ALL OVER AGAIN.

  12. Pirouz says:

    And the <20% enrichment? You can't expect the Iranians to stop their efforts at resupplying TRR on their own, before such fuel is actually delivered in a potential realization of a deal. To do so would be irresponsible to the 800,000 Iranian cancer patients relying on the medial isotopes produced with the reactor.

    I am so sorry I voted for Obama. But what choice do you have in America where both parties are thoroughly infiltrated by the Israel lobby? In this respect, you actually have a greater diversity of presidential candidates in the Islamic Republic of Iran! Obama, where is my vote?!

  13. DrSmooth says:

    Patrick,

    I think we are crossing points. I’m not arguing to reject the deal. If Iran wants to go forward with the deal, I don’t advocate the US should oppose it. I am arguing against those who say this deal in it of itself, alleviates the need for sanctions. It has done almost nothing to address the issues the sanctions are predicated on. My point is, don’t delay the sanctions until you see something substantial, and this deal isn’t it.

  14. Iranian-American says:

    The Iranian government was almost certainly playing games. That does take away from the foolishness of the Obama administration’s response or the idiocy of Clinton’s comment.

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