Archive for the ‘Iran – secret deal’ category

A Lawless President Made More Secret Deals

September 1, 2016

A Lawless President Made More Secret Deals, Counter Jihad, September 1, 2016

A new report revealed by Reuters shows that there were more secret deals made with Iran, and not reported to Congress, in violation of US law.  The President of the United States has knowingly and repeatedly violated a law he himself signed, for the express purpose of avoiding Congressional oversight of his actions mandated both by the law and the Constitution.

During the so-called “Iran Deal” negotiations, it became known that the State Department had agreed to allow Iran to make a “secret side deal” with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to which the United States would not be a party.  The intent was to dodge a provision of the law governing the “Iran Deal”‘s negotiation, a law that President Barack Obama had himself signed into law.  He signed this into law in the hope of avoiding the Constitutional requirement that the Senate should advise and assent to treaties by a two-thirds majority.  The law he negotiated as an alternative to obeying the Constitution required that the entire deal, including any side arrangements, be made available to Congress for consideration before approval.

Congress objected to this first ‘secret deal,’ especially Representatives Tom Cotton and Mike Pompeo.  Pompeo said at the time of this revelation, “Not only does this violate the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, it is asking Congress to agree to a deal that it cannot review.”  In a letter to Secretary of State John F. Kerry, he reminded the Secretary that “pursuant to H. Res. 411, the House of Representatives considers the documents transmitted on July 19, 2015 incomplete in light of the fact that the secret side deals between the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the Islamic Republic of Iran were not provided to Congress.”

Now we learn that there were many more such deals, none of which was reported to Congress.  In a way, this has been obvious for some time.  The IranTruth site reported in July that there were more secret deals, and asked,“Does the President Know?”  Jeff Dunetz, writing at the same site, identified two more secret deals specifically by August of last year.   French and Iranian officials agreed last summer that the presentation of the deal being made by Secretary Kerry to the US Congress was a distortion of what was being actually negotiated, with the French expressing a concern that the deal was always being weakened in Iran’s favor.

According to Reuters today:

The report is to be published on Thursday by the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security, said the think tank’s president David Albright, a former U.N. weapons inspector and co-author of the report. It is based on information provided by several officials of governments involved in the negotiations, who Albright declined to identify.

Reuters could not independently verify the report’s assertions.

“The exemptions or loopholes are happening in secret, and it appears that they favor Iran,” Albright said.

Among the exemptions were two that allowed Iran to exceed the deal’s limits on how much low-enriched uranium (LEU) it can keep in its nuclear facilities, the report said. LEU can be purified into highly enriched, weapons-grade uranium.

Will Congress continue to accept this lawless erosion of its Constitutional role?  Will they, at any point, stand up and assert that the President must at least obey the laws he himself signs?  If not, what role does Congress intend to serve?  What future is there for the system of checks and balances that once restrained the executive branch from imperial ambitions?

The matter is even more important than that.  The so-called “Iran Deal” has been a manifest disaster for the interests of the United States abroad.  Tearing it up is one of the five most crucial steps that the United States can take right now. (The pertinent segment of the video provided below begins at 1:14 — DM)

Congress must reassert its role in balancing what has become a lawless executive branch.  It must do so because the Constitution requires it, because the stability of the Republic requires it, but also because this particular deal has badly damaged American interests.  A great deal rides on whether the legislative branch has the political will to reaffirm its Constitutional role in the United States.

What does America owe Iran?

August 11, 2016

What does America owe Iran? Israel Hayom, Clifford D. May, August 11, 2016

An unmarked cargo plane filled with $400 million in cash lands in Tehran, and four American hostages held by Iran’s rulers are set free. These revelations have sparked two controversies.

First: Did the Obama administration pay a ransom to Iran, the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism? White House spokesmen insist it did not and there was no quid pro quo, while Iranian officials say that was precisely what happened. Who is more credible? More importantly, whom do you think prospective hostage-takers around the world believe?

Second: Did this payment violate American law? Justice Department officials opposed the payment. Former federal terrorism prosecutor Andrew C. McCarthy argued that the transaction involved the commission of several “felony law violations.” Former Attorney General Michael Mukasey opines that while the transaction was not “right,” it was not illegal.

