4/30/18 Why the US Should Not Pull Oot of the Iranian Nuclear Agreement - History

4/30/18 Why the US Should Not Pull Oot of the Iranian Nuclear Agreement - History

On Sunday, two days after being confirmed by the Senate, US Secretary of State Michael “Mike” Pompeo made a whirlwind stop in Tel Aviv. Ironically, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with Pompeo, the first Secretary of State to visit Israel after the United States recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capitol, not in Jerusalem, but in Tel Aviv.

The main topic of conversation is said to have been Iran and part of that discussion is the upcoming decision facing President Trump regarding whether or not to pull out of the Iran nuclear accord, otherwise known as JCPOA. Following his meeting with Netanyahu, Secretary of State Pompeo stated: “This deal is very flawed. He’s [President Trump] directed the administration to try and fix it and if we can’t fix it, he’s going to withdraw from the deal. It’s pretty straightforward…”

The accord negotiated under President Barack Obama forced the Iranians to halt their nuclear program. President Donald J. Trump, as well as Prime Minister Netanyahu, have been vocal critics of the accord, with President Trump calling it “the worst agreement ever”. Prime Minister Netanyahu has been against the agreement from the moment its outlines were made public. Netanyahu spoke directly to Congress arguing against approval of the agreement, much to the chagrin of the Obama administration.

Netanyahu has successfully persuaded most Israelis that the Iranian accord is a bad agreement, and thus he has wide support in his bid to persuade Trump to withdraw from the deal. However, that view is not shared by most of Israel's security experts, many of whom have been pulling out their hair wondering what comes next. While there is almost universal agreement that the Iranian agreement could have — and probably should have — been better, it is hard to find an expert in Tel Aviv who believes it would be good for Israel if the US was to pull out at this time.

The agreement with Iran has three main weaknesses. First, the Iranians received much of what they wanted up front (i.e., the release of nearly $100 billion in Iranian assets and the lifting of other sanctions). Second, some the stronger safeguards in the agreement sunset after 10 years. Third, the agreement does nothing to limit other Iranian actions, such as the development of ballistic missiles.

To people who understand the agreement, the first and second weaknesses are by far the strongest reasons for the United States not to walk away. Before the agreement was signed, The main leverage the United States and its partners had over Iran was all of their money that was being withheld, as well as the fact the rest of the world was united in opposing the Iranian program. The Iranians have their money now and the United States and Israel stand nearly alone in the opinion that the agreement should be scrapped at this time.

By all accounts, the Iranians have been keeping their side of the agreement. So to many, it seems ludicrous for the US to withdraw and give the Iranians a reason to walk away from their commitments. In our current world, where Iran and Russia are allies, placing any sort of pressure on the Iranians is going to be almost impossible. The flaw with aspects of the accord sunsetting at the 10-year mark is very real. However, there is no logic in tearing up a decade-long agreement — that is being honored — during year 3.

Some believe American threats to pull out of the agreement are evidence of the brilliant negotiation skills of President Trump, maneuvering to force the Europeans to agree to pressure Iran to further limit their missile program, or to curb their other aggressive activities. This approach may bear fruit. Similar to the tactic of threatening to pull to of NAFTA in order to renegotiate the agreement, threatening to withdraw from the Iran deal could be a well-calculated move to improve the terms. However, the problem with that strategy is — what if it does not work? What then? What is “Plan B”?

No one seems to have a contingency for what would happen if the US does indeed walk away from the agreement and Iranians use that act as an excuse to begin to enrich uranium, once again? What then — Would the US and Israel attack? Is that the contingency plan? If so, I don’t think the residents of Tel Aviv favor Plan B. The Iranians have made it clear they consider Israel “enemy number 1” and have publicly threatened to destroy Israel more than once. Israel takes those threats very seriously, and thus has done and will continue to do all it can to ensure the Iranians do not acquire nuclear weapons. That being said, walking out of an accord that is being kept — seven years before its strictest safeguards expire — is not the way to achieve that goal.

On a final note, it should be taken into account that this decision will take place against the backdrop of a period of high tension in Israel. On Sunday night, soon after the Netanyahu-Pompeo meeting, there were three attempts to attack the Israeli border from Gaza. In addition, an attack took place that same night in Syria, with many reports claiming the target was an Iranian base, possibly attacked by Israel.

