On issue after issue over a potential nuclear deal with Iran, the Obama administration has caved.
An analysis from the Foreign Policy Initiative‘s Tzvi Khan published June 29 laid out the myriad ways the United States has fallen short, misled, or simply kowtowed on sanctions, uranium enrichment, Iran’s breakout capacity, whether Iran could be a good actor, and more.
President Obama claimed in his 2015 State of the Union address to have “halted” Iran’s nuclear program and “reduced” its stockpile, sweeping and inaccurate claims for which he earned three Pinocchios from the Washington Post fact-checker.
On April 2, when Obama touted the framework agreement and “historic understanding” between Iran and world powers, he claimed “Iran has also agreed to the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.”
Reports emerged in the weeks and months following that the United States had backed off this demand and Iran would not be subjected to the “anytime, anywhere” inspections that many experts deem a red line in any negotiations.
Obama also repeatedly said he would not take any option off the table when it came to preventing Iran from getting a nuclear weapon, until an interview he gave with Israeli television May 29 which effectively signaled to Tehran that was no longer something they had to fret.
“A military solution will not fix it, even if the United States participates,” Obama said. “It would temporarily slow down an Iranian nuclear program, but it will not eliminate it.”
Secretary of State John Kerry has also had a number of demands or claims walked back by his own remarks or those of others, for instance on the potential dismantling of Iran's nuclear program.
"I don’t think that any of us thought we were just imposing these sanctions for the sake of imposing them,” Kerry said Dec. 10, 2013, while testifying before Congress. “We did it because we knew that it would hopefully help Iran dismantle its nuclear program. That was the whole point of the regime.”
But Obama himself said during the April 2 announcement that “Iran is not going to simply dismantle its program because we demand it to do so,” and the framework indicated Iran would not have to dismantle its nuclear infrastructure.
Also, after Kerry first said that as part of the nonproliferation treaty in November 2013 that the United States did not recognize Iran's right to enrich uranium, he said less than a month later to Congress, “I can't tell you they might not have some enrichment.”
In an April interview with PBS, Kerry said the United States would not accept Iran failing to disclose the military dimensions of its nuclear program, saying flatly, “It will be done. If there's going to be a deal, it will be done.”
Sure enough, during a press appearance June 16, Kerry told State Department reporters the United States already knew everything Iran had done.
“We have no doubt,” he said. “We have absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in. What we’re concerned about is going forward.”
You get the idea. The United States has also made conflicting statements on Iran's ballistic missiles, Iran's underground enrichment facility at Fordow, and, to the chagrin of spokeswoman Marie Harf, Iran's failure to comply with the Joint Plan of Action as it increased its nuclear stockpile over the past 18 months.
The administration has its own sense of deadline, though, as Kerry put it. It certainly has its own sense of what constitutes good high-stakes bargaining, too.