The roots of this affair run deep. In early 1979, the shah of Iran, as part of an arrangement to purchase jet fighters, deposited $400 million into a Pentagon account. Soon afterward, he was overthrown in the Islamic Revolution. As White House spokesman Josh Earnest said: “Once the revolution took place, obviously that equipment was not transferred, but we also didn’t return Iran’s money.”

Return the money to whom? At what point does the property of a government that has been toppled become the rightful possession of those who have done the toppling? International law is murky on this matter, as it is on many matters.

One thing we can say with reasonable certainty: Had envoys representing Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini reached out to President Jimmy Carter, he would have done whatever was in his power to establish amicable relations.

But that did not happen. We know what did: On Nov. 4, 1979, followers of the supreme leader seized the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and took 52 diplomats hostage. The diplomats were held and, in many cases, tortured for 444 days. That such conduct violates international law — indeed, that it constitutes an act of war — is not a matter for legal debate. The hostages were released on Jan. 20, 1981, the day President Ronald Reagan was inaugurated.

Iran’s rulers have never apologized, much less compensated their victims. The Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith reports that President Bill Clinton considered using the $400 million to pay victims of Iranian terrorism who had won judgments against Iran in U.S. courts. In the end, however, he left it to American taxpayers to pick up the check. President George W. Bush could have reimbursed the Treasury using frozen Iranian funds. He did not.

There matters lay until, in January of this year, President Barack Obama boasted that thanks to “strong American diplomacy,” the United States and Iran “are now settling a long-standing Iranian government claim against the United States government and Iran will be returned its own funds, including appropriate interest, but much less than the amount that Iran sought.”

Note that the president neglected to mention claims against Iran. And shouldn’t there be some controversy over the notion of “appropriate interest” — which is how the $400 million “owed” to Iran rose to the $1.7 billion that is being paid?

Since the money was not loaned to the U.S. by Iran’s current regime, why should the assumption be that the U.S. invested it for the benefit of Iran’s current regime? As part of this hostage deal, the U.S. also freed seven Iranians charged or convicted of crimes and dropped extradition requests for 14 others. How much is that worth? Why does that not count as “interest”?

Surely, justice would have been better served had the shah’s funds been distributed to Iran’s many victims: the diplomats who were illegally imprisoned, to be sure, but also the families of those murdered on Iran’s orders, such as those in Beirut in 1983, at Khobar towers in 1996, and more recently in Iraq by Shiite militias armed and instructed by Tehran.

In addition, thousands of innocent Iranians were put to death by the leaders of the Islamic Revolution. Tens of thousands were forced to flee the country, and their businesses, homes, lands, and bank accounts were stolen by the regime. Why have these victims been forgotten?

Here is part of the reason: Carter, during his final days in office, negotiated the Algiers Accord, agreeing that in exchange for the release of the hostages, Iran’s new rulers would be granted immunity from criminal or civil penalties.

Congress did not approve the Algiers Accord, which was not a treaty but only an executive agreement. President Reagan could have revoked it, pointing out that his predecessor had negotiated it with a knife at his throat — or, more precisely, with knives at the throats of the hostages. But he did not.

Instead, in 1981, pursuant to the Algiers Accord, the Iran-U.S. Claims Tribunal was set up in The Hague. This international arbitration mechanism has further entrenched the perverse notion of moral equivalence between the United States and the Islamic republic.

It has led to President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry attempting to satisfy Iran’s “claims” against the U.S. against the backdrop of the Iran deal, another executive agreement. Obama considers that deal vital to his legacy. By contrast, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has made it plain that he is more than willing to walk away from the deal — and will should the river of American concessions not continue to flow.

So last week’s hostages-for-cash story turns out to be only one chapter in a long and sad saga. It should give rise to additional controversies, starting with this: Why are Iran’s negotiators so consistently more skillful than America’s?

