The Iran nuclear deal has been a topic of intense discussion over the last few weeks. After reluctantly re-certifying Iranian compliance a few weeks ago, reports circulated that President Trump is actively seeking ways to undermine the JCPOA. If he does so, it could spell disaster.
Fortunately, pragmatic, pro-diplomacy voices are starting to hit back.
This week, 47 national security leaders — including former National Security Advisor under President Ford and the first President Bush, General (ret.) Brent Scowcroft, and former Chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign relations, Senator Richard G. Lugar — proposed a “Comprehensive Policy to Constrain Iran,” writing:
The international agreement with Iran continues to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon. No American national security objective would be served by withdrawing from it as long as Iran is meeting the agreement’s requirements. To the contrary…such a unilateral act would have grave long term political and security consequences for the United States.
The statement makes clear that pulling out of the Iran deal would not serve US interests and could lead to disastrous consequences. It goes on to argue that Iran is meeting its obligations under the agreement, and that if the US reimposed sanctions, it would be us, not the Iranians, in non-compliance with the deal. It is also the latest contribution to a long line of both American and Israeli security experts testifying that the JCPOA is the best way to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon.
But the Iran deal has taken on a significance that transcends the nuclear issue alone. Trump’s hardline on the JCPOA has taken on increased meaning in the wake of the latest ratcheting up of tensions between the United States North Korea. As Aaron David Miller, Richard Solosky and Rob Malley wrote in Politico:
[I]f the U.S. thrusts aside the nuclear deal with Iran—and uses contrived evidence to do so—the message to North Korea and others will be that America’s word is disposable and the U.S. cannot be trusted to honor its commitments. This would deal a possibly fatal blow to any chance of a diplomatic effort to, if not halt or reverse, at a minimum slow down North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
Miller, Solosky and Malley’s piece throws the very real consequences that could result in the US pulling out of the Iran deal into sharp relief. To be clear, they’re not saying necessarily that this nuclear crisis with North Korea can be resolved diplomatically, but that withdrawing from the JCPOA would limit the United States’ ability to even explore the possibility of diplomacy with our adversaries. In a world this dangerous, that is a chilling prospect.
As both the Politico piece and the security experts who signed the Iran policy statement recognize, the consequences of undermining the Iran deal would be incredibly far-reaching. The immediate impact in the Middle East and the renewal of Iran’s pursuit of a nuclear weapon is reason enough to continue honoring and strictly enforcing the deal. But recklessly withdrawing from the JCPOA — as Trump seems committed to doing — would have a deleterious impact on the US’ ability to navigate conflicts worldover.
More information about the Iran nuclear agreement