Iranian energy official Behrouz Kamalvandi says “there’s not much time left” to save the nuclear agreement Iran entered into four years ago with the United States and several other countries. That is encouraging, because this is an agreement that should not be saved.
From the beginning, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was a bad agreement for the United States and our allies in the region. That’s because it only paused Iran’s nuclear project, instead of ending it, and did nothing to stop Iran’s aggression against its neighbors, or its support of terrorism, or its brutal repression of the Iranian people.
President Donald Trump saved the world from the worst of the JCPOA when he withdrew America from it last year and imposed broad new economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran and its leaders.
US sanctions have reduced Iran impact
As a result, Iran’s economy is in a tailspin — with the International Monetary Fund projecting it will shrink by 6% this year, down from 3.8% growth in 2017. Inflation may reach 40% or higher in 2019. And the sanctions have cost Iran at least $10 billion in lost oil sales.
These economic contractions brought on by U.S. sanctions have also had a limiting effect on the Iranian regime’s hegemonic ambitions. Iran has halted a credit line to the murderous Assad regime in Syria. And reports quoting unnamed Hezbollah employees and State Department officials, published by The New York Times, The Washington Post and Fox News, note Hezbollah and Hamas receiving less financial support from their patrons in Tehran.
In sum, the Iranian regime has been put on the defensive more than ever before. However, the political dynamics of the Democratic presidential campaign risk giving the Iranians renewed hope that if they can make it through the pain of sanctions until January 2021, they can look forward to a Democratic president bringing America back into the JCPOA.
Most of the party’s presidential candidates have said they would do that if elected. The position gets a big round of applause from the partisan audiences of a primary campaign, but it’s inconsistent with America’s national security interests. Our goal should be to negotiate a better deal with Iran rather than rushing back into the JCPOA. A better deal would end Iran’s nuclear program and eliminate two other dangerous parts of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorsed the JCPOA.
First, the arms embargo on Iran under this resolution expires Oct. 18, 2020. This sunset provision was one of the worst features of the agreement, because countries will no longer have to take measures to prevent Iranian transfers of weaponry to its terror proxies around the world.
Nuke deal sunsets would unleash Iran
Given Iran’s 40-year history of violence — assassinating, bombing and droning its enemies — the expiration of the embargo is incendiary. The Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas and Iraqi Shiite militias will be the primary beneficiaries. In report after report to the Security Council, U.N. member states have documented Iranian arms found on the battlefields of the Middle East.
In the latest version, the U.N. Secretariat examined “partly disassembled surface-to-air missile, three sets of wings pertaining to a new type of unmanned aerial vehicle, and a new unmanned surface vessel laden with explosives,” which were discovered in Yemen and found to be of “Iranian manufacture.”
As my organization, United Against Nuclear Iran, has documented, if the United States rejoins the JCPOA without insisting on any changes, Resolution 2231’s sunsets would act as a force multiplier for Iranian manpower, money and materiel in the Middle East, and beyond.
Second, the Oct. 18, 2023, termination of Resolution 2231’s limitations on Iran’s ballistic missile program, the delivery vehicle for nuclear weapons, will be particularly harmful. In the negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 — the United States, China, France, Russia and the United Kingdom (the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council) plus Germany — Tehran was able to soften and sunset the previous U.N. restrictions on its ballistic missile program. Prior resolutions mandated that “Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons.” But under Resolution 2231, this strong language was replaced: Iran was merely “called upon not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons.”
In fact, Iran has found loophole after loophole in this permissive language and has threatened to increase the range of its missiles beyond 2,000 kilometers, or 1, 240 miles. It will surely do so if the limitations expire by 2023.
Resist pressure to oppose Trump
In the Democratic debate this week, I hope the candidates will take a second look at this critically important foreign policy question. They should explain why, if elected president, they would rush the United States back into an agreement that gives Iran a legalized pathway to a nuclear weapon and the means to deliver it, and enables Iran to give even more arms to terrorists and military forces that are hostile to the United States and our allies in the region.
A better strategy would be to pursue a new, more comprehensive agreement covering nuclear and nonnuclear issues. But that will only be possible if the United States doesn’t rejoin the JCPOA and the U.S. economic sanctions against Iran stay in force.
The Iranians watch developments in Washington very closely, and the flow of leading Democratic presidential candidates announcing they will quickly reenter the nuclear deal will only encourage Tehran not to negotiate a new agreement now. A few of the Democrats — notably Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey — have resisted this pressure, and said they would aim for an improved agreement rather than rejoin the existing JCPOA.
Whether you were for or against the Iran nuclear agreement in 2015 won’t matter on Inauguration Day in 2021. The Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign is working. I hope Democrats will recognize that inconvenient truth, and use it to find a way to a new and better agreement instead of reviving the flawed, old one.
Source » usatoday