President Obama's nuclear deal with Iran was sold (quite ineffectively, it must be noted) to the public and to Congress through deliberate media manipulation and the creation of a propaganda "echo chamber." One core pro-agreement argument was that if Iran were to cheat, they'd be caught by an (underwhelming) inspections regime, and would suffer the consequences. These assurances were less than satisfying, given that previous happy talk from the administration had been contradicted by Iran's actions on fronts ranging from nuclear enrichment to sponsorship of terrorism. Following the great global fanfare that accompanied the signing of the accord, Iran has launched multiple tests of long-range missiles widely seen as delivery systems for nukes, in contravention of UN mandates. Obama has been forced to admit that yes, sanctions relief money flowing back to the regime could very well be used to finance terrorism (it already has), and no, Iran is not honoring "the spirit" of the deal. The Secretary General of the United Nations joined in the condemnation last week, stating that Tehran's rogue testing and pursuit of advanced missile technology and capability, "are not consistent with the constructive spirit" of the nuclear agreement. German intelligence now reports that Iran's efforts to obtain barred technologies in pursuit of weapons of mass destruction programs have continued:
With the ink barely dry on the deal between the U.S. and Iran to prevent the Islamic Republic from securing nuclear weapons, a new German intelligence document charges that Iran continues to flout the agreement. Germany’s domestic intelligence agency said in its annual report that Iran has a “clandestine” effort to seek illicit nuclear technology and equipment from German companies “at what is, even by international standards, a quantitatively high level.” The findings by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Germany’s equivalent of the FBI, were issued in a 317-page report last week. German Chancellor Angela Merkel underscored the findings in a statement to parliament, saying Iran violated the United Nations Security Council’s anti-missile development regulations. “Iran continued unabated to develop its rocket program in conflict with the relevant provisions of the UN Security Council,” Merkel told the Bundestag.
The Jerusalem Post layered in additional details gleaned from the German intelligence community's findings:
Iran’s proliferation activities span eight German states and involve a range of activities to advance its chemical and biological warfare capabilities, as well as its nuclear and missile programs. The vast scale of the Islamic Republic’s network to obtain nuclear and missile technology goes beyond what was disclosed in recent German intelligence reports released on Thursday. The Jerusalem Post has examined intelligence data and reports from the 16 German states, which included new information on Iranian chemical and biological weapons programs. Half of Germany’s state governments reported in their 2015 intelligence documents attempts by Tehran to secure nuclear-related goods...According to North Rhine-Westphalia state’s domestic intelligence report for 2015, Iran made 141 attempts to secure technology for proliferation, up from 83 attempts in 2014. Ninety percent of the illegal-procurement attempts were for the development of nuclear-weapon devices and missile launchers, the agency said...
Germany’s Federal domestic intelligence agency said in its newest report in late June that Iran’s “illegal proliferation-sensitive procurement activities in Germany registered by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution persisted in 2015 at what is, even by international standards, a quantitatively high level. This holds true in particular with regard to items which can be used in the field of nuclear technology.” The agency said there was “a further increase in the already considerable procurement efforts in connection with Iran’s ambitious missile technology program, which could, among other things, potentially serve to deliver nuclear weapons. Against this backdrop, it is safe to expect that Iran will continue its intensive procurement activities in Germany using clandestine methods to achieve its objectives.”
Writing at Commentary, Jonathan Tobin says these developments constitute a violation of the nuclear agreement, and asks "now what?" The administration's response to these reports indicate that the answer to that question is 'nothing.' Skip ahead to the 17:30 mark in this video from a State Department press briefing late last week and watch the ensuing nine-and-a-half minutes, as three reporters team up to press spokesman John Kirby about the US government's reaction to these revelations. It's worth your time:
Kirby reads a prepared answer from his briefing binder, to which he retreats repeatedly as he's peppered by specific inquiries. He claims that the US has "no indication" that Iran has violated its commitments under the deal, but ducks and hedges on whether Iran has attempted to procure illegal components, before finally asserting that no, they have not. But the German report says the opposite, leading the journalists to ask whether those apparent efforts may have occurred earlier in 2015, prior to the accord formally being signed (which is what Kirby hinted in his scripted answer). No direct response was ever given on that point, but is the technicality of when in 2015 Iran sought illegal dual-use technology even even relevant here? Starting in late 2013, the Iran negotiations moved forward under an interim agreement in which "Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek or develop any nuclear weapons." If they were engaged in clandestine activities in furtherance of an illegal nuclear weapons program two years after signing onto the interim document, doesn't that shed important light onto their motives and their status as a signatory-in-good-standing on the finalized deal?
Perhaps the most unsettling element of the exchange above is the distinct sense that these reporters seemed much more interested in getting to the truth about Iran's activities than the State Department official presiding over the press conference. That apparent disconnect is most clearly on display during the final interaction of the full ten minute back-and-forth. One of the correspondents reasons that of course German intelligence would have a much more robust ability to flag Iranian violations in this particular case than the IAEA. Kirby has no good answer to that challenge, eventually and exasperatedly suggesting that the reporter "talk to IAEA officials about that." I'll leave you with this embarrassing factual error from the New York Times editorial board in their piece pronouncing Obama's deal a grand success:
NYT editorial (7.5) sings Iran's praises re JCPOA, including "Iran ended all uranium enrichment"...really?? pic.twitter.com/XGcaxbTIde— Emily Landau (@EmilyBLandau) July 9, 2016
The agreement permits Iran to maintain not just a vast enrichment infrastructure, but actual enrichment, too. Obama himself has effectively conceded that once Western-imposed sanctions automatically expire over the next decade-plus, Iran will be an internationally-blessed threshold nucqearized state.