Iran’s Nuke Program Confirmed

June 20, 2016

Iran’s Nuke Program Confirmed, Power LineSCOTT JOHNSON, June 20, 2016

Omri Ceren writes to comment on Jay Solomon’s page-one Wall Street Journal article“Uranium provides new clue on Iran’s past nuclear arms work.” I thought that readers who have been following the story of our partnership with, and funding of, the Islamic Republic of Iran would appreciate this update, provided by Omri with the usual footnotes.

Readers may recall Obama’s assertions at the time he announced the deal: “Because of this deal, inspectors will also be able to access any suspicious location. Put simply, the organization responsible for the inspections, the IAEA, will have access where necessary, when necessary. That arrangement is permanent. And the IAEA has also reached an agreement with Iran to get access that it needs to complete its investigation into the possible military dimensions of Iran’s past nuclear research.” These assertions are now revealed to be something less than the truth, not that you didn’t know that already:

The Obama administration is now admitting that Iran did nuclear weapons work at its military facility at Parchin, based on a December IAEA report that described two particles of man-made uranium at the site. But the evidence is too sparse to figure out what kind of work the Iranians were doing, just that they were doing some kind of nuclear weapons work:

Current and former U.S. officials asked about the uranium finding said the working assumption now is that it is tied to nuclear weapons development… “The existence of two particles of uranium there would be consistent with our understanding of the involvement of Parchin in a past weapons program, but by themselves don’t definitively prove anything,” said a senior administration official briefed on the evidence.

One reason the IAEA can’t determine what happened is because – as part of the nuclear deal – the U.S. collapsed on long-standing demands that the Iranians fully come clean on their past weapons work, the so-called possible military dimensions (PMDs) of their nuclear program. Instead the Iranians were allowed to deny the Agency access to top nuclear scientists and to self-inspect at Parchin, passing on soil samples from pre-selected locations. That wasn’t enough for the IAEA to make a determination:

Iran didn’t allow the agency to interview top nuclear scientists believed to have overseen nuclear weapons development… Iran did allow IAEA inspectors to collect soil samples from Parchin in October that were tested for the presence of nuclear materials. The agency found two particles of man-made uranium… The amount of uranium was so small that the IAEA couldn’t conclude for certain that nuclear materials had been at the base.

Normally if the IAEA doesn’t have enough evidence about likely weapons work, it just goes back and gets more. But the nuclear deal blocks further inspections:

Normally, the IAEA requires additional samples to be taken when there are irregularities found in their tests… But under last year’s nuclear agreement, Tehran was only required to allow the IAEA’s inspectors to visit the Parchin facility once… Under the nuclear deal, Iran has committed to allowing the IAEA access to all of its suspected nuclear sites. But it isn’t clear if Iran would allow inspectors back into Parchin because it is a military base. Iranian officials have said last year’s visit wouldn’t be repeated.

So the Iranians were doing weapons work, the IAEA doesn’t know what kind of work it was, and the deal doesn’t force the Iranians to clarify. The result guts verification of the deal: IAEA inspectors can’t confirm Iran has halted its illicit weapons work, because inspectors don’t know what kind of illicit weapons work Iran was doing. There is no baseline to work from:

Critics of the nuclear deal have cited the presence of uranium at Parchin as evidence the Obama administration didn’t go far enough in demanding Iran answer all questions concerning its past nuclear work before lifting international sanctions in January. They also argue that it is hard to develop a comprehensive monitoring regime without knowing everything Iran has done.

Last June Secretary Kerry had previously argued that the U.S. didn’t even need Iran to come clean because the U.S. had “absolute knowledge with respect to the certain military activities they were engaged in” [a]. The claim was widely criticized by lawmakers and analysts for being false [b][c]. The AP subsequently revealed the self-inspection arrangement in August [d]. Defenders of the deal responded with an organized public attack on the outlet’s credibility, up to and including suggestions that the AP was running forged Israeli documents [e]. Administration officials separately argued that the Iranian inspections would be adequate to resolve the nature of the country’s past weapons work [f].

