State Department: Iran Never Signed Nuclear Deal, Which Isn't 'Legally Binding'

Guy Benson
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Posted: Nov 30, 2015 10:27 AM
State Department: Iran Never Signed Nuclear Deal, Which Isn't 'Legally Binding'

This story broke last week, just as millions of Americans were tuning out of the news cycle for Thanksgiving. Given the seriousness of the subject matter, it deserves a re-up. National Review reports:

President Obama didn’t require Iranian leaders to sign the nuclear deal that his team negotiated with the regime, and the deal is not “legally binding,” his administration acknowledged in a letter to Representative Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.) obtained by National Review. “The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is not a treaty or an executive agreement, and is not a signed document,” wrote Julia Frifield, the State Department assistant secretary for legislative affairs, in the November 19 letter. Frifield wrote the letter in response to a letter Pompeo sent Secretary of State John Kerry, in which he observed that the deal the president had submitted to Congress was unsigned and wondered if the administration had given lawmakers the final agreement. Frifield’s response emphasizes that Congress did receive the final version of the deal. But by characterizing the JCPOA as a set of “political commitments” rather than a more formal agreement, it is sure to heighten congressional concerns that Iran might violate the deal’s terms.

Oh.  Joel Gehrke notes that Iran's president -- much like our own -- strongly discouraged his country's legislature from voting on the agreement at all, arguing that parliamentary approval would "create an obligation" and impose an "unnecessary legal restriction" on the regime.  Rouhani warned that passage would force him to sign the document, which he'd avoided doing.  A vote was held anyway; the deal was approved, 161-59.   It apparently remains unsigned.  (The United States Congress never formally weighed in on the terrible deal because Senate Democrats repeatedly obstructed any vote, in order to shield President Obama from the political humiliation of explicitly overruling strong bipartisan opposition).  The vote in Tehran was purely symbolic, of course.  The 'Supreme Leader' runs the show in that country, and he allowed his so-called Guardian Council to sign off on the accord, guaranteeing its adoption.  But according to our State Department, that "adoption" wasn't technically binding under international law.  The agreement represents "political commitments" secured by negotiators, we're told, "and is not a signed document."  Question: If this pact isn't binding or even signed, wouldn't the resulting flexibility cut both ways?  Couldn't the next American president simply tear up the empty signature page of the deal upon entering office and be rid of it?  Maybe so, legally speaking.  But Allahpundit lays out the grim reality that the die has already been cast:

We’re lifting $100 billion in sanctions in exchange for a legally binding promise of … nothing. The flip side of that, I guess, is that the deal’s not binding on us either; if the next president or even Obama himself wants to reimpose sanctions on a whim, that’s fair game. The problem with that logic, though, is that no one believes our European partners, who crave renewed access to Iran’s markets (and vice versa), will reinstate sanctions unless Iran cheats flagrantly and egregiously on the deal, to the point where it would humiliate the EU internationally to look the other way. One of Iran’s core goals in all this, re-opening its trade relationship with Europe, will be achieved whether or not the deal is binding. And once achieved, it’ll be nearly irreversible...there’s a difference between a country voting to implement an agreement voluntarily and making a binding promise to another country that they’ll implement it by signing a statement to that effect. In theory, the latter gives the treaty partner some legal recourse — international sanctions, most likely — that the former doesn’t. Like I said above, though, international sanctions are already almost certainly off the table, in which case what is Iran’s formal promise via signature really worth? Especially when — wait for it — everyone expects them to cheat regardless.

And there are many, many reasons to expect Iran to continue to cheat. It's what they do.  The trick for Iran was to convince America and Europe to pump tens of billions back into its struggling economy, in exchange for handing Western leaders a "historic document" to wave around as a triumph of war-avoiding diplomacy, or whatever.  The terrorist-financing regime knows full well that it can obfuscate and cheat at the margins for 10 to 15 years, supplying their enablers with various excuses to kick the can on re-imposing sanctions, then break out as an internationally-blessed nuclearized state just as soon as the deal's restrictions automatically expire.  The agreement leaves Iran's illegal nuclear program almost completely intact, only "paused" (we know how that's gone so far).  It also does not guarantee intrusive "snap" inspections at all suspected nuclear sites, erecting a lengthy appeal period in which Iran can at least partially cover its tracks as the international bureaucratic process churns along.  Furthermore, Iranian officials have flatly stated that certain military sites are not subject to any inspections, period.  Iran is furnished with the billions it craves and a legitimized nuclear program, Europe gets a lucrative new trading partner, and Obama gets a "legacy-enhancer" among the left-wing academic and cultural elite, even as it's opposed by a sizable majority of the country he leads.  This president's alleged triumph is appropriately embodied by an aspirational, unsigned document that contains many words that sound wonderful in theory, but appear dangerously naive in practice. It ultimately weakens America and strengthens a sworn enemy.  Alas, the seemingly-significant admission showcased in the headline of this post is dismissed as a silly technicality by the Obama White House -- which apparently sealed a controversial deal with Iran with the diplomatic equivalent of a handshake.  Smart power.  Meanwhile, Iran's emboldened leaders would like to remind the world that they remain fully committed loathers of the United States:

A video reportedly produced by the office of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and posted to social media Tuesday blames the United States and its allies for the Paris terror attacks. The video, posted to a Facebook page affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps and first reported by the Middle East Media Research Institute, explains that the U.S. created the Islamic State to advance its own agenda...The narrator further alleges that the U.S. trained moderate Syrian rebels to “join” the Islamic State in the Middle East and purposefully dropped weapons into the hands of IS terrorists there. He also suggests that IS has been benefiting “financially” from Western media reports. The video also includes footage of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton delivering congressional testimony about the rise of the Taliban in 2009 during which she stated, “Let’s remember here, the people we are fighting today, we funded.” “Of course, no one should be surprised by U.S. support for ISIS, as this was not unprecedented and American politicians had already admitted having supported al Qaeda,” the narrator says in the video. The video concludes with the narrator appearing to question al Qaeda’s involvement in the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks.

The regime released another anti-American propaganda video in September, featuring images of flag-draped coffins and a warning that Tehran would "humiliate" the US military in a potential conflict. In addition to these PR provocations, Iran has test-fired an illegal long-range missile, "convicted" a Washington Post journalist, detained yet another American citizen, and intensified its cyber warfare against the US government.  Obama defenders and Iran apologists will downplay these moves as gestures designed to reassure domestic hardliners that the regime hasn't gone soft against the West.  It's all just internal political posturing, they intone knowingly, and it's still preferable to an unchecked nuclear advance.  If only the nuclear accord came close to achieving the goals laid out by supporters at the outset of negotiations.  It does not. And at the risk of betraying a lack of sophistication, perhaps the regime's "death to America" words and actions are exactly what they appear to be: Manifestations of abiding enmity harbored by a cabal of religious fanatics who've viewed America as the Great Satan ever since they violently seized control of their country several decades ago.