Yesterday, I argued that Secretary of State John Kerry and his aides have apparently taken the wrong lessons from the failure of the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea. That deal began to unravel almost as soon as it was signed when it became clear that Pyongyang was violating its agreements. Under Secretary of State Warren Christopher, however, the State Department at first refused a finding that revealed North Korean was cheating and then blamed the Pentagon for insisting during negotiations on a high standard of compliance.
Now, it seems Team Kerry is intent on whitewashing Iran and Iranian behavior completely.
This fits a long and bipartisan pattern in which second-term White Houses and State Departments twist and politicize intelligence in order to prevent facts from undercutting claims of diplomatic success or political legacies. (Earlier this year, I published a lengthy academic article on the history of this sort of thing in the International Journal of Intelligence and Counterintelligence).
Rather than judge the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) openly and honestly on the facts and its results, President Obama, Kerry, and their Iran team seeks to bury reporting, verification, and any intelligence which threatens to contravene talking points about the deal’s supposed success. Take yesterday’s exchange at the State Department with regard to revelations that the JCPOA and secret side deals with the IAEA relax rather than enhance IAEA reporting, which The Israel Project’s Omri Ceren pointed out:
MR KIRBY: So we now know more than we’ve ever known, thanks to this deal, about Iran’s program.
LEE, AP: How much near-20-percent highly enriched uranium does Iran now have?
MR KIRBY: I don’t know.
LEE, AP: You don’t know because it’s not in the IAEA report.
That’s worth pondering: Just months into the activation of the nuclear deal, the State Department has no idea about whether Iran has 20-percent highly enriched uranium, despite all the claims that the JCPOA included the most rigorous inspection and verification mechanisms ever. It’s quite possible the IAEA simply doesn’t know itself: Iran continues to refuse to allow inspectors onto any site it deems military.
Senator Cory Booker and colleagues who embraced the JCPOA and accepted Kerry’s assurance have some explaining to do: Either they knew what they were voting for or they did not. If the former, they implicitly endorsed an agreement which made the post-deal IAEA reporting less transparent than that required pre-deal. If the latter, however, they were essentially asleep at the switch, betraying their responsibilities in the senate and to national security for the sake of short-term political prerogatives. Either way, the White House and State Department are twisting intelligence. Reality has taken a back seat, and national and regional security is now based more on trust than verification.