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A Done Deal?
Iran Makes Move for Nuclear Propellers

Ayatollah Khameinei recently warned Congress that any attempt to extend sanctions on Iran would be considered a violation of the nuclear deal. The Supreme Leader apparently meant it, as Iran is now threatening a breach of its own. Reuters:

Iran ordered its scientists on Tuesday to start developing systems for nuclear-powered marine vessels in response to what it calls a U.S. violation of its landmark 2015 atomic deal with world powers.

Nuclear experts however said that President Hassan Rouhani’s move, if carried out, would probably require Iran to enrich uranium to a fissile purity above the maximum level set by the nuclear deal to allay fears of Tehran building an atomic bomb. […]

“On the basis of international experience, were Iran to go ahead with such a (nuclear propulsion) project, it would have to increase its enrichment level,” said Mark Hibbs, nuclear expert and senior fellow at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“That’s the point, because Iran would be looking for a non-weapons rationale to provocatively increase its enrichment level in the case that the deal with the powers comes unstuck.” 

Is this the end of the Iran deal as we know it? It is too soon to say, but Iran’s latest move is a particularly brazen gesture that even the Obama Administration, which has preferred to minimize violations of the deal, will find hard to ignore. Obama has previously given the Iranians the benefit of the doubt, saying they were violating the “spirit” of the deal, not the “letter.” Such a charitable interpretation seems to be ruling in this instance as well; the White House is already denying that today’s announcement, “in and of itself,” would violate the accord.

The Obama Administration’s attempts to save face on the agreement look increasingly strained, while Iran pushes the envelope to see what it can get away with. This dynamic showcases the deal’s inherent weaknesses. Lacking both the approval of Congress and formal treaty status, Obama’s Iran deal is a remarkably fragile agreement, vulnerable to the whims of his successor. Obama knows this, which is why he feels compelled to put a happy face on the deal’s accomplishments, insisting that it is working and ignoring when it is not.

There has been much handwringing in the press about whether the Iran nuclear deal will be dismantled once Donald Trump gets in office. But the deal appears to be unraveling under Obama, not Trump, and as a reaction to a congressional vote that had widespread bipartisan support. This only underscores how tenuous Obama’s achievement was, and what shaky foundations it rests upon.

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  • LarryD

    Did Iran ever actually sign anything?

    • Matt B

      Yes they did, as did the members of the UN Security Council (US, UK, France, Russia, China), Germany, and the EU.

      So if they blatantly violate the agreement (leaving incontrovertible evidence to that effect, like a TV appearance by the Ayatollah saying “WE ARE BUILDING A NUCLEAR WEAPON AND HERE IS THE VIDEO OF MY RECENT FACTORY TOUR”), there is no doubt that the signed agreement will be waved in the air with extreme vigor.

      • FriendlyGoat

        By whom?

        • Matt B

          Well those countries are listed as “signatories” in the press, but It doesn’t appear that anyone actually signed anything. Yet the UN lifted sanctions and we transferred millions of dollars.

          • AaronL

            “and we transferred millions of dollars”

            that actually would be hundreds of millions of dollars and according to some sources over a billion dollars. But that’s all right I’m sure it all went towards promoting peace.

  • Boritz

    “Is this the end of the Iran deal as we know it?”

    To whatever degree, the reality that never went away will assume its place.

  • Dale Fayda

    “The Obama Administration’s attempts to save face on the agreement look increasingly strained, while Iran pushes the envelope to see what it can get away with.”

    As I stated numerous times on this site, Obama will ignore anything short of a mushroom cloud. In about a month, none of this is his responsibility any more and it was always about his “legacy” anyway. The boy-king knows darn well his “deal” is a sham, but saving face is all he has at this stage. Perhaps, he IS deluded enough to think that his appeasement of Iran was an unalloyed good, but even I doubt it he’s that much of a patsy.

    IMHO, this “deal” was still borne as written; either Trump will dismantle it (not a moment too soon) or the Iranians will begin to blatantly violate it once they come close to achieving nuclear capability, which was always their goal anyway, deal or no deal.

  • sacip

    Apparently, Obama’s comment about Iran only violating the spirit of the agreement was made on April 1. Well, at least we know who the “fool” is.

  • Disappeared4x

    Handwringing press might not know what Iran already knows: the next SecEnergy will be Defender of Jerusalem award recipient, retired Texas Governor Rick Perry. I have not yet seen anything in any media since 2011 noting Perry’s DoJerusalem award in 2009.
    The DoEnergy is responsible for all nuclear, which is why SecMoniz was on SecState Kerry’s Iran nuclear team.

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