On May 15th, the US will open its embassy in Jerusalem, an event celebrated by Israelis, but one that is expected to result in some level of violence. President Trump’s decision regarding JCPOA is but one of the many events likely to make May a challenging month for Israel.


20 Key Pros and Cons of the Iran Nuclear Deal

Europe has numerous concerns about Iran’s enrichment of uranium and how that product could be turned into a nuclear weapon. The United States has similar worries. That perspective led to a framework agreement in 2015 the brought Germany, France, China, Russia, the UK, and the U.S. together to create a deal where Iran would redesign, convert, and reduce its nuclear facilities.

In exchange for their acceptance of the framework, Iran would see all nuclear-related economic sanctions from the other participating countries be lifted. This deal would allow tens of billions of dollars in frozen assets and oil revenue to be freed, providing a potential improvement to the local economy.

On May 8, 2018, the Trump Administration announced a withdrawal from the deal. In 2019, Iran announced that it would be in breach of the accord until it receives the “full rights” to an economic relationship with the European Union. After the UK seized an Iranian oil tanker bound for Syria with officials from Gibraltar, the attempt was reciprocated against a British tanker, but without success.

As tensions mount around the world about the outcome of the Iran nuclear deal, it is essential to review the numerous pros and cons that are associated with this accord.

List of the Pros of the Iran Nuclear Deal

1. It would postpone the transition of Iran becoming a nuclear power.
The goal of the Iran nuclear deal is that it would delay the country from being able to obtain or develop a weapon of mass destruction for at least 10 years. When the countries began working with Iran to finalize the accord in 2015, experts from the United States believed that Iran was 24 months away from having a usable item. That was why the framework in the agreement was put into place originally.

“After two years of negotiations, we have achieved a detailed arrangement that permanently prohibits Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon,” said President Obama in 2015. “It cuts off all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb.”

2. The agreement stops an arms race in the Middle East.
The list of countries that have access to nuclear weapons right now is very small. As of July 2019, the United States and Russia have the most, with over 12,500 of the estimated 14,000 nuclear warheads currently in existence. France, China, the UK, Pakistan, Israel, North Korea, and India are the only other nations with this technology. If Iran were allowed to develop weapons that it could use, then an arms race in the Middle East would likely occur so that there wouldn’t be such a severe advantage.

By limiting the enrichment process with the accord, there is a prevention of potential escalation and less of a risk of war.

3. It stopped Iran from using modern centrifuges.
One of the often overlooked advantages that came with the Iran nuclear deal is the fact that there were limitations on the centrifuges defined as permissible under the accord. In July 2015, which is the month when the agreement began to formalize its framework, there were almost 20,000 active locations that were enriching uranium. Under the terms of this comprehensive plan of action, Iran was limited to the installation of about 5,000 of its oldest and least efficient processes over the decade.

Since the implementation of the accord, Iran destroyed the core of a reactor that could produce weapons-grade plutonium. It also removed almost 70% of its centrifuges and eliminated 97% of its stockpile of enriched uranium.

4. The accord brings economic adversaries together.
One of the primary arguments for the United States to stay in the Iran nuclear deal was the fact that Russia and China both like it. Russian officials were publicly encouraging the U.S. to stay in the accord in 2018 before the Trump administration decided to pull out of it. There was also pressure from Germany and France to stay in as well, which means it created another layer of peace for Americans with their European allies.

The benefits of maintaining the peace between these global powers is clear.

  • It improves the prospects of global trade, adding value to the worldwide economy.
  • There is more peace in the world when the two largest holders of nuclear warheads are getting along.
  • An increase of political will encourages peace talks in other areas of the world.
  • There are reductions in the actions of sanctions and counter-sanctions.

5. It provides bargaining leverage on North Korea.
The United States has made historic approaches to North Korea during the Trump administration to limit the nuclear threat from that Communist regime. Because the U.S. pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal, then Pyongyang has no reason to trust that the Americans wouldn’t do the same to them as well. No one would be willing to give up their nuclear capability if they know that White House leadership is willing to walk away from similar deals.

The ultimate goal with the Iran nuclear deal is to use the power of economic sanctions to encourage specific state behaviors that help to keep the peace. Staying in the accord can help that result, but ripping it up will not.

6. American companies could sign contracts with Iran.
Boeing was highly supportive of the Iran nuclear deal because it ended the restrictions in place to sell goods and services to the country. Almost $20 billion in aircraft spending was placed in 2015 after the framework was approved so that Iran’s aircraft fleet from the 1970s could receive a much needed update. There was another $100 billion in oil and gas investment that might have occurred as well.

