The Rosett Report

Nuclear Groundhog Day: Today, You'll Hear That State Dept. Needs 'More Time' to Finish Iran Nuke Deal They Can't Possibly Enforce

Sure, an Iran nuclear deal might work as envisioned by the White House — as long as it’s enforced by some power more functional than the crew that is concocting this deal in the first place.

If a deal finally emerges from the latest diplomatic hoopla in Vienna, maybe the Obama administration should farm out the monitoring and enforcement to an outfit that actually keeps its promises and meets its deadlines. Say, Federal Express. Or the Bombay lunchbox delivery system. As it is, the Iran nuclear deal reportedly taking shape is one that, instead of dismantling Iran’s nuclear infrastructure, would aim merely to keep Iran at least a year away from nuclear breakout.

This would require rapid detection of any cheating by Iran, swift confirmation of the problem, and decisive response — one timely and effective enough to stop Iran in its tracks.

In whose fantasies would it really work that way?

The negotiations themselves tell us plenty about the problem. Consistent features of the talks have been delays and missed deadlines, as Iran has wrangled, balked, equivocated, and contradicted in public what U.S. officials have described as “agreed upon” in private. More than 19 months have passed since an interim deal was struck in Geneva, the Nov. 24, 2013 Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) that set out terms for the talks. Under the JPOA, the time frame envisioned for the talks was six months. But it took a while to get things organized, so the talks actually began on Feb. 18, 2014, with a July 20, 2014 deadline for a final, comprehensive deal.

There was no deal by that July deadline. So a new deadline was set, for Nov. 24, 2014. There was no deal by that deadline, so another deadline was set for June 30, 2015.

That’s today. And while we can’t rule out a surprise announcement of a done deal, the negotiators have been saying they have more work to do. They need more time.

And small wonder. In order to produce a deal that defers to Iran’s insistence on such dangerous absurdities as the “inalienable right” to enrich uranium, the U.S. and its P5+1 negotiating partners (Russia, China, France, the U.K., and Germany) have been haggling with the Iranians over an agreement with so many moving parts that it takes relays of technical experts working around the clock to keep track of what’s being agreed to.

Here’s how a senior U.S. administration official described the condition of the draft agreement on Monday in a background briefing to the press:

… a many, many page document, a main text and several annexes. It takes a long time, a lot of — huge amounts of detail, all of which has to be checked. And then our lawyers have to look at it all, for heaven’s sakes.

And that’s the easy part. For the nuclear inspectors of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency, U.S. officials are now talking about “managed access” to Iranian facilities.

Then this contraption gets turned over to the UN, where almost nothing happens in a hurry apart from the habitual condemnations of Israel. This is the same UN that brought us Oil-for-Food in Iraq; the same UN where a stack of Security Council resolutions have not stopped Iran from coming close to nuclear breakout and have not stopped North Korea from building and testing nuclear bombs.

For that matter, this is the same UN which, after more than a decade of promising there will be no more UN peacekeeper rape of children, has still not managed to solve even that problem, which involves troops working under its direct supervision.

But we are assured there if an Iran deal is reached, there will be nothing to worry about. Provisions will be made to keep Iran in check. How would that work? As far as anything is ever enforced at the UN, the main enforcer is the U.S. And the U.S. interlocutor with the UN is the State Department — which has been having its own colossal problems meeting deadlines. This includes deadlines — required by law — for reporting to Congress on such matters as Iran, North Korea, and Syria proliferation traffic.

On Syria, State’s most recent report was both staggeringly late and more than three years out of date.

Add to that President Obama’s investment in a nuclear deal with Iran, which he has pursued as the foreign-policy variant in his second term like Obamacare was on the domestic front in his first. Should a final deal emerge, the White House will no doubt celebrate it as a landmark foreign policy achievement. If Iran cheats (and Iran’s nuclear program, as well as its international dealings and domestic politics, are configured for deception — deceit being a hallmark of terror-sponsoring tyrannies), how long would it take the White House to confirm that its Iran deal is unraveling? How long to admit the problem? How long to do something about it?

Or, amid the fervor for a deal, is reality by now entirely besides the point?