Soleimani is dead. So is the Iran deal. What now?

Source: Soleimani is dead. So is the Iran deal. What now? – The Jerusalem Post

Notwithstanding Iran’s several violations of the deal last year, it was still significantly far from having enough enriched uranium for a weapon.

Iran's Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prays near the coffins of Iranian Major Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commandr Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who were killed in last wee;s US air strike at Baghdad airport.  (photo credit: REUTERS)
Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei prays near the coffins of Iranian Major Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia commandr Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who were killed in last wee;s US air strike at Baghdad airport.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
Four months ago we argued that while Democratic presidential candidates backed a recommitment of the United States to the Iran nuclear deal, there might be no deal, as we know it, to return to when the next president takes office. These fears have now proven out, in the wake of President Trump’s ordering of the targeted assassination of Qasem Soleimani, a terrorist who was widely known as the second most powerful person in Iran and who was taken out at Baghdad’s airport Friday.

The news of this operation left the US standing almost alone, as countries distanced themselves from us or remained silent. Iraq’s parliament voted to expel US troops from the nation, dealing a severe blow to the ongoing campaign to snuff out what remains of the Islamic State. In Tehran, after Iran’s lawmakers chanted in unison “Death to America,” the mullahs announced that the Islamic Republic would stop respecting the terms of the nuclear accord it signed in 2015. Trump’s reaction to all of this was his usual blend of dissembling and gas-lighting, as he told reporters that his actions were designed to prevent a war, rather than start one.

It’s hard to find anyone of good faith genuinely mourning the death of Suleimani, whose stock-in-trade was death and destruction across the Middle East. He orchestrated the murder and maiming of thousands of American troops in Iraq. Iran’s own citizens were victims of his evil, as he was an architect of the regime’s repressive measures against protesters and dissidents.

Nevertheless, the decision to assassinate him leaves the specter of full-blown war looming over the region. Aside from the immediate prospect of armed conflict, we must also turn our attention to the long-term implications of the Islamic Republic’s decision to void the nuclear accord. Following the White House’s choice to “tear up” the pact in May 2018, our allies in Europe had kept the agreement on life support, dangling incentives in front of the Iranians in order to try to keep them in line. Many of our political party’s presidential contenders still hoped the deal would remain viable enough that come the election of a Democrat to the White House this November, it could be revived, with significant modifications. But the Iran deal is now, in its current form anyway, irretrievably dead.

This administration’s hardliners might be thrilled at this news, but there is little reason to celebrate. No diplomatic agreement is perfect, and this nuclear accord of blessed memory was no exception. Nonetheless, despite its flaws, the accord imposed substantial constraints on the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program, restricting for many years the extent to which it could enrich uranium, and requiring the nation to submit to third-party inspections of its facilities. President Obama’s will to reach across divides and engage with Iran also emboldened its moderates.

AND IT was mostly working.

Notwithstanding Iran’s several violations of the deal last year, it was still significantly far from having enough enriched uranium for a weapon. Now, at best, the clock needs to be restarted.Many have speculated on Trump’s political motives in ordering Suleimani’s assassination. It would come as no surprise if the action was intended to distract from current impeachment proceedings, or to create a “rally around the flag” effect in which Democrats could be depicted as unpatriotic.

Or it might have been intended to distinguish the Trump administration from the Obama administration. Trump, it seems, will go to any length to do whatever Obama didn’t – for better or worse.

Whatever the case, Democrats must not be caught flat-footed or dumbfounded. While the Iran deal is kaput, we must insist on reengaging with Iran to rein in its nuclear program and find a path forward, keeping all options on the table. Democrats should seek to build on the rubble of the current deal, offering sanctions relief in exchange for tangible commitments to refrain from the enrichment of uranium and dismantle facilities that could be used to build an atomic bomb.

But to accomplish this before next year, it could not happen the Trump way. His fantasy of a Kim Jong Un-like one-on-one meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani is now clearly forever impossible. And the irony that two of the P5+1 nations supporting the original deal are among Trump’s favorites – Russia and China – should also not be lost on those truly seeking to return to an Iran deal anytime soon.

Democrats must also stress how the president’s actions – without full preparation of what’s to come – have truly imperiled not only of the safety of Americans throughout the world, but also that of our allies, foremost among them Israel, which would be first in the nearby firing line of Iran and its proxies. Democrats should point to the blatant hypocrisy at the heart of the president’s actions. While Trump ran on a promise of preventing costly military engagements overseas and often played to the public’s understandable war fatigue, he has now brought the US to the precipice of another bloody quagmire.

However, there is a larger lesson that Democrats must highlight from all these unforced errors: The president has been disastrous across the board, and nowhere more than on foreign policy and diplomacy. Even though the world is better off without Qassem Suleimani in it, Trump’s predilection to go it alone, to insult and abandon allies such as our friends in Europe and Kurdistan, to pander to enemies like North Korea and Russia – not to mention the man’s overall capriciousness – have driven our credibility and standing on the international scene to its lowest point in modern history.

This is not an abstract question of prestige or national pride. It has ramifications for our security interests and could perhaps even cost the lives of our children in uniform by numbers greater than it already has.

The writers are veterans of Capitol Hill and numerous US presidential campaigns who head Bluelight Strategies, a Washington consulting firm. Working with the White House and president Obama, the two ran the No Nukes for Iran Project, informing the American Jewish community about the Iran nuclear deal.

 

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