All of those deals were placed on hold after the Trump election since one of the most significant political messages from that campaign was to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal. European manufacturers like Volkswagen are still hoping to gain a foothold, since Iran was a significant market for them in the 1960s and the early 1970s.

7. It would help the United States to shrink its trade deficit.
The U.S. trade deficit grew to $566 billion in 2017, which was its highest level since 2008 and an increase of 12%. This figure is a measure of economic health because it shows how many purchases happen in relation to exports from American businesses and government activities. When the U.N. Security Council signed off on the Iran nuclear deal in 2015, the economy of Iran grew by almost 13% the next year. In 2019, the economy is expected to contract by at least 6%.

Iran has gone from exporting 2.5 million barrels of oil per day to just 300,000. Although the country’s economic output is nowhere near what China, Canada, or even Mexico provides to the U.S., having a trading partner which sees double-digit growth would help to shrink the American trade deficit over time.

8. It reduces the global nuclear risk.
Arms escalation in the Middle East would lead to more nations having access to nuclear technologies. This outcome could have a devastating outcome for the region and our planet. The threat of nuclear deployment is so great that German Chancellor Angela Merkel once said that a “bad Iran deal is better than none at all.”

The threat of a nuclear winter and our mutually assured destruction could occur with a regional exchange of small warheads. This environmental outcome would destroy agriculture, change the climate, and kill millions of people. The Iran nuclear deal reduces the global risk because it limits the actions of an aggressive regime, giving the other governments of the world time to come up with another idea.

9. There is a general agreement that Iran is in compliance.
Despite past violations of previous treaties, there is significant evidence to suggest that Iran has stayed in compliance with the terms of this accord until the summer of 2019. In June 2017, when calls for the U.S. to withdraw from the framework began to gain momentum, the IAEA and the State Department under the Trump administration, along with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, concluded that Iran was taking care of their end of the bargain.

List of the Cons of the Iran Nuclear Deal

1. It would not stop Iran from becoming a nuclear state in the future.
Critics of the Iran nuclear deal have concerns about the fact that this accord still allows the country to establish a robust nuclear infrastructure. In a perfect world, it would prevent the development of warheads and enrichment for only a decade. With no guarantees that another accord could be reached once this one expired, the framework frees up assets that Iran can use immediately while it can still process uranium using older equipment.

Instead of stopping the nuclear program and the potential for escalation, the Iran nuclear deal slows it down.

2. There are loopholes in place that allow Iran to find ways to cheat.
The inspections process included in the Iran nuclear deal provides the country with plenty of time to make it appear as if they are in visual compliance with the accord. We already know how effective the leadership is at hiding these elements of their enrichment program during previous U.N. inspections.

Even if the imminent threat of a modern nuclear program necessitated the deal in the first place, the final structure of it allows Iran to continue working without consequence. Iran has a long record of violating international agreements, doing so at least three times in 2017. The IAEA caught the country operating an advanced IR-5 nuclear centrifuge despite their obligations to do the opposite.

3. Iran was still testing missiles after signing the agreement.
After the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, there were domestic ballistic missile tests that were seen as provocative acts by the United States and the UK as being a breach of the accord’s terms. Iran states that the missiles were not designed to carry nuclear warheads, so they didn’t violate the deal with their actions. There will always be a basic doubt that the leadership of the country will ever abandon their dreams of nuclear capability, which is why critics say that a political deal that gives Iran more money is a bad idea.

“The Iran agreement betrayed America’s core values by emboldening a regime that was guilty of the full trifecta of being at once the world’s foremost sponsor of terrorism, a brutal oppressor of its own people, and aiding and abetting genocide in Syria while promising a genocide of the Jews in Israel,” wrote Shmuley Boteach for The Jerusalem Post in 2018.

4. The deal could place Israel at risk of a future attack.
One of the closest allies of the United States is Israel. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been of the strongest voices against the signing of this accord. There are long-standing tensions between the two countries to such an extent that anyone can be denied access if there is an Israeli passport stamp shown upon entry. There are also several concerns about the military buildup occurring on the Syrian border.

Because the Iran nuclear deal slows down development instead of stopping it, there is a legitimate concern from Israel that an improving economy and less attention to the enrichment program could create the potential for an unprovoked attack one day.

