Archive for the ‘JCPOA – renegotiation’ category

Four players jockeying for post-war positions in Syria. US & Israel vs Russia & Iran

January 13, 2018

Four players jockeying for post-war positions in Syria. US & Israel vs Russia & Iran, DEBKAfile, January 13, 2018

A notable point made by that attack was that this time, unlike in most other air sorties in Syria, Israel was acting in conjunction with the United States. This was a reversal of Israel’s former strategy during the six years of the Syrian civil war. Until now, its military actions in Syria were kept separate from US operations in that country. The Israeli turnaround followed the revamping of US policy. Trump has dropped his former decision to limit US military action in Syria to fighting the Islamic State. He is now ready to go for the Iranian military presence in Syria including its proxy, Hizballah. This opened the door to closer US-Israeli military cooperation in Syria.

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Trump took a big move in this game on Jan. 12 when he stipulated that Europe agree to overhaul the Iran nuclear accord on enrichment and ballistic missiles.

That condition, which President Donald Trump laid down for the future – when on Friday he met the deadline for re-certifying US sanction waivers and kept the 2015 nuclear accord in place – was just one facet of his administration’s frontal campaign against Iran. The main arena of this evolving pitched battle is Syria, DEBKAfile’s Washington and military sources report, and it targets not only Iran but also Russia. The Trump administration opted for this policy departure as the new year unfolded in the light of four game-changing developments:

  1. Russia is not pulling its army out of Syria after all, despite the commitment made publicly by President Vladimir Putin on Dec. 11. Just the reverse: Moscow is bolstering its military presence there, mainly with air force contingents.
  2. Moves on the ground attest to deepening Russian-Iranian cooperation in Syria.
  3. Iran is reported by intelligence agencies to be preparing a large-scale supplementary military deployment to Syria, which our sources estimate as running to several thousand Shiite fighters.
  4. Tehran has boosted its consignments of advanced weaponry to Syria, including ballistic missiles. The Israeli air strike on Jan. 9 targeted one of those shipments when it was delivered to a Syrian ground-to-ground missile base at al-Qutaifa west of Damascus.

A notable point made by that attack was that this time, unlike in most other air sorties in Syria, Israel was acting in conjunction with the United States. This was a reversal of Israel’s former strategy during the six years of the Syrian civil war. Until now, its military actions in Syria were kept separate from US operations in that country. The Israeli turnaround followed the revamping of US policy. Trump has dropped his former decision to limit US military action in Syria to fighting the Islamic State. He is now ready to go for the Iranian military presence in Syria including its proxy, Hizballah. This opened the door to closer US-Israeli military cooperation in Syria.

But there are also broader connotations: Syria finds itself back at the heart of Middle East strife. As the civil war winds down, that country is evolving into a pivotal arena  for big power competition, with the US and Israel lining up against Russia and Iran. Interestingly, the easing of tensions between Washington and Pyongyang has helped Washington switch its focus to  the jockeying for position in post-war Syria against two other rivals, Moscow and Tehran.

Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has, for his part, done his utmost throughout the conflict to keep an open line of communication with Vladimir Putin and avoid colliding with Russian military elements in Syria. But it is hard to see how he can keep this up in the near future and avoid a clash between Israeli and Russian interests there. Still, in Jerusalem, Moscow was awarded good marks for staying silent over Israel’s latest air strike against the Iranian arms shipment at al-Quteifa.

Important light was shed on US intentions for Iran – even more clearly than President Trump’s future stipulations for abiding by the nuclear deal – when David Satterfield, Acting Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs, appeared a day earlier before the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee. Asked by Chris Murphy (D-Conn), “What functions do US troops serve in Syria besides fighting ISIS?” Satterfield and other aides with him declined to answer, except behind closed doors. Only when he was pressed hard by Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), and told he is obliged to answer, did Satterfield finally say: “We are deeply concerned with the activities of Iran, with the ability of Iran to enhance those activities through a greater ability to move materiel into Syria. And I would rather leave the discussion at that point.”

Can Corker and Cardin Face the Truth about Iran this Time?

