If the West needed further proof that the nuclear deal signed last month by the P5+1 countries and Iran is a bad one, they got plenty of it this week. First, in a speech at American University in Washington, U.S. President Barack Obama admitted the billions of dollars Iran will receive in sanctions relief could be used to support terrorism. “We have no illusions about the Iranian government or the significance of the Revolutionary Guard and the Quds Force … Iran supports terrorist organizations like Hezbollah. It supports proxy groups that threaten our interests and the interests of our allies, including proxy groups who killed our troops in Iraq.”
Unfortunately, as this week’s events reveal, the agreement is even more questionable than previously thought.
The day after Obama made his remarks, lead U.S. negotiator Wendy Sherman gave some worrisome testimony to the Senate Banking Committee over the so-called “side deals” between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency over nuclear inspections, which are not subject to U.S. approval. When questioned as to whether she had seen the final documents, she stated that “I didn’t see the final documents. I saw the provisional documents, as did my experts.” Sherman then appeared to change her version of events, stating that “I was shown documents that I believe to be the final documents, but whether, in fact, there are any further discussions…” Later, when asked if she saw the final version of the deals, Sherman answered, “I have.”
Sherman’s conflicting statements highlight the distinction between “documents” and the deals themselves. Sherman maintained that the agreements cannot be submitted to Congress not only because they are still confidential, but because the U.S. does not have them. According to Sherman, “Indeed our understanding of the Corker-Cardin legislation [on the Iran Nuclear Review] that passed by the House and the Senate, is that we must give you every document that we have, and we have given you every document that we have.”
Lawmakers charged with approving the agreement are understandably concerned, even outraged, at this situation. Following Sherman’s committee appearance, Republican Louisiana Congressman Steve Scalise took the fight to social media, tweeting that “Mr. President, Americans deserve to know the details about the secret side deals.” Obama responded, “Important detail — there are no secret deals. My staff can brief you on any question about any part of the deal.” And yet.
For the Obama administration, and for the President personally, there is no question that the P5+1 nuclear deal with Iran represents a significant legacy project. Obama has mounted a vociferous defence of the agreement, claiming that if Congress rejects it, America will lose face internationally, and that the alternative to the deal is war. Unfortunately, as this week’s events reveal, the agreement is even more questionable than previously thought. Rather than let hubris cloud Congress’ judgement, the President should ensure that all the facts and documents are on the table — and that if they don’t satisfy the West’s security interests, the parties go back to the negotiating table.