In early April the Internet was abuzz over the Obama Administration’s agreement with Iran over the future of its nuclear program. Of course, there was widespread disagreement about the merits of the agreement – many thought it allowed Iran too much leeway to continue developing a nuclear weapon and too much economic relief to fund terrorist operation, others thought it was historic progress that would finally give the international community some oversight into Iran’s intentions.
The problem was everyone was judging the various portions of the agreement based on a fact-sheet released by the White House. As it turns out, there was no agreement on a number of crucial items and the “fact-sheet” was more like a best-case scenario for the U.S. in future negotiations.
Almost immediately after the “fact sheet” was released Iranian officials balked at the Obama Administration’s descriptions of the deal.
“The solutions are good for all, as they stand,” tweeted Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif. “There is no need to spin using ‘fact sheets’ so early on.”
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khameini went a step further, saying that the White House’s statement “was wrong on most of the issues.”
Among the things that were “wrong” on the fact sheet were that international weapons inspectors would have access to all nuclear facilities and that sanctions would be phased in over time as Iran demonstrated compliance with the deal.
As to the former, Iran’s Defense Minister categorically rejected it as a “lie,” saying that Iran would never allow inspectors into military facilities.
“No such agreement has been made; principally speaking,” the Defense Minister said, “visit to military centers is among our redlines and no such visit will be accepted.”
As to the latter, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran wouldn’t settle for a deal that failed to lift sanctions as soon as the agreement was signed.
“We will not sign any agreements unless on the first day of implementation of the deal all economic sanctions are totally lifted on the same day,” Rouhani said.
That directly conflicts with the U.S. fact sheet which says: “US and EU nuclear-related sanctions will be suspected after the IAEA ahs verified that Iran has taken all of its key nuclear-related steps.”
Seeing that his bluff had been called, President Obama backtracked on his promise to the American people for phased sanctions. The Wall Street Journal reports:
President Barack Obama suggested on Friday that Iran could receive significant economic relief immediately after concluding a deal to curb its nuclear program, a gesture towards one of Tehran’s key demands. . .
“Our main concern here is making sure that if Iran doesn’t abide by its agreement that we don’t have to jump through a whole bunch of hoops in order to reinstate sanctions,” the president said at a news conference. “It will require some creative negotiations,” Mr. Obama said, adding, “I’m confident it will be successful.” . . .
Later, seeking to clarify the president’s comments, a White House official said Mr. Obama “will not accept a deal without phased sanctions” relief.
Obviously, this creates a terrible situation, with only two possible causes. Either Iran is reneging on the terms of the initial deal after sensing displeasure at home or the White House’s fact sheet was, well, not factual, an attempt to make it appear that the administration did better in negotiations than they really did. In an attempt to clarify exactly what is happening Sen. Marco Rubio introduced an amendment to the Iran legislation currently pending before the Senate that would require that the deal conform to the president’s own description of the nuclear framework. Eli Lake reports for Bloomberg:
Rubio’s amendment simply quotes that fact sheet verbatim and says the president may not waive or lift any Congressional sanctions until he certifies Iran has met the White House conditions.
“For the life of me, I don’t understand why that would be controversial,” Rubio said Wednesday. “Yet somehow, I was told this would box the White House in.” . . .
Rubio’s fact sheet amendment only asks Democrats to vote on whether a final Iran deal should meet the conditions as described by the leader of their own party. If Democrats vote that it should, then Obama may be forced to issue a veto over his own fact sheet as he seeks to make a final agreement more palatable to Iran. If the Democrats vote that it shouldn’t, then they will appear to be conceding the White House either misled the public or bungled the negotiations earlier this month.
Considering those are the only two outcomes of the vote it’s safe to say that the American people have already lost. Given that the Iran negotiations may well be the single most important international agreement in the last decade, how on earth did we end up in a lose-lose situation? Somehow I feel like I’ll hate the answer more than the question.