The 6 Most Problematic Statements In Obama’s Iran Speech

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Blake Neff Reporter
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Obama gave an optimistic speech Tuesday morning, hailing a newly-reached nuclear deal with Iran as an historic accomplishment.

Many have praised the new deal, and there’s a near-universal hope in the West that it will be successful in its goal of halting Iranian nuclear ambitions. Still, many have expressed doubts about parts of the deal, and Obama’s speech glosses over areas of the deal that warrant significant scrutiny.

We’ve parsed Obama’s optimistic speech to add context:

1. “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.”

The Associated Press acknowledges that most observers consider the inspections regime a “victory for Iran.” Any request by UN inspectors to visit an Iranian nuclear site may be contested, with the visit approved by the Joint Commission consisting of representatives from each party to the Iran deal. The approval process could be rejected, and even if approved, allows a potential window of 24 total days prior to international intervention, giving Iran significant time to conceal any violations of the deal.

2. “It’s now more than 50 years since President Kennedy stood before the American people and said, ‘Let us never negotiate out of fear, but let us never fear to negotiate.’ He was speaking then about the need for discussions between the United States and the Soviet Union, which led to efforts to restrict the spread of nuclear weapons.”

Even Obama’s fellow dems are wary of comparing this deal with past nuclear negotiations. David Rothkopf, CEO of the FP Group (which publishes Foreign Policy) and a Democrat until recently, has warned that relating this deal to those with the USSR is folly.


3. “As Iran takes steps to implement this deal, it will receive relief from the sanctions that we put in place because of Iran’s nuclear program … if Iran violates the deal, all of these sanctions will snap back into place.”

This “snapback” of sanctions should Iran violate the deal are a key part of the agreement, but reimposing them could be tougher in practice than in theory. As pointed out by The Wall Street Journal, there is huge interest in both the energy industry and elsewhere to invest in Iran and build substantial business operations. These groups will have strong incentives to lobby against reimposed sanctions.

Plus, as Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic argues, even if sanctions return, the idea of a true snapback is a “fiction”: “The U.S. could reimpose sanctions on Iran if Tehran cheats on the deal, but it would be reimposing these sanctions on what will be a much-richer country, one that could withstand such sanctions for quite a while.”

Rothkopf has made a similar warning, Tweeting that a snap back is an “intellectually dishonest” … “fantasy.”

4. “Today, because America negotiated from a position of strength and principle, we have stopped the spread of nuclear weapons in this region.”

Experts, including some in the U.S. government, are already warning that, whether Iran’s nuclear capacity is restricted or not, today’s deal is unlikely to stop the ongoing race for nuclear capacity in the Middle East.

“The rhetoric isn’t changing,” one official told NBC News. He warned that major regional powers like Turkey and Egypt are skeptical of the deal and still believe Iran wants a bomb. As a result, they may try to start their own nuclear programs. Others warned that Saudi Arabia, which helped fund Pakistan’s nuclear development, could try to call in its “IOU” by asking for one of Pakistan’s bombs, or at least assistance with nuclear technology.

The only likely way the U.S. could avoid proliferation would be to make strong military guarantees for every country in the region, something experts told NBC is unlikely with the declining U.S. presence in the region.

The upshot of all this: The Iran deal might stop proliferation, but it’s hardly the sure thing Obama hopes it is.

5. “[This deal] has the full backing of the international community.”

Not true. Whatever the opinions of other leaders, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been absolutely apoplectic over the deal, calling it a “mistake of historic proportions,” and aggressively blasting it over Twitter.

6. “Because of this deal, Iran will remove two-thirds of its installed centrifuges — the machines necessary to produce highly enriched uranium for a bomb — and store them under constant international supervision. Iran will not use its advanced centrifuges to produce enriched uranium for the next decade. Iran will also get rid of 98 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium.”

The statement is accurate, but it glosses over key concessions the U.S. has made to Iran. It’s heavy water plant at Arak (used to make plutonium) is to be redesigned to limit its weapons potential, but it won’t be dismantled. Its underground Fordow enrichment plant also remains operational, though it’s supposed to be converted to “peaceful” purposes.

Not only are facilities allowed to remain open, but Iran is allowed to continue certain nuclear research. For example, the deal allows Iran to conduct R&D on new types of centrifuges, and they only even have to seek permission if they plan to produce working prototypes for new designs they create.

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