Thursday, July 16, 2015


In July 2006, after weeks of tough diplomacy and a troubling report on Iran’s secrecy from the International Atomic Energy Agency, we negotiated and passed a UN Security Council resolution demanding that Iran answer lingering questions about its nuclear program. At the time, IAEA inspectors and some countries suspected Iran was hiding parts of the program on its military bases and other undisclosed sites. Iran wasn’t cooperating and the UN Security Council had had enough.

The international community, including Russia and China, gave the Iran Government 30 days to allow unfettered access to the suspected sites in order to alleviate the UN’s concerns about their secret work. Iran refused to allow access to its military sites in 2006 and the UN responded 30 days later with the first of multiple rounds of economic sanctions for their unwillingness to cooperate. Nine years later, Secretary of State John Kerry blinked. President Obama and Mr. Kerry withdrew the current U.S. demands on Iran and rewarded the Islamic Republic with sanctions relief, despite the fact that Iran has never allowed unfettered access to its military bases.

The last nine years have been a colossal and dangerous waste of time. Iran didn’t budge. Sanctions didn’t move them to allow inspections. President Obama’s refusal to learn from Iran’s history may be the reason Iran declares it has obtained a nuke. Maybe Hillary Clinton was right in 2008 when she called Barack Obama “naïve” on foreign policy.

President Obama and his team knew of the previous UN demands on Iran when they took office in January 2009. In fact, President Bush’s team left the Obama White House 5 UN resolutions on Iran with 3 rounds of international sanctions on the Islamic Republic. The demands on Iran to allow UN inspectors unfettered access to all their sites was never met. But the President failed to act on Iran until June 2010, eighteen months after taking office. By the time Mr. Obama got around to noticing the UN’s demand for access, Iran had gotten the message loud and clear: their nuclear program was no longer a top U.S. Government priority.

Iran knew Mr. Obama didn’t demand immediate access to their sites or push to increase international sanctions against them when he took office in 2009. They saw Mr. Obama release the international community’s tension and offer sanction opt-outs and waivers to countries wanting to buy oil from Iran. It was Mr. Obama who ignored the hundreds of international diplomats who had tried and failed to convince Iran to allow anytime, anywhere access to its military sites.

The new Geneva deal violates current Security Council demands because it allows the Islamic Republic to forego full and verified suspension. We may never know what Iran really has in its military facilities. We don’t know if the number of centrifuges they say they have is the actual number they possess. We won’t be able to verify if the amount of enriched uranium they say they have is the actual amount.

The IAEA inspectors still have lingering questions about Iran’s capacity and truthfulness. They still don’t have the answers they have been demanding since 2006 despite the fact that the Security Council put international sanctions on Iran for refusing to allow that access. It’s why the new Iran deal is so troubling. Iran hasn’t come clean but gets rewarded anyway. It is a direct blow to the UN’s credibility.

While Mr. Obama’s new deal says the IAEA will be able to once again appeal to Iran for access to their military sites, we already know Iran’s answer. They’ve been giving the same one since 2006. And now that there is less pressure, more money and fewer sanctions, there is no leverage to force the access.

Richard Grenell is a former spokesman for four United States Ambassadors to the United Nations, most recently Ambassador Zal Khalilzad.

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