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[a] http://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2015/06/243892.htm
[b] https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2015-06-19/no-u-s-doesn-t-have-absolute-knowledge-on-iran-s-nukes
[c] https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/right-turn/wp/2015/06/17/john-kerrys-ludicrous-statements-on-iran-and-syria/
[d] http://bigstory.ap.org/article/a9f4e40803924a8ab4c61cb65b2b2bb3/ap-exclusive-un-let-iran-inspect-alleged-nuke-work-site
[e] http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/08/24/iran-deal-truthers.html
[f] http://www.cnn.com/2015/08/19/politics/iran-nuclear-deal-inspections-parchin/

How Hilary’s foreign policy ‘succeeded’ for Iran

June 4, 2016

How Hilary’s foreign policy ‘succeeded’ for Iran, DEBKAfile, June 4, 2016

6Hardline Ayatolla Ahmad Janati

Hillary Clinton, the Democratic presidential frontrunner, declared Thursday June 2 in a major foreign policy address: ‘We are now safer than we were before this agreement (the International-Iran nuclear deal).”

A short while before her speech, the State Department, published its yearly report on world terror, and determined, as in past years, that Iran remains “the leading state sponsor of terrorism, on account of its support for designated terrorist groups and proxy militias in Lebanon, Syria, and Iraq.”

Three days earlier, on May 31, scientists at the Institute for Science and International Security, published an extensive analysis of the second report of the IAEA in Vienna, whose job it is to monitor the Iranian nuclear program and establish whether Tehran’s is complying with its commitments.

Their report is titled: IAEA’s Second JCPOA Report: Key Information Still Missing.

The American scientists found oversights in the international watchdog’s report, suggesting collaboration between the Obama administration and the IAEA to conceal Iranian violations.

The scientists offered some examples of these omissions:

Data is lacking on the number of centrifuges, including advanced models, operating in Natanz enrichment facilities as well as the Fordo underground plant. There is no information on what happened to the 20 percent-enriched uranium still remaining in Iran.

Another example is the lack of information on the Iran’s heavy water which is provisionally stored in Oman. Who does it belong to and who oversees it?

These are just a few examples of the blanks in the promised oversight over Iran’s nuclear program, not to mention Iran’s banned ballistic missile program which is geared to design missiles able to reach the US.

The Obama administration had based his detente with Tehran, capped by the nuclear deal, on producing a breakthrough in US-Iran relations. It was intended to strengthen the moderate, reformist and liberal political elements in Iran. ButDEBKAfile sources and Iranian experts report that the exact opposite happened, as is evident in two important elections held in Iran in the past two weeks.

In the elections to the Assembly of Experts, the body which chooses Iran’s top leader, the 91-year-old Ayatollah Ahmad Janati was elected. He is one of the most extreme hardliners in Iran.

A few days later, Ali Larijani was re-elected as Speaker of the Iranian Parliament. Larijani is close to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. He won by a land slide over the reformist candidate put forward by President Hassan Rouhani.

Five months ago, when the first results of the Iranian elections to the Majlis and to the Assembly of Experts came in, there were cries of joys in the Obama administration. US Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Muhammad Jawad Zarif proclaimed it at the time a victory for the moderates.

Where did these ‘moderates’ disappear in the interim and how did they become supporters of the extremists?

On Friday, June 3, less than 24 hours after Clinton’s foreign policy speech, Iran’s leader Ayatollah Khamenei celebrated his victory over American policy saying: Iran has many small and big enemies, but foremost among them are America and Britain. “Any cooperation with the US,” he stressed, “is an act against Iran’s independence.”

Rosen: Clear deception by Rhodes, Obama administration to sell Iran nuclear deal

May 7, 2016

Rosen: Clear deception by Rhodes, Obama administration to sell Iran nuclear deal, Fox News via YouTube, May 7, 2016

Obama Admin Withholding Details of ‘Potentially Illegal’ Deal to Buy Iranian Nuke Materials

April 27, 2016

Obama Admin Withholding Details of ‘Potentially Illegal’ Deal to Buy Iranian Nuke Materials, Washington Free Beacon, April 27, 2016

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Part of Arak heavy water nuclear facilities is seen, near the central city of Arak, 150 miles southwest of the capital Tehran / AP

Officials from both the Treasury and Energy departments told the Free Beacon that details about the payment are being withheld until the purchase is complete. Iran is expected to deliver the heavy water to the United States in the “coming weeks,” officials confirmed.

