WASHINGTON — President Obama hailed the Iran nuclear deal as “avoiding further conflict and making us safer” on the one-year anniversary of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.
Within that year, Iran has conducted ballistic missile tests in violation of a UN Security Council resolution that the administration says are outside the scope of the nuclear agreement but UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said are “not consistent with the constructive spirit” of the agreement in a confidential report cited by Bloomberg.
Iran has also captured U.S. sailors and humiliated them on-camera before releasing them, indicted an American businessman and a U.S. permanent resident who had done work for the U.S. government, and shipped arms to Yemen. Iran has warned that if the U.S. gives them any grief about their activities, they’ll consider the nuclear deal null and void.
German intelligence reported at the end of June that Iran has continued its “illegal proliferation-sensitive procurement activities” at a “quantitatively high level” — which “holds true in particular with regard to items which can be used in the field of nuclear technology.” The State Department has denied the report.
“The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution also registered 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,” states the German report. “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.”
“All of Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon remain closed, and Iran’s breakout time has been extended from two to three months to about a year,” Obama declared in a statement released by the White House today. “The United States and our negotiating partners have also fully implemented our commitments to lift nuclear-related sanctions, and we will continue to uphold our commitments as long as Iran continues to abide by the deal.”
“The JCPOA demonstrates what can be achieved by principled diplomacy and a sustained commitment to stopping the spread of nuclear weapons,” the president added. “America’s willingness to engage directly with Iran opened the door to talks, which led to the international unity and sustained engagement that culminated in the JCPOA. We still have serious differences with Iran, but the United States, our partners, and the world are more secure because of the JCPOA.”
Secretary of State John Kerry did his own victory lap, emerging before the media at the Westin Hotel in Paris to declare that “a program that so many people said will not work, a program that people said is absolutely doomed to see cheating and be broken and will make the more dangerous, has, in fact, made the world safer, lived up to its expectations, and thus far produced an ability to be able to create a peaceful nuclear program with Iran living up to its part of this bargain and obligation.”
“The world is safer today because conflict in the region is not calculated on the basis of the potential of a nuclear confrontation or nuclear explosion, and because we have the ability to be able to work through some issues which we’ve seen, for instance with our sailors who stumbled into Iranian waters and within 24 hours we were able to get them out,” Kerry said. “That could not have happened prior to this agreement having taken place.”
Kerry added that “nobody pretends that some of the challenges we have with Iran have somehow been wiped away.”
“This program was about a nuclear track and about a nuclear program. It was not about the other issues that are involved in the relationships of a number of nations in the region and the United States. So we continue to focus on those issues, whether in Syria or Yemen, on terrorism,” he said. “There are other real issues, and we will continue and are continuing to focus on those issues. But we believe that the door that has been opened as a consequence of this dialogue gives us an opportunity to be able to do exactly that.”
“…There are always potential for hiccups, for a moment of questioning about one component or another; but fundamentally, I think the world can take pride in the fact that this multilateral, complicated negotiation has produced a result which makes the region less volatile and makes the world itself safer in terms of nuclear proliferation.”
At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing today examining the deal one year later, Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-Md.), one of four Senate Dems to vote against the deal, stressed “we cannot evaluate the JCPOA in a vacuum – it must be considered within its strategic and regional context.”
“From this vantage point, my worst fear expressed last year – that the JCPOA would actually increase the likelihood of conflict – may be coming true,” Cardin said, noting Iran has also restored relations with Hamas.
“…Let me reiterate that while I ultimately opposed the agreement one year ago, I am cautiously pleased about Iranian compliance within the parameters that the JCPOA laid out. But as the Iranian regime continues its destructive pattern of supporting terrorism, proliferating weapons, threatening Israel and violating fundamental human rights, the Congress has to remain strong and united in countering their warped world view.”
On the House floor today, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), arguing in favor of his Iran Accountability Act to apply sanctions on Iran for its terrorism activity, ballistic missile tests, and human rights abuses, stressed that “Iran isn’t holding up its side of the bargain and is more interested in embarrassing American military men and women than becoming a responsible nation.”
“You know, for the last six months we worked with the other side of the aisle. We worked in a bipartisan manner with the chairmen on both sides. But every time we got to deal with the ballistic missile sanctions against them, the White House would thwart any bipartisan effort,” McCarthy said. “So why are we here today? Because for six months you found every reason to say no. For six months, you went back on every word that was said about holding them accountable when the facts stood before us.”