January 13, 2018

Can Corker and Cardin Face the Truth about Iran this Time? PJ MediaRoger L Simon, January 12, 2018

Nowhere in all this does anyone have any real idea if the deal’s putative intention, seriously delaying Iran’s nuclear ambitions, was achieved even partly. It’s impossible to know because Iran (per the IAEA) does not permit inspection of its military sites and, even if it did, they refused to reveal the state of their nuclear development before the agreement was made in the first place, so no comparison can be made. (Incomprehensibly, the deal allowed them to do this.) Beyond that, the Iranians are buddies with the North Koreans. How much of the NORK’s technology, or nuclear material for that matter, has already changed hands we don’t know.

In other words, this is an agreement only a fascist ayatollah and or some politician lusting for a fake peace prize could love.

Now the challenge is with Congress. Not surprisingly, the House is ahead of the Senate on this, with Rep. Peter Roskam working on a bill that is closer to what is required.

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The Trump administration has allowed the Iran Deal to continue with only minor sanctions added  — but with an important caveat. This is the last time.

As with immigration, the president has thrown the proverbial ball back into Congress’s lap, hoping to obtain from the legislators a bill requiring a rewrite of the deal before he must certify again. Trump has made his bottom line clear on this new bill in a statement published Friday:

First, it must demand that Iran allow immediate inspections at all sites requested by international inspectors.

Second, it must ensure that Iran never even comes close to possessing a nuclear weapon.

Third, unlike the nuclear deal, these provisions must have no expiration date. My policy is to deny Iran all paths to a nuclear weapon—not just for ten years, but forever.

If Iran does not comply with any of these provisions, American nuclear sanctions would automatically resume.

Fourth, the legislation must explicitly state in United States law—for the first time—that long-range missile and nuclear weapons programs are inseparable, and that Iran’s development and testing of missiles should be subject to severe sanctions.

Will Congress have the courage to pass such a bill? The last time around, at the instigation of Sens. Bob Corker and Ben  Cardin, they enacted a proposal that allowed Obama’s widely criticized (let’s be honest and say absurd) agreement to circumvent the normal requirement of ratification by the legislature as a treaty.

The result: chaos and death. Iran, enriched to the tune of a hundred billion or so, almost two billion in untraceable cash, was able to run rampant across the Middle East through its drug-dealing terrorist client Hezbollah, the equally homicidal Hamas, the Houthis and its own Revolutionary Guard Corps of bloodthirsty fanatics.

It’s also clear — as we have seen recently via the protests in 80 or so Iranian cities — that little or none of these billions were spent on the Iranian people themselves. They all went into the accounts of the corrupt mullahs or to manufacture weapons to kill more people, extending the Syrian civil war and changing the character of Europe forever via the unprecedented refugee crisis.

This was so predictable it’s hard to believe someone with an IQ in triple digits would have believed it could have been otherwise — yet Corker, Cardin and almost the entire Democratic Party did. They all fell in line with Obama’s monstrous deal, believing, despite decades of evidence to the contrary, that people like Iranian officials Hassan Rouhani and Javad Zarif were actually “moderates.” To put it bluntly — how stupid can you get.

Nowhere in all this does anyone have any real idea if the deal’s putative intention, seriously delaying Iran’s nuclear ambitions, was achieved even partly. It’s impossible to know because Iran (per the IAEA) does not permit inspection of its military sites and, even if it did, they refused to reveal the state of their nuclear development before the agreement was made in the first place, so no comparison can be made. (Incomprehensibly, the deal allowed them to do this.) Beyond that, the Iranians are buddies with the North Koreans. How much of the NORK’s technology, or nuclear material for that matter, has already changed hands we don’t know.

In other words, this is an agreement only a fascist ayatollah and or some politician lusting for a fake peace prize could love.

Now the challenge is with Congress. Not surprisingly, the House is ahead of the Senate on this, with Rep. Peter Roskam working on a bill that is closer to what is required.

Whatever happens, the Europeans — particularly the Western Europeans — will be difficult. They are loathe to admit that Donald Trump, of all people, might be right about a crucial point of foreign policy, making them, once again, the weak appeasers of fascism. Also, they’re greedy and want to keep their business with the Iranians going.

And so, Sens. Corker and Cardin, our nation, indeed the world, turns its eyes to you. Are you ready to rescue your reputations with history?

Trump keeps Iran nuclear program, waives sanctions – for the last time

January 12, 2018

Trump keeps Iran nuclear program, waives sanctions – for the last time, DEBKAfile, January 12, 2018

Among the other entities blacklisted for sanctions are the Revolutionary Guards Corps cyber unit for repressing social media networks to suppress protest.

