Playing the Semantics Game

This week’s House hearings on the Iran nuclear deal centered on two related issues, trust and the inspection regime. The three cabinet secretaries, Kerry (State), Moniz (Energy) and Lew (Treasury), continually emphasized that trust has no part in the agreement and that there is a robust inspection process to enforce its provisions.

A questioner brought up the putative concept of “anywhere, anytime inspection.” Moniz admitted using that phrase but said that what he meant it to mean is “managed access in the sense of a well-defined process with a well-defined end date.” That isn’t the first connotation of that fairly specific phrase that springs to mind, or at least not to mine anyway. Kerry interjected that never once in the four years of negotiations was “anywhere, anytime inspection” even mentioned by any party to the talks. He went on to say that no country would permit such intrusions into their sovereignty. Laying aside the issue that Kerry and Moniz need to get their story straight, there is some element of truth to Kerry’s claim.

The only other White House official to use that precise term is Ben Rhodes, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor. He did so on two occasions during TV interviews. However several officials, including the President, did aver to “the most robust and intrusive inspections and transparency regime ever negotiated for any nuclear program in history.” And they certainly made no attempt either to walk back on Ben Rhodes’ characterization or to point out the intended meaning as described by Secretary Moniz.

Separate from these semantic hijinks, another questioner brought up an interesting ploy now open to Iran. “What if” he asked, “Iran accepted the deal, pocketed the $100B+ of frozen funds they will receive, waited a while, and then just told the inspectors to take a walk and resumed their march to the bomb?” It’s likely, but by no means certain, that robust sanctions would be reimposed. But wouldn’t this just be the status quo except for them having bamboozled us out of a ton of cash?

kerryfleecedKerry responded that this scenario is unlikely essentially because Iran would have seen the benefit of open commerce with the West and would be loath to give it up just to get the bomb. Maybe…and maybe not. What is the evidence to support this?

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