Leading up to this weekend’s meeting between Brazil, Turkey, and Iran that ended in a nuclear fuel swap agreement, inside-the-Beltway watchers played their favorite game: administration in-fighting.
It was obvious to many that the White House was hopeful that a deal would be struck with the Brazilians and Turks mediating; but what was also obvious was that the State Department opposed such a deal.
Now, only one day after the news broke that Iran is willing to ship its uranium abroad to Turkey, Secretary Clinton announced that the major UN Security Council members have agreed on a new sanctions package.
The Obama administration announced Tuesday morning that it has struck a deal with other major powers, including Russia and China, to impose new sanctions on Iran, a sharp repudiation of the deal Tehran offered just a day before to ship its nuclear fuel out of the country.
“We have reached agreement on a strong draft with the cooperation of both Russia and China,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told a Senate committee. “We plan to circulate that draft resolution to the entire Security Council today. And let me say, Mr. Chairman, I think this announcement is as convincing an answer to the efforts undertaken in Tehran over the last few days as any we could provide.”
The sanctions agreement Mrs. Clinton announced on Tuesday was reached by the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China — the five permanent, veto-wielding members of the Security Council — plus Germany.
So, though Iran has yet to communicate its formal commitment to the IAEA in writing, the Secretary of State today sent a pretty clear signal that the US isn’t interested.
I can only imagine the celebration going on inside the Supreme Leader’s headquarters. Not only do they get to play the victim card — saying the West isn’t interested in playing fair and is only out to get them — but now they don’t even have to follow up with any of the things they said they would to the Brazilians and Turks. No letter to the IAEA. No shipment of LEU out of the country. No movement away from a nuclear weapon.
If, as it appears, this move is intended to scuttle the fuel swap agreed upon yesterday, this is an unbelievably stupid move on the part of the Obama administration. Not only are we rejecting our own terms of the agreement, but we are doing so in as tactless and diplomatically insulting way possible.
Just one week ago US officials reiterated that the fuel swap proposal is still on the table — and that its terms cannot be altered. Now that Iran has accepted those terms, Clinton says it’s not enough.
Absent some major fence-mending, this ill-timed move could cost the US every single one of the short, medium and long-term goals of this latest initiative. Those included: suspending Iran’s 20% enrichment activities, securing the freedom of 3 American citizens unlawfully detained in Evin prison, and kick-starting comprehensive negotiations over Iran’s cooperation with the IAEA, regional issues, and internal human rights issues. All of that is in addition to the substance of the deal — that Iran would take one unprecedented step backward from a nuclear weapons capability.