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US President Donald Trump Friday extended the waivers on Iran nuclear sanctions and kept alive the 2015 deal, but stressed this was for the last time – unless US and Europe can reach agreement on Iranian enrichment and ballistic missile development.  The US gave Europe 120 days to agree to overhaul the deal before the next deadline in May, or else the US would pull out. The US also imposed sanctions on 14 Iranian non-nuclear entities, including the powerful head of the judiciary, Ayatollah Sadeq Larijani, for human rights abuses against anti-government protesters. Among the other entities blacklisted for sanctions are the Revolutionary Guards Corps cyber unit for repressing social media networks to suppress protest.

The Trump administration also wants the “follow-on” deal to eliminate the “sunset clauses” of the current nuclear agreement, under which Iran is allowed to resume enrichment when the deal expires, and expanded inspections that could trigger re-imposed sanctions if Iran failed to comply.

Iran Paving Way to Abandon Nuclear Deal, Fortify Missile Program

October 25, 2017

Iran Paving Way to Abandon Nuclear Deal, Fortify Missile Program, Washington Free Beacon , October 25, 2017

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani / Getty Images

“I’m not going to comment on every statement by an Iranian official,” a State Department official told the Free Beacon after reviewing Iran’s accusations.  “The United States continues to meet its commitments under the JCPOA and will hold Iran strictly accountable for its commitments.”

One veteran congressional adviser who has helped craft Iran policy during the last two administrations told the Free Beacon the Islamic Republic’s latest moves are meant to distract from its widespread cheating on the nuclear accord.

“Iran was never going to stay in the deal the full time,” the source said. “They were going to cheat as much as they could, pocket as much as they could, and then bail as soon as anyone tried to enforce the deal.”

As the Trump administration works to tighten the deal and hold Iran accountable for its continued nuclear endeavors, Tehran may see an opportunity to abandon the deal before its clandestine activities are exposed.

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Iran has taken steps in recent days to file what it claims are 18 instances in which America violated the landmark nuclear agreement, a move that could set the stage for Tehran to abandon the deal and lay blame on the Trump administration, according to regional reports and sources familiar with the matter.

On the heels of an effort by the Trump administration to tighten the nuclear accord while still upholding U.S. commitments under it, the Iranian Foreign Ministry has submitted to European Union leaders a plethora of information recounting what it claims are 18 separate violations of the deal by the United States, according to Iran’s state-controlled media.

The latest move is said to be part of an effort by Iran to abandon the nuclear agreement and save face by blaming the United States for its decision, according to national security insiders closely tracking the situation.

As the Trump administration makes moves to sanction Iran for its ballistic missile program and regional support of terrorism, Iran is increasingly frustrated with the United States’ aggressive stance, which is being spearheaded by President Donald Trump and his congressional allies.

Iran’s foreign ministry submitted a report to the country’s Parliament outlining what it claims are at least 18 instances of the United States violating the agreement. The accusations come just days after Trump decertified Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal.

“The recent report is specifically about the Americans’ efforts to derail the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action], so much so that the foreign ministry has delineated 18 blatant cases of breach of the agreement made by U.S.,” Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, an Iranian member of parliament, told the country’s state-controlled media organs on Tuesday.

Iran’s foreign ministry is said to have forwarded this information to Federica Mogherini, the EU’s high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, one of the international organizations monitoring compliance with the agreement.

“The foreign ministry has forwarded ten letters to Ms. Mogherini in this regard, and the base of the report is on the continuation of sanction-era situation in areas of maritime transportation, oil and gas export, and the return of the revenues,” according to Falahatpisheh.

While the Trump administration has withheld from commenting on Iran’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric, officials told the Washington Free Beacon that the United States continues to uphold its commitments under the deal and will continue to do so.

“I’m not going to comment on every statement by an Iranian official,” a State Department official told the Free Beacon after reviewing Iran’s accusations.  “The United States continues to meet its commitments under the JCPOA and will hold Iran strictly accountable for its commitments.”

One veteran congressional adviser who has helped craft Iran policy during the last two administrations told the Free Beacon the Islamic Republic’s latest moves are meant to distract from its widespread cheating on the nuclear accord.

“Iran was never going to stay in the deal the full time,” the source said. “They were going to cheat as much as they could, pocket as much as they could, and then bail as soon as anyone tried to enforce the deal.”

As the Trump administration works to tighten the deal and hold Iran accountable for its continued nuclear endeavors, Tehran may see an opportunity to abandon the deal before its clandestine activities are exposed.