5. Numerous campaign donors in the U.S. are against the Iran nuclear deal.
Although politics should be free of special interest money, lobbying efforts will probably never go away. Many longtime financiers and campaign donors don’t like the idea of having a Iran nuclear deal. There are numerous reasons for this perspective, ranging from the spiritual to the investment portfolio. It’s more than a Republicans vs. Democrats debate for Americans. Some on both sides of the aisle see the accord as being a disastrous effort at control because it doesn’t provide any meaningful long-term restrictions.

6. It does not remove the fuel for creating weapons from the country.
There is a 40 MW nuclear plant that produces heavy water in Arak. The facility is known to provide Iran with enough plutonium that it could make at least a couple of bombs per year. Despite claims to the contrary, there is no need to have a heavy-water reactor in that region to have a peaceful program, yet the Iran nuclear deal allows it to remain with reduced plutonium based on verification and inspections.

One of the key goals of allies since the Bush administration was to close the nuclear sites at Arak, Natanz, Isfahan, and Fordow to reduce the threat of weapons development in the region. This accord never made that happen.

7. There is no restriction on the development of ICBMs.
Iran stonewalled international agencies about their legitimate concerns about the militarization of their nuclear programs. Despite the threats that are possible from this regime, the United States and its allies decided to drop their demands to restrict the development of intercontinental ballistic missiles.

This disadvantage means that Iran could spend the next decade developing ICBM technology, and then restart their uranium enrichment to create nuclear warheads that could be delivered beyond the region if they so wanted.

8. It only provides a short-term solution to a long-term problem.
The initial framework that the United States proposed for the Iran nuclear deal was 20 years. Most of the accord’s primary terms would sunset in 10 years at most. Once the agreement expires, Iran would have the capability to become a significant military and industrial power. There are more than 80 million people who live in the country that would see more allied involvement in their affairs instead of less, which would likely create a push toward long-term imperialism.

9. The Iran nuclear deal ignores the allied treaties that the country has with Russia.
Why do Russia and China want to keep the United States involved with the Iran nuclear deal? It might be because there is a military cooperation agreement in place to intensify military and technological advancements in the region that has been in place since 2015.

Sergey Shoigu, who was the Russian Defense Minister in 2015, said this: “We are in favor of long-term and multi-level cooperation with Iran, and welcome the Iranian leadership’s attempts to expanding its ties with Russia, including in military defense. We have common challenges and threats in the region that we can oppose only if we communicate.”

10. It does not make any attempt to normalize relations between the two countries.
The United States and Iran have been at odds with each other since the 1970s. The Iran nuclear deal makes no effort to change that fact. Even during the 2015 announcement of the framework, President Obama admitted that the purpose of the agreement was to trade a lifting of sanctions for restrictions in the nuclear program.

The supreme leader in Iran still calls the United States the “Great Satan.” The government of Iran still sees itself in the middle of a holy war against the ideas of the West. This effort ultimately legalized past treaty violations as a way to tamper the development process for a brief time to create nothing more than a brief political win – according to some critics.

11. The accord opened up the possibility of armament sales to Iran from Russia.
Russia immediately announced that it was ready to sell S-300 air defense missiles to Iran after the nuclear deal was reached and approved by the UN security council. Since 1992, Iran has received T-72 tanks, air-to-air missiles, and combat aircraft like the MiG-29. Even a high-speed torpedo like the VA-111 Shkval, which can destroy submarines and large warships, has play in Iran.

In June 2019, the Trump Administration declared an emergency just to expedite arms sales to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia. The value of that transaction was placed at $8.1 billion. There was also an announcement of stationing 1,500 more troops in the region to counter Iran. Although the Iran nuclear deal was designed to prevent escalation, it is a process that is still happening today.

Verdict on the Pros and Cons of the Iran Nuclear Deal

Whether you agree with the actions taken by the Trump Administration or not, there is no denying the fact that the president took office with a high degree of contempt toward the actions of the Obama administration. There has been a determination to destroy every vestige of the work that took place, including the Iran nuclear deal.

Several people in the Trump Administration, including National Security Advisor John Bolton, hate the idea of this accord. Bolton has a long history of trying to scuttle disarmament deals as well. It is important to remember that allegations, claims, and views are usually politically tuned.