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Obama administration officials are declining to provide specific details about an unprecedented upcoming purchase of Iranian nuclear materials, an $8.6 million exchange that is likely to be funded using American taxpayer dollars, according to conversations with multiple administration officials and sources in Congress.

The administration is preparing to purchase from Iran 32 tons of heavy water, a key nuclear material, in a bid to keep Iran in compliance with last summer’s comprehensive nuclear agreement.

But administration officials have declined to provide specific details to Congress and reporters about how exactly it will pay for the purchase, as well as other information, until the deal has been completed.

The effort to withhold key information about the purchase, which is likely to be paid in some form using U.S. taxpayer dollars, is causing frustration on Capitol Hill, according to multiple sources who disclosed to the Washington Free Beacon that the administration is rebuffing congressional attempts to discern further information about the deal.

Experts further disclosed to the Free Beacon that the exchange is likely to legitimize Iran’s research into plutonium, knowledge that would provide the Islamic Republic with a secondary pathway to a nuclear weapon capability.

Officials from both the Treasury and Energy departments told the Free Beacon that details about the payment are being withheld until the purchase is complete. Iran is expected to deliver the heavy water to the United States in the “coming weeks,” officials confirmed.

“We cannot discuss details of the payment until after the purchase is complete,” a Treasury Department official who was not authorized to speak on record told the Free Beacon. “The Department of Energy’s Isotope Program plans to pay Iran approximately $8.6 million dollars for 32 metric tons of heavy water.”

The administration will use an offshore third party to facilitate the transfer of cash to Iran, according to officials in both the Treasury and Energy departments.

“Regardless of whether or not this is in U.S. dollars, this licensed transaction is limited in scope. This routing through third-country financial institutions is similar to the mechanism that has been used for years to allow other authorized transactions—such as for exports of food and medicine—between the United States and Iran,” the treasury official said, referencing a loophole in U.S. sanctions that permits transactions of a humanitarian nature.

An Energy Department official confirmed that officials “cannot discuss details of the payment until after the purchase is complete.”

The exchange is being handled by the Energy Department’s Isotope Program, which routinely conducts transactions of this nature, according to the official.

“DOE’s Isotope Program produces and distributes a variety of isotopes that are in short supply for industrial and medical purposes,” an Energy Department official told the Free Beacon. “Transactions like this one are regular business for the program.”

Iran’s excess heavy water “will help to fulfill a substantial portion of U.S. domestic market demand this year,” according to the official, who said that “over the past few years, there have often been constrained supplies of heavy water.”

The administration further “expects to resell the purchased heavy water at commercially reasonable prices to domestic commercial and research buyers, including Oak Ridge National Laboratory’s Spallation Neutron Source, where it would be used to increase the efficiency of the facility,” the source said.

Congressional critics of the arrangement accuse the administration of using this sale as part of a larger plan to help Iran gain access to the American financial system and U.S. dollar.

“Subsidizing Iran’s production of heavy water is a dangerous move,” Sen. Tom Cotton (R., Ark.) told the Free Beacon. “It stimulates Iran’s nuclear industry, opens the door to the use of U.S. dollars to facilitate Iranian trade and illicit financing, and provides U.S. tax dollars to the world’s top state sponsor of terrorism.”

Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz “is aware of these dangers, which is why he stressed that this is a one-time purchase,” said Cotton, the author of a new amendment that would block the administration from engaging in similar purchases with Iran in the future. “I want to hold him and President Obama to that vow, particularly in light of the many promises broken and redlines erased by this administration in the course of negotiating the Iran deal.”

Rep. Mike Pompeo (R., Kan.), a member of the House intelligence committee, accused the administration of funding Iran’s nuclear pursuits in contradiction of last summer’s agreement aimed at winding down Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.

“The Obama administration’s deal with the Mullahs in Tehran to purchase heavy water demonstrates a disturbing, potentially illegal, willingness of the administration to subsidize Iran’s nuclear program,” Pompeo told the Free Beacon. “This purchase allows the Iranians to offload previously unsellable product and it destigmatizes the act of doing business in Iran.”

