It's time to play, "what's Iran up to now?" In today's episode, the British government is warning the United Nations that the regime in Tehran -- which is ostensibly putting the finishing touches on a nuclear deal with the West, and which insists its nuclear program is entirely peaceful -- is engaged in active, surreptitious nuclear procurement. Via Reuters, surprise:
Britain has informed a United Nations sanctions panel of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network linked to two blacklisted firms, according to a confidential report by the panel seen by Reuters. The existence of such a network could add to Western concerns over whether Tehran can be trusted to adhere to a nuclear deal due by June 30 in which it would agree to restrict sensitive nuclear work in exchange for sanctions relief. Talks between six major powers and Tehran are approaching the final stages after they hammered out a preliminary agreement on April 2, with Iran committing to reduce the number of centrifuges it operates and other long-term nuclear limitations. "The UK government informed the Panel on 20 April 2015 that it 'is aware of an active Iranian nuclear procurement network which has been associated with Iran's Centrifuge Technology Company (TESA) and Kalay Electric Company (KEC)'," the Panel of Experts said in its annual report. The panel monitors Iran's compliance with the U.N. sanctions regime. KEC is under U.N. Security Council sanctions while TESA is under U.S. and European Union sanctions due to their suspected links to banned Iranian nuclear activities. Iran, which is has been under sanctions for years, has a long history of illicit nuclear procurement using front companies and other methods of skirting sanctions.
Here's a brief -- and non-comprehensive -- summary of the conduct in which the regime has engaged during negotiations with the US: Illegal nuclear procurement, illegal weapons procurement, development of illegal missile program, purchasing embargoed weapons from our friends in Moscow, active arming of terrorist organizations, propping up Syria's Assad, using proxies to destabilize and overthrow governments in the region, staging simulated military attacks against replica US aircraft carrier, and menacing international shipping. Not to mention ongoing, widespread human rights abuses, indicting a Washington Post reporter on trumped up charges (while also holding a US Marine and pastor), habitual, rank anti-Semitism, and "death to America" chants from the "supreme leader." Oh, and then there's the escalating demands, public rejection of Western interpretations of the supposedly "agreed upon" nuclear framework, and brazen assertion that no snap inspections will be permitted at military facilities under any final deal. And on an equally happy note, here's our Vice President effectively conceding that Iran's going to get a bomb anyway, so a bad deal might at least slow them down a bit, or something:
Iran would have enough enriched uranium within three months to be able to make up to eight nuclear weapons if negotiations with the international community blow up, Vice President Joe Biden said late Thursday, noting that “the path has already been paved” for that outcome. … “Let’s get something straight so we don’t kid each other,” Biden said. “They already have paved a path to a bomb’s worth of material. Iran could get there now if they walked away in two to three months without a deal.”
Ed Morrissey points out that this rhetoric marks an oblique pivot to containment, and the abandonment of America's previous stance:
Bear in mind that this was a defense of the administration that has been in charge of foreign policy for the last six years. They’ve tightened the screws on sanctions during that time, and so has Congress, but they’ve also been insisting for most of that time that Iran was years away from building a bomb. All during that time, Iran has insisted that they weren’t planning to build nuclear weapons and that their infrastructure was entirely aimed at medical and energy-producing technologies. Now, suddenly, Biden accepts the Israeli estimate of 90 days to a nuclear device, and says that’s why we have to make a deal now, with the same entities who Biden tacitly admits has been lying the whole time.
Biden emphasizes in his remarks that the White House does not support a policy of containment. But that posturing is belied by the president's own admission that even if Tehran were to abide by every letter of a finalized deal (see reports of continued cheating above), they'd still be a threshold nuclear state the moment that Western-imposed restrictions begin to expire in 13 years. So what, if anything, can Congress do to stop this deal from happening? What should Republicans' next moves be? And could the various well-intentioned amendments being proposed to the Corker bill (including cunning ones like this) actually be counter-productive in the bigger picture? I'll explore and analyze those dynamics next week. Stay tuned.