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Nuclear Bargains And State Department Backlogs

Should a final deal emerge from the Iran nuclear talks, now nearing a June 30 deadline, Congress will expect reports from the President every six months on whether Iran is in compliance. These reports would not be optional. They would be required under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, signed into law last month by President Obama.

Should a final deal emerge from the Iran nuclear talks, now nearing a June 30 deadline, Congress will expect reports from the President every six months on whether Iran is in compliance. These reports would not be optional. They would be required under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015, signed into law last month by President Obama.

 

In theory, these reports would help ensure that a President eager to preserve his long-sought deal with Iran would find it hard to bury the evidence if Iran cheats. The President would have to inform Congress.

 

But would it really work that way? The President is already required under various laws to submit reports to Congress on such major international matters as human rights, terrorism and the proliferation traffic of Iran, North Korea and Syria. There are specific deadlines for all these reports, which contain information germane in some cases to vital policy decisions. With impunity, the Obama administration has been missing these deadlines, in some cases by staggering margins.

 

By some accounts, these delays have been politically motivated, reflecting efforts to avoid, or at least delay, offending Iran. Administration officials protest that the delays are due to to a brand of perfectionism that just takes time.

This Thursday the State Department finally clocked in with its annual compilation of Human Rights Reports for countries worldwide. This release was four months late; a record-breaking delay. At the accompanying press conference Assistant Secretary Tom Malinowski blamed the lag on Secretary of State John Kerry’s schedule, saying Kerry wanted to show his commitment to human rights by presiding along with Malinowksi at the release of the reports. But coordinating their schedules took a while. So Kerry’s commitment to human rights translated into State sitting on the reports until four months after the legally imposed Feb. 25 deadline.

 

Last week brought the tardy release of State’s annual Country Reports on Terrorism, due out every year by April 30th, but not released this year until June 19th. The reason for that delay, according to a State spokesperson I queried in early June, was that the material was being reviewed for “accuracy and readability.” (Of the seven country reports on terrorism produced annually since Obama took office, only two have been released on time, in 2009 and 2014).

That followed the bombshell findings of a Government Accountability Office report, made public on June 17, that State is more than three years out of date in the reports it is required to submit to Congress under a law called the Iran, North Korea and Syria Nonproliferation Act (abbreviated as INKSNA). The thrust of INKSNA is — or at least it’s supposed to be– to give Congress some leverage in stopping both proliferation-related and conventional arms traffic involving three of the world’s worst offenders: Iran, North Korea and Syria.

 

Under INKSNA, the President is required by law to submit reports every six months to Congress, identifying all foreigners credibly believed to be involved in weapons traffic to or from Iran, North Korea or Syria, including trade in conventional weapons, missile-related items and weapons of mass destruction (chemical, biological and nuclear). Once Congress receives these reports, the President is supposed to impose sanctions on the alleged traffickers, or else required to explain to Congress, in writing, why he won’t.

 

Read the full story from Forbes.