America Should Uphold the Nuclear Deal with: Iran Part I
The Iran nuclear agreement is by no means a perfect deal for anyone involved, but it offers a better alternative than the option that Ambassador Nikki Haley and other anti-Iranian hawks prefer. Unless Iran clearly violates the terms of the agreement, the United States has no reason to abandon the nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
In his speech before the United Nations on September 19, President Donald Trump blasted the Iranian government for masking its corrupt dictatorship, funding terrorists, “undermining peace throughout the Middle East,” and “building dangerous missiles.” He also railed against the nuclear deal with Iran – a deal he told the Wall Street Journal in July, “If it was up to me, I would have had them noncompliant 180 days ago.”
Haley has also expressed outright hostility toward the deal, as well as toward the nation of Iran itself. In a speech to the American Enterprise Institute on September 5, she insisted that Iran has violated the deal. But the only two examples she could give were when Iran briefly exceeded its suggested limit of heavy water twice in 2016.
Under the agreement, Iran is only allowed enough heavy water as it needs, and the signatories estimated that 130 tones would be enough. The reason for this limit is that such water could be used as a moderator in nuclear power stations, which could then produce plutonium from the spent fuel of the reactors. Once Iran reaches that level, it’s supposed to sell its excess water.
Haley complains that when Iran surpassed its heavy water limit, Obama, rather than declaring the country in violation of the deal, “helped Iran get back into compliance.”
But, Obama was not purposely looking for an excuse to rip the deal up like Trump and Haley. Furthermore, when the IAEA brought the issue up, Iran complied in a timely manner and shipped the excess water to Oman.
Haley said the IAEA “does good work,” but pointed out that the agency is saying that “of the sites they’ve seen, the Iranians are in compliance.” She said that “no one is talking about the sites they haven’t seen.”
Haley is convinced the Iranians are trying to develop a nuclear weapon at military bases and has been lobbying the IAEA hard to demand the Iranians allow the agency to conduct intrusive inspections of those bases. She offers no proof for her suspicions, and bases her reasoning on nothing more than Iran’s history of belligerence toward the U.S., most of which predates her graduation from high school.
During the presidential campaign, Trump often criticized the JCPOA as “an embarrassment to our country,” saying Obama should have treated the release of American prisoners in Iran as a prerequisite for any deal. He argued the deal was terrible from the American side because the Obama gave Iran the impression that it would not walk away from the negotiating table regardless of the outcome.
Unlike Ted Cruz, however, who promised to rip the deal to shreds “on the very first day in office,” Trump promised to honor America’s word to its allies, who also signed the deal with Iran, telling MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” “We have a horrible contract, but we do have a contract.” He added, “I would love to tell you…I’m going to be the toughest guy in the world, and I’m just rippin’ it up, but you know what? Life doesn’t work that way.” Instead, Trump promised to enforce the terms of the deal “like you've never seen a contract enforced before.”
The president must notify Congress once every three months if Iran is complying. So, far the Trump administration has found no fault with Iran on the nuclear question.
In July, however, both Trump and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson accused Iran of being in violation “of the spirit” of the deal. It accused the country of being a threat because of its ballistic missile program. But, Iran’s missile program can’t reach the U.S. Even if it could, without nuclear warheads, it would be completely impotent against America’s superior conventional military, not to mention America’s nuclear arsenal. Furthermore, Iran’s missiles don’t factor into the JCPOA.
Trump and Haley seem to be looking for any excuse to go into full Ted Cruz mode on the JCPOA for no other reason than their hatred of the Ayatollah.
In light of Trump’s remarks at the UN, 78 European officials signed a letter to his administration, expressing great concern over “reports that the U.S. Administration might unilaterally declare Tehran non-compliant with the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.” The letter quotes the IAEA’s director general who declares Tehran in compliance and states, “Iran is now subject to the world’s most robust nuclear verification regime.” In addition, more than fifty Asia Pacific political, diplomatic, military and civil society leadership figures also signed a joint statement urging the U.S. to uphold its end of the bargain.
But how bad of a deal is the JCPOA really, for the U.S.?
The deal provides Iran with over $100 billion, but that money is not foreign aid. It’s Iran’s own money that the U.S. and other countries froze when they placed sanctions on the country.
So, what does the U.S. get in return?
Americans get peace of mind, if they want it, that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons. It may be decades before Iran’s government moderates and modernizes; but in the meantime, it would be much easier for the U.S. if it can focus on its citizens and on countries that actually pose a geopolitical threat, while letting the IAEA keep an eye on Iran.
If Trump decides to declare Iran in noncompliance on October 16, where does that leave Congress?
Would Congress be willing to reimpose sanctions unilaterally without the support of America’s allies? The Trump administration has largely kept Capitol Hill in the dark on what it knows, if it does know anything the IAEA doesn’t, about Iran’s compliance. Several senators recently noted that the only administration official that has briefed a congressional panel on the deal was Air Force Gen. Paul Selva – and he said that U.S. intelligence has demonstrated that Iran is complying.
American citizens do face existential threats. Among them: hurricanes, floods, a madman leading a brainwashed regime in North Korea, and rising insurance premiums because of the Affordable Care Act, that prevent people from getting the healthcare they need. But a nuclear-gagged regime with a limping economy in the Middle East and a few hundred rockets, that can’t even reach Western Europe, is not one of them.