Twice, now, Senate Democrats have blocked an honest up-or-down vote on the Iran deal. As with Obamacare, they have instead pushed through this unpopular agreement with zero Republican support. This could cost them, and rightly so, as they attempt to retake control of the Senate in 2016.
Not only do most Americans disapprove of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as it is formally known, but as with the Affordable Care Act, the rollout is guaranteed to be messy. Ongoing reports of Iran’s duplicity and hostility to the U.S. will likely bolster doubts about the agreement, which Democrats now own. In fact, that process has already begun.
With the ink barely dry on the accord presumably restricting its hunt for a nuclear weapon, Iran has revealed the discovery of a new and unexpected reserve of uranium. In a remarkable coincidence, the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Organization announced the find just a few days ago, and added that extraction of the material would begin soon.
If western researchers are clueless about Iran’s indigenous uranium supplies, you have to wonder, what else do we not know?
The news highlights, among other things, how little the West knows about the nuclear infrastructure in Iran. Analysts have previously forecast that Tehran would soon run low on uranium reserves, and would turn to imports to plug the gap. Specifically, the Carnegie Endowment and the Federation of American Scientists published a report in 2103 concluding that insufficient reserves of high-quality uranium of the sort used in producing nuclear power and in making weapons would drive Iran “to rely on external sources of natural and processed uranium.” This presumably would have made monitoring the country’s nuclear activities easier. Instead, we now find Iran moving towards self-sufficiency.
If western researchers are clueless about Iran’s indigenous uranium supplies, you have to wonder, what else do we not know? For instance, on August 27 the International Atomic Energy Agency reported construction activity taking place at Parchin, a military site in Iran that has been linked to possible nuclear weapons development.
The IAEA had spotted trucks and other equipment moving about Parchin, relying on satellite photos since their inspectors have not been permitted at the facility since 2005. The report suggested that Iran was expanding the site, which is suspected of housing a large explosives chamber, critical to weapons research. Parchin is the location at which the IAEA has agreed in a side deal to let the Iranians provide their own soil samples and other evidence required to prove Tehran’s compliance with the recent anti-nuke agreement.
Olli Heinonen, former Deputy Director-General for Safeguards at the IAEA, has criticized the inspection arrangements at Parchin, saying, “If the reporting is accurate, these procedures appear to be risky, departing significantly from well-established and proven safeguards practices.”
More disturbing has been Iran’s recently announced purchase from Russia of a sophisticated missile defense system, which would make it impossible for Israel or the United States to bomb noncompliant nuclear sites. The S-300 system would also “allow Iran offensive capacities beyond its airspace, which could include harassing non-hostile aircraft flying over neighboring countries," according to a report in The Hill.
The United States has pressured Russia since 2009 not to sell Iran this system, which some view as likely to reset the balance of power in the Middle East. At a recent press conference, President Obama made light of the transfer. However, it renders virtually meaningless his pledge, expressed in a letter to Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler, to keep “all of the options available to the United States – including the military option,” should Iran pursue a nuclear weapon.
Developments such as these – a new uranium mine, expansion of military sites, sophisticated new armaments and others to come – will challenge Democrats. The mullahs have made it quite clear that the deal will in no way impact their behavior in the region, or towards the United States. Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the nation's key policy maker recently told a gathering, "We approved talks with the United States about the nuclear issue specifically. We have not allowed talks with the U.S. in other fields and we will not negotiate with them." Referencing the 1979 revolution, when relations with the United States were severed, he further said "The Iranian nation ousted the Satan. We should not let it back through the window." He also predicted that in 25 years the state of Israel would be no more.
In part because of such remarks, and because there is no sign Iran will temper its support of terrorist groups in the Middle East, American voters do not like the agreement with Iran. A recent CNN/ORC poll shows that nearly 60 percent of the country disapproves of Obama’s handling of our relationship with Iran; some 49 percent thinks Congress should reject the deal and 60 percent thinks that Iran will cheat. People do not believe the central promise of the pact – that its aggressive inspections regimen will keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon. That assertion, so oft repeated by President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, has been rendered non-credible by the secret “side deals” with the IAEA that appear to allow Iran to monitor its own compliance.
Also troubling are reports that Iran will not allow inspectors from countries with nuclear capabilities, or from “unfriendly” countries like Canada, and that inspections will be cumbersome to arrange. It’s an absurd arrangement with a regime that has repeatedly cheated and lied about its nuclear program. There is no indication that Tehran’s goal is anything but the removal of damaging sanctions. Americans get that. President Obama apparently does not.
Just as the passage of Obamacare set up the GOP takeover of the House in 2010, scoring historic gains with voters angry about the partisan deal-making that ensured adoption of the bill, which granted Iran legitimacy as a nuclear threshold nation will loom large as Democrats campaign in 2016. It is not only the Senate, of course, that is in play.
Hillary Clinton, still the most likely Democrat candidate, will also find herself on defense as she explains to voters her support of the anti-nuke agreement. The party is likely to pay a high price for granting President Obama his cherished foreign policy win.