Amid reports that a nuclear deal with Iran may freeze that country's ability to produce nuclear fuel for only ten years in exchange for sanctions relief, President Obama appeared to soften his words on the Iran negotiations if not his position. Following a meeting with the Amir of Qatar earlier this week, the president characterized the ongoing talks as trying "to reduce the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon," and "to verify that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon." These words ("reduce the possibility" and "does not have", as opposed to "will not acquire") stand in sharp contrast to the unambiguous statements President Obama had tended to make over the past several years:
"We are determined to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon." - Mar. 14, 2012
"And that’s why the United States will do what we must to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." - Sept. 25, 2012
"Since I took office, I’ve made clear my determination to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." - Nov. 23, 2013
"At the top of that list is our work to ensure that Iran does not ever acquire a nuclear weapon." - July 8, 2014
"[W]e seek a comprehensive diplomatic solution to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon." - Jan. 16, 2015
"[W]e also had a very useful discussion around Iran and the negotiations that are currently taking place to try to reduce the possibility of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. Those negotiations are ongoing. I gave the Amir an update and assured him that our goal here is to be able to verify that Iran does not have a nuclear weapon[.]" - Feb. 24, 2015
Vice President Biden has made perhaps the most unequivocal statement of anyone in the Obama administration on the subject, telling the Saban Forum in December, "We will not let Iran acquire a nuclear weapon. Period. Period. End of discussion. It will not happen on our watch." But even if Biden himself won two terms in the White House, a ten-year freeze would sunset beyond both his and Barack Obama's "watch."
John Kerry was pressed on the issue while testifying before Congress the same day the president made the softer statement, but Kerry insisted, "The president has made clear — I can't state this more firmly — the policy is Iran will not get a nuclear weapon." However, any details of the deal, Kerry said, will have to wait. "And anybody running around right now, jumping in to say, 'Well, we don't like the deal,' or this or that, doesn't know what the deal is. There is no deal yet. And I caution people to wait and see what these negotiations produce."
House speaker John Boehner has invited Israel prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address a joint session of Congress on February 11. The invitation is meant to be a repudiation of President Obama's Iran policy, according to a draft Boehner's prepared remarks this morning to the House Republican conference.
Foreign Policy reports that the U.S. believes Iran is cheating on U.N. nuclear sanctions. "The United States has privately accused Iran of going on an international shopping spree to acquire components for a heavy-water reactor that American officials have long feared could be used in the production of nuclear weapons-grade plutonium," reports Colum Lynch.
He did it again, as we should have expected. Iranian supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei walked us right up to the finish line, spat on us, and walked away. Months and months of secret and public talks, letters, back channels, and gestures produced nothing of the sort the president, assorted foreign ministers, pundits, and politicians had been predicting. Instead we are to keep talking, and keep paying the Islamic Republic for the pleasure and privilege.
Today we learned that it has been impossible to reach an agreement with Iran over its nuclear weapons program. Even a short "framework" agreement or one-pager was beyond reach. And this, despite the extension of the talks from the original deadline last spring.