Yesterday, Gary Samore, president of United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI), published a column on the website of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), arguing that even if talks between the P5+1 and Iran collapse, “Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons in the near term is severely constrained by political and technical factors.”
But Samore seems not to have contacted his office with that sensible sounding message. “It’s time to come down like a ton of bricks on this regime,” Gabriel Pedreira, communications director of UANI, told The Algemeiner, a US Jewish news outlet, on the same day. “We want an economic blockade if real change doesn’t come about. We haven’t seen a single concession from the Iranians, nor has even one centrifuge been destroyed,” said Pedreira.
That’s not what Samore, Pedreira’s boss, wrote. “Despite the impasse over the scale and scope of Iran’s enrichment program, the negotiators have made progress on several other issues, such as converting the Fordow enrichment facility to a research and development facility and converting the Arak heavy water research reactor to produce less plutonium,” said Samore.
And as for Pedreira’s argument that an “economic blockade” would be helpful? Samore acknowledged that a new interim agreement, presumably to be considered if the P5+1 and Iran are unable to meet the November 24 deadline for a comprehensive agreement, would be “resisted by some in Iran” if it is perceived that “it gives away too much nuclear capability without getting enough sanctions relief in return.”
In other words, an “economic blockade,” as Pedreira puts it, would give Iran’s hardliners ammunition to oppose a new interim agreement, which might be exactly what UANI wants.
The organization expressed “disappointment” with the November 2013 Joint Plan of Action, complaining that the agreement “provides disproportionate sanctions relief to Iran,” and has consistently opposed rollback of sanctions as part of an interim deal.
Indeed, both Mark Wallace, UANI’s CEO, and UANI’s mysterious benefactor, billionaire Thomas Kaplan, have expressed more hardline views than Samore, who served in the Obama administration as the president’s Coordinator for Arms Control and Weapons of Mass Destruction until last year.
But the divergence between Samore’s column, in which he is ID’d with his Belfer Center affiliation instead of UANI, and UANI’s contradictory statements the same day, raises questions about how much leadership Samore is offering to the organization and whether his role is more than purely ceremonial. Either way, Samore should probably phone his (UANI) office.