“Now they see the Trump administration is working to fix the verification loopholes in the agreement, so they know the clock is ticking on how much longer they can cheat with impunity,” the source said. “So of course they’re already making up excuses to leave and fabricating U.S. violations.”

The Trump administration’s efforts to hold Iran accountable for its repeated violations of the deal, as well as its support for regional terrorism, has sparked outrage among Iranian leaders, who have lashed out at the U.S. president in vitriolic terms and vowed that Iran will continue its massive military buildup.

“We have previously declared, and once again we declare that the defense capabilities of the country are non-negotiable and not to be bargained for,” Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday.

Khamenei promised to continue building Iran’s ballistic missile program, which has been an ongoing source of international tension.

“That they ask, why we have some defense facility, why we produce them, or why do we conduct research; these matters are non-negotiable!” Khamenei was quoted as saying. “We won’t negotiate with the enemy on matters that provide us with our national sovereignty.”

70% of U.S. Voters Think Iran Deal Should Be Reworked, Require Senate Ratification

October 24, 2017

70% of U.S. Voters Think Iran Deal Should Be Reworked, Require Senate Ratification, CNS NewsPatrick Goodenough, October 24, 2017

(CNSNews.com) – Seven in ten American voters believe the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration should be renegotiated, and an even larger majority, 81 percent, think any new deal should require Senate ratification, a new poll has found.

The Harvard-Harris survey for The Hill found 70 percent support for renegotiating the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), including 85 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of independents and 57 percent of Democrats polled.

The strong opinions about the need for Senate approval are especially striking. The Obama administration chose to treat the JCPOA as a political agreement between governments rather than a treaty. Under the Constitution a treaty requires the support of two-thirds of the U.S. Senate before it can enter into force.

Then-Secretary of State John Kerry, a key JCPOA negotiator and among its most vocal defenders, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee in July 2015 that the administration had not taken the treaty route with the nuclear deal because “you can’t pass a treaty anymore.”

Commenting on the poll results, Harvard-Harris co-director Mark Penn said, “Americans see Iran as a bad actor on all fronts and substantial majorities believe this agreement is being violated and never should have gone into effect without a Senate vote.”

In the absence of a Senate ratification requirement, Congress passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA), which requires the president every 90 days to certify that Iran is meeting its commitments under the deal, and that the suspension of U.S. sanctions continues to be in U.S. national security interests.

On October 13, President Trump for the first time decertified Iran’s compliance, a step that does not do away with the agreement but does pave the way for congressional action, including possible reimposition of nuclear-related sanctions within 60 days.

The poll – a collaboration between The Harris Poll and the Harvard Center for American Political Studies – suggests American voters are divided over Trump’s decertification decision, with just 51 percent of respondents agreeing with the move.

Still, 60 percent of the voters surveyed said the nuclear agreement was a bad one for the U.S., and two-thirds – including half of the Democrats polled – said Iran has not complied with its obligations under the deal.

“Voters want it renegotiated but are split on whether Trump’s decertification was right, underscoring the need for Trump to keep explaining his policy and actions to an electorate that supports his aims,” said Penn.

In response to Trump’s decertification decision, Congress has several options it can pursue.

Reimposing nuclear-related sanctions that were lifted under the JCPOA would be the most contentious choice, since it would constitute a U.S. violation of the deal and could cause it to unravel. Iran has, however, indicated that it could in such circumstances stay in the agreement without the U.S., but with the other negotiating partners – Russia, China, Britain, France and Germany.

Congress could alternatively amend the INARA, building in new demands for a renegotiated, stronger version of the JCPOA.

The administration could then use the legislation to push Iran and the other negotiating partners in a bid towards achieving the “better” deal that Trump has called for. The president warned in his Oct. 13 announcement that “in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated.”

Finally, Congress could do nothing, thereby lobbing the ball back into Trump’s court to deal with the next time the 90-day certification requirement comes round, in mid-January.

