In an Axios scoop, journalist Jonathan Swan reports on a new argument that may compel the Trump administration to kill the Iran Deal.
The argument: The certification language requires the president to certify that Iran is both complying with the nuclear deal and with “all related technical or additional agreements.” Influential opponents of the deal say that because the Obama administration sent Congress a draft of the UN Security Council Resolution 2231 as part of its package of documents submitted under the law, that therefore makes the Resolution a “related” agreement…. Omri Ceren, senior adviser at the Israel Project, has discussed this new argument with several Trump administration officials. Ceren told me: “There may have been a debate over whether or not the resolution counts but now it’s case closed. Trump is required to tell Congress whether or not Iran is implementing the Security Council Resolution as part of certification. It’s impossible for him to do that given Iran’s clear violations of restrictions on everything from arms transfers to travel bans to ballistic missile development. The president would be openly lying to Congress if he certified that Iran met the Corker-Cardin requirements.”
That argument sounds strong on its face, but Swan reports an unnamed Obama official who dismisses it as invalid. According to his source, “[Obama administration] lawyers were careful to separate out the UN Resolution in a section titled “other”… to avoid this very scenario[.]”
SSG has tried to verify or refute this claim, thus far without success. Omri Ceren is known to us to be a careful analyst, but the Obama administration officials went to great trouble to hide the text of much of the Iran deal from analysts. It sounds as though the relevant language is in the supporting materials that Obama submitted to Congress, of which there were 18 documents. Originally these, though mostly unclassified, were kept under guards normally reserved for the most classified of documents. They were kept in a Secure Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF), and even Congressmen could only view them there — and could not take notes, not even on the unclassified materials.
Not only Republican but Democratic members of Congress were among those protesting this practice, which effectively quashed debate on the most troublesome aspects of the deal. It was in one of these documents that it was revealed that Iran would be permitted advanced centrifuges that would enable it to develop a weapon in only six months after the ten-year mark of the deal, years before the administration admitted that Iran would have a clear path to a nuclear weapon. That document was actually classified, further preventing Congress from openly debating the merits of the deal or from fully informing the American public of the risks.
Even today, not all of these documents are available to the public for review. It may well be that administration lawyers invested the deal with carefully-crafted language designed to prevent future Presidents from exercising a meaningful review. We cannot be sure, of course, given that some Obama administration personnel tightly connected with the Iran deal intentionally deceived journalists covering the matter — this may be a case of that sort, especially since the identity of the former Obama administration official is not stated. Nevertheless, it is possible that the language designed to exempt UNSCR 2231 from being considered ‘part of the deal’ could exist in documents that are still being kept from the American people.
Should that prove to be the case, the new administration is still free to regard that maneuver as an illegitimate dodge meant improperly to tie its hands on the deal. Iran is very clearly in violation of aspects of UNSCR 2231, as Ceren rightly points out and as the US government agrees. Even the United Nations has held that it is “unclear” if Iran has violated UNSCR 2231 with its ballistic missile tests, and that it is “troubled” that Iran may be engaged in smuggling of weapons technology as well.