Undermining The Iran Nuclear Deal

With President Donald Trump’s loud declaration of disdain for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal arrived at with Iran by six nations plus the European Union, the opponents of the deal are newly energized. They have resurrected all their old arguments, plus a few more.

Although the agreement severely limits the amounts of materials needed to make a bomb and places heavy inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on the facilities that Iran used to taunt the international community with its nuclear know-how, the opponents of the deal insist that it will be no time at all before Iran surprises us with a bomb. They make this argument without bothering to specify how that might happen.

The IAEA continues to certify that Iran is complying with the agreement, which is awkward for Trump and the opponents, but they do not let that stop them. There are other possible sites! Every facility that might be able to contribute to bomb-making MUST BE INSPECTED NOW!

Their argument is that the JCPOA is insufficient to rein in Iran’s ambitions in its neighborhood. It was never intended to address more than Iran’s nuclear program. So why not keep the limits that the JCPOA places on Iran’s nuclear program and negotiate additional agreements to address Iran’s missiles and other activities. Undermining an existing agreement will make further negotiations more difficult.

Part of the thinking on the JCPOA was that it was an opening to follow-on agreements. The ambassadors to the United States from the UK, France, Germany, and the European Union argued exactly that in a panel at the Atlantic Council that is well worth viewing. If you don’t have time for that, here are summaries from Al Monitor and the New York Times.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford agrees:

It would be better for Washington to “focus on leveraging our partners that were part of that agreement to deal with the other challenges that we know Iran poses,” Dunford said.

But the opponents have other ideas. Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and David Albright of the Institute for Science and International Security want to put the screws to Iran to re-open negotiations. Dubowitz summarizes their argument in a Twitter thread. He provides links to his articles on the subject, which are in the thread. Here’s the text of his thread.

  • Enforcement only is delusion of Iran deal. Gives patient nuke, ICBM & regional pathways as restrictions expire.
  • Roll out pressure campaign against Iran like Reagan did against USSR using all instruments of American power.
  • “Waive and slap” while developing a comprehensive pressure plan to fix nuke deal & roll back Iran regime.
  • Rebuild financial pressure by designating Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization in its entirety.
  • Target Iran and Hezbollah to avert a Third Lebanon War.
  • “Decertify, waive, slap and fix” the Iran deal while rolling back Iran regionally & globally.

Part of the pressure Dubowitz would bring to bear is to demand unannounced inspections anywhere in Iran. The opponents also believe that decertification by President Trump and subsequent imposition of sanctions by Congress would bring the other parties to the JCPOA back to negotiations. The Atlantic Council panel of ambassadors stated that their countries were committed to the JCPOA and would not reopen negotiations.

“Rollback”? That’s another word for regime change, which Dubowitz has said he wants in Iran. Back in the 1950s and 1960s, people talked about “rolling back” the Chinese Communist government before they got nuclear weapons. It didn’t happen, but it caused a split in the US government that set us back decades in dealing with China. It also encouraged China to get a nuclear weapon. The George W. Bush administration abrogated an agreement with North Korea that slowed down its progress toward nuclear weapons. Now it has them. Regime change in Iraq shows how badly such things can go wrong.

The opponents never provide an example of success in doing what they want to do to Iran. It’s hard to understand why they insist on wrecking the JCPOA rather than building on it. They claim that the actions they advocate will not lead to war, but that seems to be a matter of faith or confirmation bias.


Photo: Natanz site, formerly for uranium enrichment, now an international center for enrichment of light isotopes.


Cross-posted to Balloon Juice.

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