Looking more like a farce, the Iranian nuke deal got some bad news from Iran’s parliament and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei: No nuclear inspections at Iran’s military sites. Without verification of Iran’s cessation of all sensitive nuclear weapons research, the final nuke deal, negotiated by Iran’s 56-year-old, U.S.-educated Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, is dead. Secretary of State John Kerry has spent the better part of two years working on nuke deal approved the P5+1, including the U.S., U.K., France, Russia, China and Germany, all hanging on Iran coming clean with its secret nuke activities. Suspected of working on a bomb, Iran’s denials have fallen on deaf ears, demanding Iran stop enriching weapons grade fuel. U.S. and world powers expect Iran to submit to verifiable inspections by the U.N.’s Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency.
Already agreeing to Congressional approval, President Barack Obama agreed April 14 to allow Congress to vet and approve any nuke deal. With the June 30 deadline running out, Iran’s 213-member parliament voted 199 to 14 to prevent IAEA inspectors from entering sensitive military sites. If the parliament’s vote is approved by the Guardian Council, it will kill any future nuke deal. Zarif and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has warned that if Washington doesn’t go along with a deal, Iran would ramp up its nuclear enrichment activity, clearly suggesting it has military objectives. While denying that Iran’s enrichment program is only for “peaceful purposes,” Zarif and Rouhani have made it clear that if they don’t get a deal, they’ll shift the enrichment programs into high gear. Western officials can only assume they’re referring to ramping up military dimension.
Whatever demands the U.S. Congress puts on Kerry to negotiate a solid arms deal, Iran’s parliament killed the deal. “The International Atomic Energy Agency, with the framework of the safeguard agreement, is allowed to carry out conventional inspections of nuclear sites,” ruling out IAEA inspections at sensitive military sites. “Access to military, security and sensitive non-nuclear sites, as well as documents of scientists, is forbidden,” read the parliament’s bill, in effect killing the agreement. Because the parliament acted in concert with Ayatollah Khamenei, it’s doubtful that hawks on Capitol would approve the agreement. Since Day-One, Rouhani and Zarif have played with semantics concerning the IAEA inspections. By refusing to allow IAEA inspectors to go where their eyes-and-ears take them, the nuke deal, in its present form, has no credible verification.
Without allowing unfettered and unannounced IAEA inspections, there’s no way to confirm that Iran complies with the terms of the agreement. Forbidding access to Iran’s nuclear sites and scientists, Iran could circumvent the intent of the nuke deal to curtail Iran’s nuclear ambitions. Iranian authorities believe they have the right under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty to enrich uranium for “peaceful purposes,” meaning for reactor fuel or radioactive medical isotopes. When former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad declared Iran and “nuclear state” Feb. 11, 2010, he wasn’t referring to reactor fuel or medical isotopes. Ahmadinejad referred to “peaceful purposes” as having bomb to use as a deterrent with the U.S. and Israel. Nailing down a nuke deal without IAEA inspections wouldn’t fly with the U.S. Congress or anyone else with any common sense.
With the clock ticking, Rouhani and Zarif don’t have the luxury to dictate terms on any nuke deal with the P5+1. Both know that without inspections, they have no deal and the punishing economic sanctions go on in perpetuity. Threatening to ramp up nuclear enrichment activities could push the P5+1 to consider military options, including bombing Iran’s nuclear sites, whether they’re underground or not. Breaking his leg in full Tour de France bike-riding gear, Kerry showed he’s a risk-taker when it comes to the 70-year-old’s sporting activities. When it comes to his negotiating skills, Kerry’s at the end of his rope, knowing the GOP-dominated Congress won’t sign onto any agreement that doesn’t include IAEA inspections. Anything less would be seen as complete charade. Both the U.S. and Iran have run out of time pretending to be engaged in real negotiations.
Spending the better part of two years working on a nuke deal with Iran, any failure to reach and agreement reflects badly on the Obama administration, hurting Democrats heading into the 2016 presidential election. Most political experts expect the election to turn on foreign policy. A fresh White House defeat could make a strong case to voters that a Democrat can’t get foreign or domestic policy done. If there’s no deal by June 30, it will embarrass the White House. GOP long-shot presidential candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), who just shared condolences with Democratic front runner former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton over the June 17 racist gun massacre in Charleston, S.C., said Hillary would get a better nuke deal than Obama. With voters losing patience with Obama, an Iran nuke failure would remind voters that it’s time for a change at the White House.