Where’s the report to Congress on Iran’s nuclear program?

US President Joe Biden. Photo: AFP
US President Joe Biden. Photo: AFP

Summary

The White House has missed legal deadlines for more than a year.

President Biden says Donald Trump is a lawbreaker, but his Administration is hardly any better. A case in point is its failure to file a report to Congress required by law on the status of Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

Sen. Lindsey Graham helped to write Public Law 117-263, Section 5593 of the Iran Nuclear Weapons Capability and Terrorism Monitoring Act of 2022. It requires the Administration to send Congress an assessment every six months about Iran’s progress on uranium enrichment and other nuclear weapons development.

Mr. Graham has been asking the White House for weeks about the report, and he’s finally lost patience. In a letter Wednesday to Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, the Senator said the Administration is “in violation of the law" for “missing two Section 5593 assessment deadlines over the past year and failing to submit Section 7413 assessments" when Iran reaches a major enrichment threshold.

He said he’ll put a hold on DNI nominations, and he’ll work with colleagues to condition funding for DNI headquarters, until the reports are sent to Capitol Hill.

There’s good reason to be worried. The board of the International Atomic Energy Agency recently censured Iran for failing to cooperate with the United Nations nuclear watchdog and escalating its uranium enrichment. Mr. Graham’s letter cites the agency as saying Iran has increased its stockpile of enriched fuel up to 60% purity to 313.3 pounds between February and May of this year.

As Mr. Graham’s letter points out, this is only “a small technical step away from weapons grade 90% purity" and that much closer to being able to stage a bomb breakout. Israeli officials are expressing their growing alarm in private conversations with U.S. officials. They’re concerned enough that talk of some military operation, long dormant, is back on the table.

Iran’s progress may be a reason for the failure of Ms. Haines’s office to provide the information to Congress. If it tells the truth about the program, members of both parties would increase the political pressure to do something. Yet the White House has been striving mightily not to say or do anything regarding Iran that could lead to more tension before the November election.

News reports have said the U.S. opposed the IAEA’s censure before finally going along with the Europeans. The White House has also failed to help the public understand Iran’s role as the head of the terrorist hydra of proxy militias behind the war in Gaza, Houthi attacks on commercial shipping, and attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq, Syria and Jordan.

An Iranian government with a nuclear weapon would make all of these threats exponentially more dangerous. It is therefore “unacceptable," as Mr. Graham puts it, that the Administration isn’t providing “an updated assessment that outlines the exact status" of Iran’s nuclear program.

Anonymous intelligence sources somehow found it important to leak to the press this week that Russia wants Donald Trump to win the presidential election. After the fiascoes of 2016 and 2020, there’s no reason to believe anything the intelligence services say about the presidential race. But the least the Biden spooks can do is follow the law and be honest with Congress about Iran’s nuclear threat.

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