Pompeo said it is irresponsible to pursue this deal without first providing lawmakers detailed information about whether Iran will directly receive taxpayer dollars.

“This purchase is being made without explanation as to how Iran will receive these funds or what steps the administration is taking to prevent what will almost certainly be U.S. taxpayer dollars from possibly being used to support terrorist activities, Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, or Iran’s ballistic missile program,” Pompeo said. “Of course, the reality is that once that money is in the hands of the Ayatollah, there is no way to prevent the funds from being diverted toward any of those purposes—a fact that seems to concern no one at the White House.”

A larger debate has been taking place in Washington over Iranian and European demands that the United States grant Iran access to dollars, a move the administration has publicly opposed and promised Congress would not take place.

However, sources indicate that the heavy water exchange could be the first sign that the administration is caving on this promise.

 Mark Dubowitz, head of the Foundation for Defense of Democracy’s Center on Sanctions and Illicit Finance, told theFree Beacon that Iran is producing excess nuclear material in order to wring more cash from the nuclear deal.

“Iran has created a clever scheme—produce too much heavy water so as to break the nuclear agreement, then get the Obama administration and eventually U.S. companies to pay Tehran using the U.S. dollar to get rid of it,” Dubowitz explained. “These U.S. subsidies will help Tehran perfect its heavy water production skills so it will be fully prepared to develop its plutonium bomb-making capabilities when restrictions on the program sunset over the next 10-15 years.”

“This scheme also will open the door to further dollarized transactions as the administration green-lights the greenback for a regime with a decades-long rap sheet of financial crimes,” he added.

A senior congressional source familiar with the trade disclosed that administration officials are declining to disclose key details about the deal.

“The administration is being coy about how the financial mechanics of this deal will work,” the source told the Free Beacon. “But the bottom line is that U.S. taxpayer dollars will be used, and used for a purchase directly connected to Iran’s nuclear program. This is an attempt by the administration to slowly open a door that leads to the wide acceptance of Iran’s nuclear industry and to the use of U.S. dollars by Iran to conduct trade.”

“Many in Congress—on both the Republican and Democratic sides—won’t stand for that, and will move to shut that door tightly,” the source said.

Dangerous illusions about Iran

March 10, 2016

Dangerous illusions about Iran, Israel Hayom, Elliott Abrams, March 10, 2016

Last year’s Iran nuclear agreement was sold with several powerful arguments, and among the most important were these: that the agreement would strengthen Iranian “moderates” and thus Iran’s external conduct, and that it would allow us unparalleled insight into Iran’s nuclear program.

Both are now proving to be untrue, but the handling of the two differs. The “moderation” argument is being proved wrong but the evidence is simply being denied. The “knowledge” argument is being proved wrong but the fact is being met with silence. Let’s review the bidding.

The idea that the nuclear agreement was a reward for Iran’s “moderates” and would strengthen them is a key tenet of the defense of the agreement. If Iran remains the bellicose and repressive theocracy of today when the agreement ends and Iran is free to build nukes without limits, we have entered a dangerous bargain. It is critical that Iran change, so defenders of the agreement adduce evidence that it has. And the new evidence is Iran’s recent elections. Those elections were a great victory for “moderates” and hard-liners, it is said, and they help to prove that the nuclear deal was wise.

The problem here is that those elections were anything but a victory for Iran’s reformers. As Mehdi Khalaji wrote about the Assembly of Experts election, “If one understands ‘reformist’ as a political figure who emerged during the reform movement of the late 1990s and is associated with the parties and groups created at that time, then neither the candidates on the ‘reformist’ list nor the winners of Tehran’s sixteen assembly seats can credibly be called by that name.” To take one of the examples Khalaji cites, Mahmoud Alavi ran on what has been called a reformist ticket but he “is the current intelligence minister, and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei appointed him as head of the military’s Ideological-Political Organization from 2000 to 2009.” Khalaji concludes that “no new prominent reformists won seats, and the proportion of hardliners remained the same.”