Kerry on Edge as Legacy Crumbles

October 17, 2017

Kerry on Edge as Legacy Crumbles, FrontPage MagazineJoseph Klein, October 17, 2017

Former Secretary of State John Kerry wasted no time condemning President Trump’s decision not to recertify, and to possibly withdraw from, the disastrous nuclear deal with Iran that Kerry negotiated on behalf of his boss Barack Obama. President Trump insisted on significant improvements to the Joint Plan of Comprehensive Action (JCPOA), as the deal is formally known. The JCPOA’s fundamental flaws that President Trump wants fixed include Iran’s ability to block unfettered international inspections, the wiggle room that Iran is exploiting to continue developing and testing ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and the sunset clause on nuclear enrichment that would provide Iran a clear path to becoming a nuclear armed state after the current restrictions are lifted. Obama and Kerry had promised that these issues would be dealt with satisfactorily before agreeing to the final terms of the JCPOA. Instead they caved to Iranian pressure in order to get the deal done.

Now that President Trump is trying to clean up the mess Obama and Kerry left him, Kerry has the gall to label President Trump’s decision a “reckless abandonment of facts in favor of ego and ideology” and to accuse the Trump administration of “lying to the American people.” It was the Obama administration that recklessly abandoned the facts in pressing ahead with the deal. The Obama administration lied to the American people, abandoning its own promises to ensure that the deal contained ironclad protections. Moreover, all that President Trump has done so far is to return the JCPOA to Congress for review. Had Obama followed the Constitution and submitted the JCPOA to the Senate as a treaty in the first place, the JCPOA in its present form almost certainly would not have been approved. Congress should now have the opportunity to revisit the JCPOA to determine whether the protections that the Obama administration promised are working as advertised. Congress should also consider whether time limits on Iran’s commitments continue to make sense in light of what we are now experiencing with Iran’s nuclear technology collaborator, North Korea. It bought time to turn into a full-fledged nuclear power under our noses.

Kerry had promised that the Iranian regime would be prohibited from testing ballistic missiles. This turned out to be a lie. After the JCPOA was finalized, with no such prohibition included, Iran continued to test such missiles. The Obama administration’s response was that the missiles had become a separate issue, to be dealt with under a new United Nations Security Council resolution endorsing the JCPOA.  The new resolution replaced clear prohibitions imposed on Iran’s ballistic missile program with a weak declaration in an annex that simply “calls upon” Iran not to undertake any activity such as development and test launches related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons for eight years.

Iran has tested several ballistic missiles during the last two years, including two Qadr H missiles with the phrase “Israel must be wiped out” emblazoned on the sides. The commander of Iran’s Army, Major General Ataollah Salehi, had told reporters just a month before the launch of those missiles that Iran was “neither paying any attention to the resolutions against Iran, nor implementing them. This is not a breach of the JCPOA.”

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin, spurning requests from Obama administration officials to impose sanctions against Iran under the Security Council resolution, asserted that the Iranian missile test did not violate the resolution. “A call is different from a ban so legally you cannot violate a call, you can comply with a call or you can ignore the call, but you cannot violate a call,” the Russian ambassador said. In short, the JCPOA did not cover the missile tests and the replacement UN Security Council resolution that did mention the missiles is toothless.

Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes told CNN, during an interview aired on April 6, 2015,  that under the deal’s terms then still being negotiated, “you will have anywhere, anytime, 24/7 access as it relates to the nuclear facilities that Iran has.” Rhodes claimed that “if we see a site that we need to inspect on a military facility, we can get access to that site and inspect it. So if it’s a suspicious site that we believe is related to its nuclear efforts, we can get access and inspect that site through the IAEA.” This was another lie. After the JCPOA was finalized in July 2015, Rhodes shamelessly denied that anytime, anywhere inspections were ever considered as part of the negotiations. “We never sought in this negotiation the capacity for so-called anytime, anywhere,” Rhodes said on July 14, 2015.

The JCPOA’s supporters, including Kerry, have made much of the fact that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has on several occasions verified Iran’s compliance with its commitments under the JCPOA, keeping its stock of low-enriched uranium below the limit set forth in the JCPOA and not pursuing further construction of the Arak reactor. Iran was found to have slightly exceeded the limit on its stock of heavy water, but has remedied the problem to the IAEA’s satisfaction. IAEA chief Yukiya Amano reiterated in a statement he issued on October 9th that Iran has remained in compliance with its JCPOA commitments.

The problem, as any clear-eyed observer of the process recognizes, is that the IAEA relies on Iran for self-inspection of certain sites that the regime does not want the IAEA to inspect freely on its own. IAEA inspectors have avoided examining military sites it knows exists and has no reliable way of tracking undeclared sites. The IAEA’s explanation for not visiting any of Iran’s known military sites is that it had “no reason to ask” for access. Evidently, the IAEA is supposed to block out the fact that Iran had conducted tests relevant to nuclear bomb detonations at a military site before the JCPOA’s finalization in 2015. The IAEA should just pretend that such tests could not possibly happen again.

