VP Pence isn’t committed to Destroying the Iran Agreement After All

Benjy Cannon Image
Benjy Cannon
on March 27, 2017

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Last night, Vice President Mike Pence spoke to AIPAC’s Policy Conference. One notable takeaway: The Trump administration has clearly backed off of their promise to “tear up” the Iran nuclear agreement.

While Donald Trump has not said he would tear up the Iran agreement since his speech at AIPAC last year, Pence repeatedly pledged to on the campaign trail. Yesterday, he struck a very different chord. Here’s how Pence characterized the administration’s position during AIPAC this year:

Due to the disastrous end of nuclear-related sanctions under the Iran deal, they now have additional resources to devote to sowing chaos and imperiling Israel. So let me be clear, under President Donald Trump, the United States of America will not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. This is our solemn promise to you, to Israel and to the world.

Pence did not label the deal as a whole as “disastrous” – as Trump has done. Instead, he singled out the “end of nuclear related sanctions under the Iran deal” for criticism – a far more limited line of attack. There was no talk of walking back the deal or attempting to negotiate a new one.

Could the Trump administration be realizing that if they’re actually committed to preventing Iran from developing a nuclear weapon, there is no alternative to keeping the deal in place?

It looks increasingly likely. Leading security experts have long acknowledged that the Iran agreement successfully prevented Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. The JCPOA subjected Iran to unprecedented inspections and monitoring. That’s why it wasn’t totally surprising to read the reports, which have now been circulating for a few months, indicating that the Trump administration will uphold the Iran agreement. That Pence, speaking before AIPAC, gave no indication that Trump would “tear up” the deal is just the latest sign that the administration is not seeking to destroy it.

But that doesn’t mean the Iran agreement is safe. There’s legislation currently circulating in the Senate that would impose broad new sanctions on Iranian banks and other businesses that could violate the terms of the Iran deal. Opponents of the Iran agreement will continue slipping “poison pills” into sanctions and other legislative vehicles in attempts to covertly kill the agreement. Whether the administration will stand up for the JCPOA when new legislation threatens it remains to be seen.

The Trump administration’s walk-back of their pledge to destroy the deal is a good start, if limited.  Opponents of the Deal will continue looking for opportunities to undermine it, however, and those of us committed to preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon must stand up to them.

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