Ray Takeyh and Reuel Gerecht draw a stark conclusion: This year’s elections “spelled the end of Iran’s once-vivacious reform movement” which has simply been crushed by the regime. “The electoral cycle began with the usual mass disqualification of reformers and independent-minded politicians,” they remind us. I’d cite another fact: that reformers of past election years, presidential candidates Mir-Hossein Mousavi and Mehdi Karoubi, have remained under house arrest for five years now, during the entire Rouhani presidency, demonstrating the true fate of reformers of even a mild variety.

What’s the point of the “reformist” charade? As Takeyh and Gerecht note, “Foreigners don’t have to confess that they are investing in an increasingly conservative and increasingly strong theocracy; rather, they are aiding ‘moderates’ at the expense of hardliners.” But this charade has in fact worked well, producing headline after headline in the Western media about “reformist” victories. You can fool most of the people some of the time, or at least most of the people who have a strong desire to be fooled — because they wish to protect the nuclear deal and its authors.

Iran’s conduct certainly suggests radicalization rather than moderation, and the past weeks have seen repeated ballistic missile tests. Ballistic missiles are not built and perfected in order to carry 500 pound “dumb” bombs; they are used to carry nuclear weapons. So Iran’s continued work on them suggests that it has never given up its nuclear ambitions, not even briefly for the sake of appearances.

The American response has been anemic, even pathetic; we threaten to raise the issue at the United Nations. Two missiles were test-fired today, with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” written on them. These tests violate U.N. Security Council resolutions, but the American reaction is cautious: a speech, a debate in New York, perhaps some sanctions, but nothing that could possibly lead Iran to undo the nuclear deal. Because Iran knows that this will be the Obama administration’s reaction, expect more and more ballistic missile tests. Expect more conduct like the interception, capture, and humiliation of American sailors in the Gulf. Expect more Iranian military action throughout the region.

Some moderation.

The head of CENTCOM, Gen. Lloyd Austin, put it this way: “We see malign activity, not only throughout the region, but around the globe as well. … We’ve not yet seen any indication that they intend to pursue a different path. The fact remains that Iran today is a significant destabilizing force in the region. … Some of the behavior that we’ve seen from Iran of late is certainly not the behavior that you would expect to see from a nation that wants to be taken seriously as a respected member of the international community.”

Are we now, to turn to the second matter, gaining unparalleled insight into the Iranian nuclear program? Is this one of the achievements of the agreement? On the contrary, it seems. As the Associated Press put it, “The four Western countries that negotiated with Iran — the U.S., Britain, France and Germany — prefer more details than were evident in last month’s first post-deal [International Atomic Energy Agency] report. In contrast, the other two countries — Russia and China — consider the new report balanced, while Iran complains the report is too in-depth. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano feels he has struck the right balance, considering Iran is no longer in violation of U.N. and agency demands to curb its nuclear program. His report was much less detailed than pre-nuclear deal summaries.”

Much less detailed? Sure, because the U.N. Security Council resolutions under which the IAEA provided the detail, are gone, wiped out by the nuclear deal. The IAEA’s February 26 report was its first since the nuclear deal went into effect, and lacked details on matters such as uranium stockpiles, production of certain centrifuge parts, and progress by Iran toward meeting safeguard obligations. The Obama administration has wavered, sometimes saying there was enough detail, but then demanding more. The deal was sold, in part, as a way of providing transparency, but that does not appear to be accurate: it may in fact legitimize opacity. Earlier this week came a remarkable exchange between a reporter and State Department spokesman John Kirby, who defended the degree of knowledge we have.

Kirby said, “So we now know more than we’ve ever known, thanks to this deal, about Iran’s program.” The reporter, Matt Lee of AP, asked “How much near-20% highly enriched uranium does Iran now have?” Kirby replied, “I don’t know.” To which Lee noted, “You don’t know because it’s not in the IAEA report.”

So, the bases on which the nuclear agreement with Iran was sold appear to be crumbling. Moderates are not gaining power, Iran is not moderating its behavior, and we know less rather than more about what it is actually doing in its nuclear program. Some of those conclusions are denied by the administration and by credulous portions of the press, and others are ignored. But all those verbal games will not make us any safer.

From “Pressure Points” by Elliott Abrams. Reprinted with permission from the Council on Foreign Relations.