When a subject is complicated and has multiple layers, it’s easy to get lost in a morass of arguments.
President Joe Biden’s zeal to revive the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the JCPOA, gives off those optics of complexity. The parties have been negotiating, on and off, for close to 18 months, and now appear close to a conclusion. A million issues have come up.
Sounds complicated, right?
Indeed, there’s no better illustration of those complex optics than the “16 questions” addressed to Biden on March 10 by a bipartisan group in Congress. Demanding transparency, I listed all 16 questions in a Jewish Journal cover story a few months ago.
The questions are so compelling it’s worth repeating them. Here are 15 you can skim through quickly:
1. Will an agreement be presented to Congress pursuant to the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA)? Regardless of any substance, the law and proper oversight role of Congress must be respected.
2. What will Iran’s breakout time be when the agreement is implemented?
3. What will Iran’s breakout time be in January 2024, and each subsequent year until 2031? In calculating breakout time, please assume that Iran carries out the maximum allowable uranium enrichment activity pursuant to the JCPOA.
4. Is there a consensus within the U.S. government on these breakout time figures? If not, please detail the differing views within the administration. Similarly, is there a consensus on these figures by our international partners? If not, please provide details on any differing views amongst our allies.
5. Will Russia gain any economic benefit from an Iran agreement?
6. How much money will Iran gain immediate access to when a deal is announced? What is the estimated value of sanctions relief in year one of the agreement, and for each subsequent year through 2031? If there are differing views on these figures within the administration, please provide details on these differences.
7. Does the administration intend to request that Congress pass legislation to lift the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) in 2023 as required by the JCPOA? If Congress does not lift ISA, what actions does the administration expect from Iran?
8. Does the administration support the lifting of U.N. Security Council prohibitions on outside support to Iran’s ballistic missile program? Such prohibitions are currently set to occur in October 2023 pursuant to Security Council Resolution 2231.
9. The snapback mechanism in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231 expires in 2025. What recourse will the United States have should Iran violate the agreement after that time?
10. Does the administration intend to remove the Foreign Terrorist Organization designation of the IRGC? Will sanctions on the IRGC in any other way be diminished?
11. Will sanctions targeting the Supreme Leader, his office, subordinates, or associated foundations be lifted or lessened in any way?
12. Will sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran (CBI) be lifted or lessened in any way? If so, can the administration certify that the CBI has in no way been engaged in any support for terrorism in the facilitation of transactions for terrorist entities (including the IRGC) in the past year?
13. Will sanctions be lifted, or lessened in any way, on any other entity or individual that has engaged in support for terrorism, or been designated under Executive Order 13224 for providing material support to a designated terrorist entity?
14. Will Iran be required to satisfactorily answer outstanding questions from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding the discovery of undisclosed uranium particles in multiple cities?
15. Will U.S. human-rights programming in Iran continue subsequent to an agreement?
I left one question until the end because this one alone should be a deal killer. It relates to the controversial clause that transfers Iran’s extra enriched uranium into the custody of Russia. Here it is:
If Iran subsequently believes the agreement has been violated, or that it has not received the promised sanctions relief, will Russia be in a position to return enriched uranium to Iran? In essence, will Vladimir Putin become the de facto judge of compliance with an agreement?
Of all the arguments that have been made against the deal—it’s only temporary, it doesn’t address terror activities, you can’t trust a regime that cheats, etc.—putting a murderous Putin in a position of compliance arbitrator is arguably the most potent.
It’s a lightning bolt of clarity that cuts through the morass of arguments. You don’t need to be an expert on centrifuges to figure out the danger of trusting a cruel sociopath who hates the West on a deal that can really hurt the West. This doesn’t even get into the economic benefits that will ostensibly flow to Russia, which would turn the deal into a bonanza for two of the most evil regimes on the planet.
Which brings us to that other bolt of clarity: money.
In return for a horribly flawed deal, the West is preparing to eventually hand over, according to some estimates, up to $150 billion a year in sanctions relief to the world’s No. 1 sponsor of terror. Yes, there’s something wrong with this picture.
So here’s the deal, Mr. President. I’ll repeat what I wrote several months ago: You report to us. You owe us transparency. You owe us answers.
If you prefer not to answer all 16 questions from our representatives in Congress, at least answer this one: Is it true that you will trust Putin to make the deal work, and if so, why?
David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp and the “Jewish Journal.” He can be reached at email@example.com.
This article was originally published by the Jewish Journal.