Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
ACCORDING to recent revelations, Iran was not, and has not been, in compliance with the terms of the nuclear deal (aka, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA).
In fact, when the Obama administration told the public and the Congress that Iran “has fully implemented its required commitments”, Iran was in violation of the deal. President Obama exempted Iran from meeting the terms so that IAEA would not scrutinize Iran based on the JCPOA terms and would give Obama administration the green light to proceed, and then he would be able to sign the paper and order the lifting of all UN Security Council sanctions against Iran.
In return, President Obama would enjoy what he believes to be his crowning foreign policy achievement and “legacy”- the nuclear agreement. In other words, on the surface, it seemed that there were supposedly conditions, people were told that these were the terms and restrictions of the nuclear deal, but in reality and secretly, Iran was given exemptions (for its nuclear stock and facilities) from meeting those terms and conditions, and to, in fact, evade them.
If these exemptions were revealed at the time of nuclear negotiations, the deal would have not been possible because Iran was in violations of the terms. Iran got paid, got everything it wanted, and President Obama got the “nuclear deal” listed on his resume.
The unprecedented level of exemptions that President Obama gave to the Islamic Republic sent several signals to Iran and explains Tehran’s increasingly interventionist and aggressive regional behavior.
President Obama is reportedly attempting to make these exemption permanent so that there would be no commitments for Iran to comply with, at any time. The US secret exemptions for Iran continue to be revealed. In the most recent disclosures, it became clear that:
• Iran was allowed to keep more low-enriched uranium (LEU) than what the public was told. This revelation was first reported by The New York Times that Iran’s stockpile of low-enriched uranium was too high, but Obama administration denied it.
• The Islamic Republic was allowed to violate the deal cap by maintaining more than 300 kg of about 3.5 percent low enriched uranium hexafluoride or equivalent mass. (This amount can be purified and turned it into weapons-grade uranium)
• Ignoring the 20 percent LEU in “lab contaminant” that was judged as unrecoverable
• Iran was given exemptions for “hot cells”
• Another loophole allowed Iran to store a large amount of heavy water under its control in Oman
• Some enriched uranium in Iran nuclear plants has not been evaluated as promised.
One of the reasons behind such secrecy is to make it impossible for people and governments to hold Iran accountable for not complying with terms; because there are no terms to comply with due to the exemptions and ambiguities. What makes it more complicated is that, after January 2016, the IAEA is also not releasing its usual detailed reports about Iran’s nuclear program anymore – because Iranian leaders demanded it.
President Obama is most likely aware that cuddling with Iran and appeasing it will not change the regime. It seems he is not offering Iran carrots to change its behavior but just to keep the nuclear agreement intact, until he is out of office.
Once that happens, it is not important for him what actually happens to the deal because from his perspective, a fictional version of history, he would be remembered for being the first president who struck a global nuclear agreement with Iran.
The repercussions of the aforementioned exemptions are crucial. First of all, the process through which the nuclear deal was reached lacked total transparency and was shrouded in secrecy and lies. President Obama made a deal with a country which views the US as its enemy number one and now he hides information from the Congress and the public. Is this how democracy and transparency work?
Secondly, not only does the nuclear accord lacks transparency, the main key players (President Obama, Secretary of the State John Kerry and his team) reportedly manipulated the details of the nuclear terms to mislead the public, the press, as well as the Congress. As The Institute for Science and International Security pointed out: “future violations of a long term deal will be downplayed for the sake of generating or maintaining support for the deal.”
Third, the unprecedented level of exemptions that President Obama gave to the Islamic Republic sent several signals to Iran, which explains Tehran’s increasingly interventionist and aggressive regional behavior.
For Iranian leaders, concessions mean weakness. Obama’s exemptions throughout the negotiations of the nuclear agreement sent the Iranian leaders a message that he is more desperate than the Islamic Republic to get his signature on the deal. As a result, it became clear that since Obama is so willing to bend the rules, he will do anything Iran desires afterward to prevent the Islamic Republic from abandoning the deal.
Iran realized that after the nuclear deal, if it expanded its military throughout the region and exerted its regional hegemonic ambitions more forcefully, and suppressed opposition voices inside the country, the US and the UN Security Council would remain silent.
Hence, Iranian leaders are now freely test-firing ballistic missiles, harassing US navy ships, arresting more Iranian-American citizens, and deploying the advanced Russia-made S-300 missile-defense system at its Fordo uranium-enrichment site.
The exemptions set the stage and the environment for Iran to behave more aggressively and militarily after the nuclear deal. In the last few months in office, Obama will do anything he can to keep the flimsy deal, which would probably include more permanent exemptions for Iran.
On the surface there are “terms” in the nuclear deal but in reality the deal appears to be shrouded with secrecies, lies, and fraud. It entails no conditions for the ruling clerics of Iran to meet.
[Dr. Majid Rafizadeh, an Iranian-American political scientist and Harvard University scholar, is president of the International American Council. Rafizadeh serves on the board of Harvard International Review at Harvard University. He is also a member of the Gulf project at Columbia University. Rafizadeh served as a senior fellow at Nonviolence International Organization based in Washington DC. He served as ambassador for the National Iranian-American Council based in Washington DC, conducted research at Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, and taught at University of California Santa Barbara through Fulbright Teaching Scholarship. He can be reached at [email protected], @Dr_Rafizadeh].