With great fanfare on Tuesday, the State Department reported that Iran has complied with a key condition of the interim agreement by significantly reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium. It was an accurate statement as long as one ignores Iran’s violations.
Iran is obligated by the interim Joint Plan of Action (JPOA) to do two things by the end of every 6 months:
“Iran has committed to take further nuclear-related steps in the next four months… [t]hese include a continued cap on the amount of 5 percent enriched uranium hexafluoride and a commitment to convert any material over that amount into oxide.”
What Kerry didn’t mention is the process to turn the oxide back into UF6 only takes about two weeks, so this Iranian concession wasn’t really a concession. Apparently though Iran isn’t even complying with this requirement.
At the beginning of this month the NY Times reported that Iran “stockpile of nuclear fuel increased about 20 percent over the last 18 months of negotiations, partially undercutting the Obama administration’s contention that the Iranian program had been “frozen” during that period” This made it unlikely that Iran would be able to hit its target of converting its oversupply into yellowcake by the June 30th deadline.
The State Department hit back at the report, which led the Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) to write a position paper to explain it to the wonks at Foggy Bottom and accusing them of trying to sweep the problem under the rug:
The State Department has some explaining to do, publicly. Shooting the messengers is not going to make this issue go away. The deal is too important to all of us.
Four days after the NY Times report (on June 5), acting as the State Department Spox, Marie Harf explained that the Iranians would be in compliance with the JPOA because they’d decrease their UF6 stockpile. But when reporters followed up requesting answers about the Iranians refusing to oxidize the overage, Harf “misspoke” (that’s political speak for lying). She said, “I don’t think we’ve seen any evidence that they are converting it more slowly.” But when reporters reminded her informed her that the Iranians had stopped oxidizing in November 2014, she promised to look into it.
On the first of July, the IAEA published a report confirming the Iranians have met the 7,650kg hexafluoride cap but didn’t meet the oxidation requirement. That would put them in violation of the JPOA, the administration declared that it’s not a violation because they contend what the Iranians did was above and beyond:
However, the report indicated that only several hundred pounds of the oxide that is the end product had been made. A U.S. official told The Associated Press the rest of the enriched uranium in the pipeline has been transformed into another form of the oxide that would be even more difficult to reconvert into enriched uranium. The official said that technical problems by Iran had slowed the process but the United States was satisfied that Iran had met its commitments to reduce the amount of enriched uranium it has stored.
Whether or not the Administration is being honest in its explanation of Iran’s compliance, rather than taking the position of protecting the United States by demanding the rogue nation comply with the agreement as written, they have “switched sides,” playing the role of Iran’s attorney and explaining away their violation. Now the Obama administration is invested in explaining away other possible Iranian violations.
As the AP article about the IAEA report reminds readers, it is in the administrations best interests to ignore or spin away any violations.
“Violations by Iran would complicate the Obama administration’s battle to persuade congressional opponents and other skeptics.”
So they have to either ignore or spin.
The administration appears to be politicizing the reporting process (their pushback on the Times story and Harf’s misstatements) so they can better spin away the truth. And it’s not just that the administration is saying that the Iranians cheated but it doesn’t count, they are also saying that Iran complied with the JPOA as a legal matter even though Iran didn’t.
This is just one more example of the Iranians cheating, for example they’ve exceeded the JPOA’s oil export caps every month and they injected gas into an advanced centrifuge. And it’s not even the first time that the administration tried to downplay the cheating to the press by saying, “wait and see; this is just a normal fluctuation; they’ll hit their target,” (that was the State Department’s argument about oil export caps for months).
The Administration keeps telling Congress that the Iranians can be trusted to meet their final deal obligations, because they met their interim deal obligations. But as the evidence above proves—no they didn’t.
Finally when administration officials go to the Hill to explain the “science” behind the one-year breakout timeline (which they insist they can achieve despite giving into Iran’s demand to spin thousands of centrifuges because Iran will convert any overages into yellowcake) they will be lying. The evidence suggests that the Iranians can’t or won’t implement those requirements.