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Fact checking the fact checkers: the truth about the Iran nuclear deal


During Tuesday night’s Vice Presidential debate, Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA) touted Secretary Hillary Clinton’s role in the Obama administration’s diplomacy that ended up blocking Iran from building a nuclear weapon.

“She worked a tough negotiation with nations around the world to eliminate the Iranian nuclear weapons program without firing a shot,” Kaine said.

A few mainstream media fact checkers claimed that Kaine’s comment wasn’t true – calling it an “exaggeration” or flat out “false” – thus creating space for Iran deal opponents to cry foul about the agreement.

But the reality is that Kaine’s statement was largely correct. Here are the facts:

CLAIM: ABC News explained rating Kaine’s claim as “false” by saying that the deal “does not completely eliminate the Iranian nuclear program.”

FACTS: Kaine never said the deal eliminates Iran’s “nuclear program,” he said it eliminates Iran’s “nuclear weapons program.” And while U.S. intelligence has said that Iran stopped its nuclear weapons program in 2003, Kaine is 100 percent correct that the agreement will permanently prevent Iran from ever having a nuclear weapons program going forward.

CLAIM: The Washington Post said Kaine was “way over his skis,” claiming that the deal doesn’t completely block an Iran nuke because it “expires in 15 years.” Similarly, the New York Times called Kaine’s comment and “exaggeration” because “Iran will be able to resume its work after the deal expires in 15 years.”

FACTS: Iran will not be able to build a nuclear weapon after 15 years. Certain elements of the deal do expire in 15 years, but the agreement that Iran not build nuclear weapons – and rigorous inspections that monitor and verify it – remains in place in perpetuity.

Meanwhile, Politifact looked into Kaine’s statement and rightly pointed out that it was indeed factual. “[M]ost independent experts agreed with Kaine’s stance that the Iran nuclear deal did put a lid on Iran’s nuclear ambitions,” Politifact wrote. “They say the deal is both effective on paper and close to the best outcome the United States could have achieved through diplomatic means.”

Kaine also said during the debate that Israeli joint chiefs of staff Gadi Eizenkot and other Israeli military officials agree that the deal has blocked Iran from building a nuclear weapon. This claim is also largely true. While Eizenkot praised the deal as a “strategic turning point,” many senior members of the Israeli security establishment support it as well.

Finally, the Iran deal is working. The UN nuclear watchdog, the IAEA, said this month that “the deal is being implemented since January without any particular problem.”

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