“Nobody is allowed to visit Iran’s military sites,” said Iran’s Head of Strategic Research Center at the Expediency Council and adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, Ali Akbar Velayati. Intimidation works. The IAEA knows not to ask.

As to the JCPOA’s sunset provisions, the Obama administration lied about that too. Kerry claimed on September 2, 2015 that the JCPOA “never sunsets. There’s no sunset in this agreement.”

This month Kerry has resorted to parsing words. He claims the phrase ‘sunset provisions’ is a “misnomer,” before then defending the JCPOA’s time limits. “We were comfortable because the cap on Iran’s low-enriched uranium stockpile remains in place until 2030,” Kerry wrote in an article published in the Washington Post late last month. In other words, let’s just kick the can down the road and hope for a more reasonable Iranian regime in 13 years that would agree to extend the time limits. In the meantime, Kerry advises us not to worry. Kerry declared, “15 or 25 years from now, we still have the same military options we have today.”

John Kerry has obviously learned nothing from the North Korean fiasco, which resulted from years of phony agreements with the rogue regime and so-called “strategic patience.” The United States clearly does not have the same military options today to deal with a nuclear armed North Korea as it did 23 years ago when former President Bill Clinton decided not to use military force to stamp out North Korea’s nuclear program at its inception. Instead, Clinton started us down the primrose path of naïve diplomacy with a duplicitous regime that now is on the verge of being able to strike the U.S. mainland with nuclear warheads delivered by intercontinental ballistic missiles. It is precisely because North Korea’s actions over the last 23 years have proven that making concessions to a rogue regime in order to obtain denuclearization commitments is so dangerous that President Trump does not want to make the same mistake with Iran.

America’s European allies are also upset with President Trump for refusing to recertify the deal and threatening to pull out if certain conditions are not met. British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel issued a joint statement last Friday praising the JCPOA and its implementation. They said that the nuclear deal with Iran was “the culmination of 13 years of diplomacy and was a major step towards ensuring that Iran’s nuclear programme is not diverted for military purposes. Therefore, we encourage the US Administration and Congress to consider the implications to the security of the US and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA, such as re-imposing sanctions on Iran lifted under the agreement.”

Perhaps these European leaders should remember their own history. Appeasement through phony deals with a rogue dictatorship does not work, as proven by the infamous Munich Pact signed by British and French Prime Ministers Neville Chamberlain and Edouard Daladier with German Chancellor Adolf Hitler seventy-nine years ago.

A Slow Death for the Iran Deal

October 16, 2017

A Slow Death for the Iran Deal, Gatestone InstituteJohn R. Bolton, October 16, 2017

The JCPOA is also packed with provisions that have never received adequate scrutiny. Take Annex III, which envisages full-scale assistance to, and cooperation with, Iran’s “peaceful” civil nuclear efforts. Annex III contemplates facilitating Iran’s acquisition of “state of the art” light-water reactors, broader nuclear-research programs, and, stunningly, protection against “nuclear security threats” to Iran’s nuclear program.

It sounds suspiciously like the Clinton administration’s failed Agreed Framework with North Korea. Many Clinton alumni were part of Mr. Obama’s Iran negotiation team. In Washington, nothing succeeds like failure. Mr. Trump and his congressional supporters should expressly repudiate Annex III and insist that Europe, Russia and China do the same.

The Iran nuclear deal, which Mr. Trump has excoriated repeatedly, is hanging by an unraveling thread. Congress won’t improve it. American and European businesses proceed at their own peril on trade or investment with Iran. The deal should have died last week and will breathe its last shortly.

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As Abba Eban observed, “Men and nations behave wisely when they have exhausted all other resources.” So it goes with America and the Iran deal. President Trump announced Friday that the U.S. would stay in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), even while he refused to certify under U.S. law that the deal is in the national interest. “Decertification,” a bright, shiny object for many, obscures the real issue — whether the agreement should survive. Mr. Trump has “scotch’d the snake, not kill’d it.”

