Bret Stephens: Obama and the ‘Inevitable Critics’

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We are dealing with a case of Mutually Assured Obfuscation

Bret Stephens writes: ‘So when you hear the inevitable critics of the deal sound off, ask them a simple question: Do you really think that this verifiable deal, if fully implemented, backed by the world’s major powers, is a worse option than the risk of another war in the Middle East?”

That was Barack Obama on Thursday, defending his Iran diplomacy while treating its opponents to the kind of glib contempt that is the mark of the progressive mind. Since I’m one of those inevitable critics, let me answer his question.

Yes, it’s worse. Much worse.

Yes, because what the president calls “this verifiable deal” fails the first test of verification—mutual agreement and clarity as to what, exactly, is in it.

[Read the full text here, at WSJ]

Take sanctions. Iran insists all sanctions—economic as well as nuclear—will be “immediately revoked” and that “the P5+1 member countries are committed to restraining from imposing new nuclear-related sanctions.” But the Obama administration claims Iran will only get relief “if it verifiably abides by its commitments.” The administration adds that “the architecture of U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on Iran will be retained for much of the duration of the deal.”

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So who is lying? Or are we dealing with a case of Mutually Assured Obfuscation?

Yes, too, because the deal fails the second test of verification: It can’t be verified.

Here again there are significant discrepancies between the U.S. and the Iranian versions of the deal. The administration claims “Iran has agreed to implement the Additional Protocol,” a reference to an addendum to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that permits intrusive inspections. But Tehran merely promises to implement the protocol “on a voluntary and temporary basis,” pending eventual ratification by its parliament, inshallah.

We’ve seen this movie before. Iran agreed to implement the Additional Protocol in 2003, only to renounce it in early 2006, after stonewalling weapons inspectors.

But even the Protocol is inadequate, since it doesn’t permit no-notice, “anytime, anywhere” inspections. “A verifiable agreement would require unfettered access to all key facilities, personnel, documentation, and other information being sought,” notes Olli Heinonen, a former top nuclear inspector for the International Atomic Energy Agency. The Protocol, he adds, “does not fully oblige this.”

Yes, as well, because Mr. Obama’s caveat, “if fully implemented,” is catnip to the rulers of Iran. What happens if Iran complies with every aspect of the accord, save one—for instance, if it starts fielding more advanced centrifuges?

“The Iranian regime cheats incrementally, not egregiously, even though the sum total of its incremental cheating is egregious,” says Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Does anyone think Mr. Obama will walk away from his deal at the first instance of Iranian noncompliance?…(read more)

WSJ

Write to bstephens@wsj.com

 



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