The pros and cons of the Iran nuclear deal may be a moot point to consider in the coming years if both sides decide that being in breach of the framework is in their best interest. Enforcing the agreement without the United States as a player may be challenging as well. Until we reach that point, examining these key issues through ongoing efforts and responding to critical situations may encourage more peace in the region and the rest of the world.


The Deal of a Lifetime

A reason to smile: U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, center, waits for the start of a meeting to pin down a nuclear deal with Iran, on March 30, 2015, at the Beau Rivage Palace Hotel in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Photo by Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images

The Iranian nuclear deal reached in Switzerland on Thursday is a significant breakthrough. Uncertainties remain, inherently so, as it’s merely a “political framework” for a formal deal to be completed and signed by June 30. But this framework turns out to be far more detailed, quantitative, and restrictive than anyone had expected.

It might not lead to a deal as good as the outline suggests it might not lead to a deal at all. But anyone who denounces this framework—anyone who argues that we should pull out of the talks, impose more sanctions, or bomb Iran because it’s better to have no deal than to have this one—is not a serious person or is pursuing a parochial agenda.

If this deal is fully implemented, Iran will be unable to build a nuclear bomb by enriching uranium or by reprocessing plutonium for at least 10 years. Some of the restrictions imposed by this deal would last 15 years. The international inspections of certain aspects of Iran’s nuclear program would stay in place for 25 years.

As for the economic sanctions against Iran, they would be lifted not upon the deal’s signing, as the Iranians initially demanded, but only after the inspectors have verified that Iran has fulfilled all of its commitments in the deal.

These commitments include reducing the number of Iran’s installed centrifuges by two-thirds (from about 19,000 to 6,104, with only 5,060 allowed to enrich uranium) reducing its stockpile of enriched uranium by 97 percent (from 10,000 kilograms to 300 kilograms) to remove all advanced centrifuges (those that can enrich uranium at a much faster rate) and to place them in internationally monitored storage to destroy the core of the Arak heavy-water reactor (which could produce a plutonium bomb), ship all its spent fuel out of the country, and forgo additional reprocessing among other things.

If the Iranians honor these terms, they will not be able to build a bomb for at least a decade, maybe longer. Still, there are two questions that a final deal would have to answer concretely.

First, it’s not clear when the sanctions would be lifted. An official summary of the framework states, at one point, “Iran will receive sanctions relief, if it verifiably abides by its commitments.” Elsewhere, it says that all U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iran nuclear issues “will be lifted simultaneous with the completion, by Iran, of nuclear-related actions addressing all key concerns.”

But this leaves open the question of timing. Some of these “commitments” are to be carried out through the duration of the deal, yet certainly there’s no suggestion that the sanctions will remain in place for a decade. Are the relevant commitments those that involve the reduction or dismantlement of nuclear equipment? If so, will the sanctions be lifted in phases or all at once when the cuts and shutdowns are complete?

The framework also states that sanctions can be “snapped back” into place if, at any point, Iran violates any part of the deal. But as everyone knows, it’s much harder to reimpose sanctions than it is to lift them, especially at the U.N. Security Council, where Russia and China (which signed on to the sanctions reluctantly and want to see them lifted as soon as possible) have veto power. So everything else about this deal has to be solid.

(However, it’s worth noting, the framework states that sanctions relating to Iran’s ballistic missiles, violations of human rights, and support of terrorism will still be in place. So if the nuclear sanctions do need to be “snapped back,” they could be piled on top of these sanctions a mechanism for freezing funds would still exist.)

Second, the deal would have to let international inspectors not only monitor Iranian nuclear facilities continuously, but also to look inside any other “suspect” facilities—in other words, facilities not on the official list that the inspectors have reason to believe might be harboring prohibited activity. Verification has been the most nettlesome aspect of all arms control accords throughout history, for two reasons. First, no deal can be absolutely verifiable this is why accords usually set a standard of “adequately verifiable” (a bit of a finesse, but there’s no honest alternative). Second, even in the most trusted relations (and relations with Iran are far from that), there is a fine line between authorized inspection and disingenuous espionage—which is to say that Iran (or any other military power) might have understandable, even legitimate reasons for wanting to keep foreigners out of certain areas.

So why should the P5+1 nations—the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council (the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China) plus Germany—pursue this deal, despite the uncertainties?