While Congress considers how to respond — or, more likely, not respond — we should focus on the grave threats inherent in the deal. Peripheral issues have often dominated the debate; forests have been felled arguing over whether Iran has complied with the deal’s terms. Proposed “fixes” now abound, such as a suggestion to eliminate the sunset provisions on the deal’s core provisions.

The core provisions are the central danger. There are no real “fixes” to this intrinsically misconceived agreement. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to which Iran is a party, has never included sunset clauses, but the mullahs have been violating it for decades.

If the U.S. left the JCPOA, it would not need to justify the decision by showing that the Iranians have exceeded the deal’s limits on uranium enrichment (though they have). Many argued Russia was not violating the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (though it likely was) when President Bush gave notice of withdrawal in 2001, but that was not the point. The issue was whether the ABM Treaty remained strategically wise for America. So too for the Iran deal. It is neither dishonorable nor unusual for countries to withdraw from international agreements that contravene their vital interests. As Charles de Gaulle put it, treaties “are like girls and roses; they last while they last.”

Pictured: A uranium conversion facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran, used as part of Iran’s uranium enrichment process. (Photo by Getty Images)

When Germany, Britain and France began nuclear negotiations with Iran in 2003, they insisted that their objective was to block the mullahs from the nuclear fuel cycle’s “front end” (uranium enrichment) as well as its “back end” (plutonium reprocessing from spent fuel). They assured Washington that Tehran would be limited to “peaceful” nuclear applications like medicine and electricity generation. Nuclear-fuel supplies and the timely removal of spent fuel from Iran’s “peaceful” reactors would be covered by international guaranties.

So firm were the Europeans that they would not even negotiate unless Iran agreed to suspend all enrichment-related activity. Under these conditions, then-Secretary of State Colin Powell agreed their effort could proceed. Today, JCPOA advocates conveniently ignore how much Barack Obama and the Europeans conceded to Iran’s insistence that it would never give up uranium enrichment.

The West’s collapse was a grave error. Regardless of JCPOA limits, Iran benefits from continued enrichment, research and development by expanding the numbers of scientists and technicians it has with firsthand nuclear experience. All this will be invaluable to the ayatollahs come the day they disdain any longer to conceal their real nuclear strategy.

Congress’s ill-advised “fixes” would only make things worse. Sens. Bob Corker and Tom Cotton suggest automatically reimposing sanctions if Iran gets within a year of having nuclear weapons. That’s a naive and dangerous proposal: Iran is already within days of having nuclear weapons, given that it can buy them from North Korea. On the deal’s first anniversary, Mr. Obama said that “Iran’s breakout time has been extended from two to three months to about a year.” At best, Corker-Cotton would codify Mr. Obama’s ephemeral and inaccurate propaganda without constraining Iran.

Such triggering mechanisms assume the U.S. enjoys complete certainty and comprehensive knowledge of every aspect of Iran’s nuclear program. In reality, there is serious risk Tehran will evade the intelligence and inspection efforts, and we will find out too late Tehran already possesses nuclear weapons.

The unanswerable reality is that economic sanctions have never stopped a relentless regime from getting the bomb. That is the most frightening lesson of 25 years of failure in dealing with Iran and North Korea. Colin Powell told me he once advised British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw: “Jack, if you want to bring the Iranians around, you have to hold an ax over their heads.” The new proposals aren’t even a dull razor blade.

The JCPOA is also packed with provisions that have never received adequate scrutiny. Take Annex III, which envisages full-scale assistance to, and cooperation with, Iran’s “peaceful” civil nuclear efforts. Annex III contemplates facilitating Iran’s acquisition of “state of the art” light-water reactors, broader nuclear-research programs, and, stunningly, protection against “nuclear security threats” to Iran’s nuclear program.

It sounds suspiciously like the Clinton administration’s failed Agreed Framework with North Korea. Many Clinton alumni were part of Mr. Obama’s Iran negotiation team. In Washington, nothing succeeds like failure. Mr. Trump and his congressional supporters should expressly repudiate Annex III and insist that Europe, Russia and China do the same.

The Iran nuclear deal, which Mr. Trump has excoriated repeatedly, is hanging by an unraveling thread. Congress won’t improve it. American and European businesses proceed at their own peril on trade or investment with Iran. The deal should have died last week and will breathe its last shortly.

John R. Bolton, former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, is Chairman of Gatestone Institute, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of “Surrender Is Not an Option: Defending America at the United Nations and Abroad”.

This article first appeared in The Wall Street Journal and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.