In November, the United States and its allies reached an interim deal to curb Iran’s nuclear program. The two sides released a four-page outline, then began to jockey over details of what the language meant and how the deal would be put into action.
On Sunday, the West and Iran finally completed an agreement that details how the temporary nuclear freeze will work over the next six months.
So what are those details? All of them?
Americans don’t know the full scope of this deal, and the Obama administration hasn’t told them. The deal is still under wraps. Some “key elements” of the agreement are in “an informal, 30-page text not yet publicly acknowledged by Western officials,” the Los Angeles Times reports, quoting an Iranian official.
This secrecy, although the Obama administration doesn’t use that word, is frustrating and ridiculous. The deal takes effect Monday. Officials have been ironing out the details for weeks. Both sides are proclaiming victory. After the latest deal was signed, Iran President Hassan Rouhani took to the Twitterverse to taunt the West that “the world powers surrendered to the Iranian nation’s will.”
Enough bluster. Time for a full public airing. Let’s see how the United States and its allies plan to make sure Iran sticks to its promises to curb its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.
This much we’ve been told: Iran is supposed to dilute or neutralize its stockpile of higher enriched uranium, which is close to weapons grade. Tehran also is supposed to stop installing new centrifuges. It is supposed to forgo starting any centrifuges that aren’t already operating. It is supposed to allow inspectors to visit its declared nuclear sites daily to ensure that it is not cheating.
That’s a lot of supposing. How will all that compliance be guaranteed? We cannot say, but there are signs of trouble ahead.
One example: The 30-page “side agreement” allegedly sets up a joint commission to oversee how the deal is implemented, The Los Angeles Times reports. But even that is apparently open to interpretation: U.S. officials describe it as a discussion forum, not an arbitrator of major disputes, the paper reports. Yet Iran Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi describes the joint commission as an influential body that will have authority to decide disputes.
Araghchi also bragged on Iranian state television: “As this game is played in our court, we cannot lose.”
Sure, we understand that Rouhani and his allies are playing to a domestic political audience. He’s trying to mollify hardliners who oppose giving an inch to the United States, aka the Great Satan.
But that’s all the more reason for the Obama administration to stop telling all of us what’s in this pact and instead show us its gives and takes.
The White House says details of the agreement will be released to lawmakers. But administration officials haven’t said when they will do so, nor have they satisfactorily explained the reasons for such secrecy.
That just-trust-us posture stokes inevitable suspicions that what’s on paper doesn’t match the self-serving claims of Iranian ― or of American ― leaders. Inevitable suspicions, that is, that one side or the other isn’t telling the truth.
All this secrecy should build fresh momentum for legislation now in Congress that would trigger new, more powerful sanctions on Tehran if the next round of negotiation fails to produce a final rollback of its nuclear program. The legislation, spearheaded by Republican Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois and Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez of New Jersey, would ratchet up the embargo on Iran’s oil exports and blacklist its mining, engineering and construction industries.
President Barack Obama opposes that bill. But he has also said the chances of negotiating a comprehensive final nuclear Iranian rollback were at best “50-50.”
The threat of more sanctions increases the odds that the U.S. will prevail in keeping nukes out of the Iranian mullahs’ grasping hands.
And that’s no secret.
(MCT Information Services)