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Washington Post’s Editors Change Course, Endorse Increased Pressure on Iran

Citing “the manifest willingness of the Iranians to adopt their own pressure tactics,” the editors of The Washington Post today endorsed the proposed Senate bill authored by Senators Mark Kirk (R – Ill.) and Robert Menendez (D – N.J.), which would increase pressure on Iran if no nuclear deal is concluded by June 30, when the current agreement ends.

At the center of the Post’s argument is that Iran has engaged in its “pressure tactics” to get what it wants out of the nuclear negotiations, so it is disingenuous to assert that Iran should be exempt from increased pressure from the West.

We gave Mr. Obama’s argument the benefit of the doubt when Congress first considered the legislation more than a year ago. But the president’s logic has been undercut by the manifest willingness of the Iranians to adopt their own pressure tactics — including steps that are considerably more noxious than the threat of future sanctions. On the day before talks resumed between Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif last Wednesday, Tehran announced that construction has begun on two new nuclear reactors. The next day its news agency reported that the case of Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian, who has been imprisoned since July 22, had been referred to the Revolutionary Court for “processing.”

The State Department was quick to explain that Iran is not barred by United Nations resolutions or an interim nuclear agreement from building new reactors. Yet by announcing the construction, the regime is making clear its intention to continue expanding, rather than dismantling, its nuclear infrastructure. It’s also demonstrating that it’s not constrained from taking provocative steps during the course of the negotiations — even as the Obama administration argues that countervailing pressure would somehow be a deal breaker.

The evolution of the thinking of The Washington Post’s editors has been emerging in recent months.

At the time the Joint Plan of Action was adopted in November 2013, an editorial in The Washington Post stated that “the prudent course is to give diplomacy its chance,” and discouraged any further pressure on Iran.

In October in response to reports that the P5+1 nations were considering allowing Iran to keep its centrifuges intact and merely unplug them, an editorial in the Post urged the West to “hold the line” on Iran’s nuclear program and offer no further concessions. A month later, the Post urged the administration to work with Congress to shape an effective deal with Iran. Most recently, the Post expressed skepticism that a regime that detained Post reporter Jason Rezaian in violation of its own laws could be trusted with a nuclear program. That last editorial asked pointedly, “If Iranian officials are unresponsive in the case of Mr. Rezaian, how can they be expected to deliver on commitments they make with respect to the nuclear program?”

The editorial comes in the wake of President Barack Obama’s threat on Friday to veto any legislation that would increase pressure on Iran. The Washington Post endorsed President Obama in 2008 and again in 2012.

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