The following is an excerpt from a fact sheet prepared by Omri Ceren of the Israel Project that explains the significance of the Obama administration’s latest concession to Tehran—the reported collapse on the possible military dimensions of Iran’s nuclear program.
The WSJ revealed late last night that the Obama administration has collapsed on the long-standing condition that the Iranians resolve the International Atomic Energy Agency's concerns about their past nuclear weapons work. This isn't a collapse on sequencing. It's not that the Iranians will get sanctions relief, and then they'll be expected to disclose their past work. This is a collapse on ever requiring the Iranians to fully come clean.
The development will be politically toxic on Capitol Hill.
The Obama administration has spent the last two years promising lawmakers that, whatever else would happen, Iran would at least have to fully resolve the possible military dimensions (PMDs) of their program. It had to be that way. The administration never secured any concession that would physically preclude the Iranians from going nuclear: dismantling centrifuges, shuttering facilities, and so on. Instead White House officials told Congress that the Iranians would be deterred from cheating by a robust verification regime. But any robust verification regime requires, as a prerequisite, that the IAEA have full insight into what the Iranians have done and what they've stockpiled.
And since no one imagined the Iranians would ultimately refuse—how could there be a deal with no PMD resolution?—the administration thought they had a safe deliverable to promise Congress. Officials went to the Hill and emphasized, 1st, that nothing mattered except verification, 2nd, that PMDs were the be-all and end-all of verification and, 3rd, that the Iranians would agree to resolve those issues. That was the message from the very beginning of talks—before the JPOA even took effect—all the way through the eve of Vienna. I've pasted some of the main testimony and briefings below.
Now the administration will move the goalposts. They'll argue they never needed Iranian cooperation because the U.S. intelligence community has adequate insight into the Iranian nuclear program and that they've shared that intelligence with the IAEA. There are policy problems with those claims—the U.S. intelligence community probably doesn't have adequate intelligence and the IAEA says it certainly doesn’t— but the administration also faces independent political problems. White House officials asked lawmakers for breathing room to conduct talks, and in exchange they promised to secure a resolution to the PMD issue as a basis for the verification regime. They said it was the most important element of the most important part of the entire Iran deal. They'll have to justify collapsing on it.
—Wendy Sherman, Undersecretary of State, December 12, 2013
There are three places in the agreement that speak to the possible military dimensions of Iran's program. In the first paragraph, it talks about having the comprehensive agreement address all remaining concerns. That is a reference to their possible military dimensions. It talks about the need to address past and present practices, which is the IAEA terminology for possible military dimensions, including Parchin... So we have had very direct conversations with Iran about all of these. They understand completely the meaning of the words in this agreement, and we intend to support the IAEA in its efforts to deal with possible military dimensions, including Parchin.
—Wendy Sherman, Undersecretary of State, February 4, 2014
We raised possible military dimensions.... in the Joint Plan of Action, we have required that Iran come clean on its past actions as part of any comprehensive agreement in three very critical ways... First... we expect, indeed, Parchin to be resolved.... Secondly, the plan says before the final step, there would be additional steps in the -- in between the initial measure and the final step, including addressing the U.N. Security Council resolutions, which require... dealing with issues of past (ph) concerns."