Tuesday, June 23, 2015

See No Iran Evil at State

Here’s why Obama will ignore Tehran’s nuclear violations.

Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn
One obvious risk of a nuclear deal with Iran is that the mullahs will pocket Western concessions even as they work on their atomic capabilities in secret. That much was suggested this month by Gen.Michael Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, who told Congress that “it is prudent to conclude that there are elements of Iran’s nuclear program that still remain hidden from view.”
But here’s a less obvious risk: The U.S. might find evidence that Iran is cheating but fail to act out of bureaucratic neglect—or a political desire to look the other way.

That’s the message of a report last month by the Government Accountability Office, which found that the State Department had failed to provide timely reports to Congress on the proliferation activities of Iran, North Korea and Syria. Instead of delivering reports every six months, as required by law, delays ranged from 22 months to three years.

GAO found that State had failed to establish a basic process to meet its obligations under the 2006 Iran, North Korea, and Syria Nonproliferation Act. “Prolonged delays in eventually imposing INKSNA sanctions could erode the credibility of such threats and INKSNA’s utility as a tool in helping to curb weapons of mass destruction proliferation,” GAO concluded. State knew of 23 people involved in sanctions-busting activities in 2011 but only imposed sanctions last December.

That’s a long time to let bad guys run free, especially when nuclear technology is at stake. Keep in mind that President Obama has promised that any nuclear deal will provide a year’s warning should Iran cheat.

GAO describes a Byzantine bureaucratic process, involving four “State-led interagency working groups,” input from the intelligence community, further input from the Departments of Defense, Energy, Commerce and the National Security Council, a meeting of a “sub-Interagency Policy Committee,” further review by relevant committees and eventual sign-off from the Deputy Secretary of State. Amid that morass, the marvel is that anyone gets sanctioned.

As for willful delay, GAO notes that “State officials told us that a variety of political concerns, such as international negotiations and relations with countries involved in transfers, can delay State’s INKSNA process.” That’s a delicate way of admitting that the State Department is willing to obscure facts to promote its arms-control agenda.

That happened in 2010, when State failed to report Russia’s violations of the 1987 INF Treaty while the Administration was pressing the Senate to approve the New Start nuclear treaty. More recently the Administration has played down Iran’s failure to convert low-enriched uranium into oxide form, as required under the interim 2013 deal. Secretary of State John Kerry caved again last week when he disclosed that the Administration is ready to lift sanctions without a full accounting of Iran’s past nuclear work.

If this experience is any guide, don’t expect the Administration to meet its obligations under the recent Corker-Cardin bill on Iran, which requires the executive branch to provide twice-yearly updates on Iran’s compliance with an agreement.

Arms control is an obsession in which belief is inversely proportional to evidence of success, and so it is with this Iran deal. How is the U.S. supposed to enforce an Iran deal when the State Department would rather cover up an adversary’s deceit than face the failure of U.S. diplomacy?