The main reason is that it is a profoundly good deal there has never been a nuclear deal, with any country, that is so comprehensively restrictive. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urged the U.S. Congress to demand “a better deal,” but his definition of such a deal—one that bans uranium enrichment, dismantles all its facilities, and insists on a drastic change in Iran’s foreign policy—is unattainable, and, more to the point, he knows it.

Yes, this deal wouldn’t keep Iran from being a menace in Middle East politics, or from repressing its own people. But no arms control deal can aspire to do that. The U.S.-Soviet strategic arms treaties, signed throughout the Cold War, didn’t require the Soviet Union to disavow communism, end its support of Third World insurgencies, or institute Jeffersonian democracy—but the deals were still very useful. They capped, and in the later years reversed, the nuclear arms race and they provided a forum for diplomacy, a cooling-off of the distrust and hatred, at a time when no other issues could have done so.

In his speech to Congress, Netanyahu condemned the deal—long before its outlines were set—because it paved the way for a nuclear Iran a decade hence, noting that 10 years is like the blink of an eye in the annals of nations. First, many things can happen in 10 years. (Among other things, most of Iran’s mullah rulers will probably have died.) Second, would he rather pave the way for a nuclear Iran in the next six months?

Netanyahu’s unlikely allies in opposing the deal—the rulers of Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and other Sunni Muslim oligarchies—simply don’t want a deal at all. They fear above all an ascendant Shiite Iran, especially an Iran enriched by the flow of money that comes with the end of sanctions and the resumption of global investment and trade. They would, in fact, prefer an Iran that aspires to build nuclear weapons—an Iran that blatantly looks like a threat—to an Iran that might be stalled in the nuclear realm (and thus might seem more peaceful) but in fact still pursues its expansionist aims.

This fear is understandable, from their point of view, but the United States shouldn’t adopt the Sunnis’ perspective—shouldn’t get drawn into their war with the Shiites—if it means forgoing the opportunity of a truly historic, potentially transformative deal. Even from the Sunnis’ point of view, which would they prefer: an expansionist Iran with nuclear weapons or without?

They’re right, the end of sanctions could make Iran more powerful but the international community has held firm on the sanctions for as long as they have only because they’ve been seen as the lever for a deal. If the deal collapses, and if the United States is held responsible for the failure, the sanctions would collapse as well.

Which leads to another reason for continuing these talks: If there is any chance that Iran might modify its stance over the next decade or so, might even become a “normal” nation, these talks might usher in this change. Tehran’s rulers have long justified their alliance with terrorists and their repressive domestic policies by raising alarms about the threat from demonic America. If the Iranian people see their own leaders meeting and smiling with American diplomats, even negotiating deals, trusting them enough to dismantle huge pieces of the nation’s cherished nuclear program, then the chants of “Down with America” might soon lose their potency—and the regime’s political legitimacy, the rationale for its existence, could gradually evaporate.

But even if there is no regime change, this deal is far better than no deal, and there is no deal on the table but this one, and it’s a lot better than anyone would have predicted just a few days ago.


4/30/18 Why the US Should Not Pull Oot of the Iranian Nuclear Agreement - History

President Donald Trump announced the United States would exit a nuclear pact with Iran and re-impose sanctions on Tehran, saying the Obama-era deal failed to contain the regime&rsquos nuclear ambitions and regional meddling.

The U.S. withdrawal advanced Trump&rsquos campaign vow to shake up the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, which had originally been joined by six additional world powers. Under the deal, Iran scaled back its nuclear program in exchange for relief from crippling sanctions.

"This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made," Trump said in White House remarks May 8. "It didn't bring calm, it didn't bring peace, and it never will."

Here&rsquos what you need to know, with fact-checks from Trump&rsquos speech:

Trump has long denounced the deal as a narrow and short-sighted windfall for Tehran, and chafed at its failure to address Iran&rsquos missile program or military activity in the Middle East.

Trump believed the deal should have allowed international weapons inspectors to have greater access to Iranian military sitesl. He&rsquos also hammered the deal for not covering Iran&rsquos missile program and repeatedly underscored the need to stop the country from developing an intercontinental ballistic missile.

Finally, Trump criticized the deal for failing to rein in Iran&rsquos support of sectarian violence in places like Syria and Yemen, despite the deal&rsquos promise to contribute to "regional and international peace and security."

A last-ditch effort by leaders of France, Germany and the United Kingdom to address Trump&rsquos concerns failed to persuade him to remain in the deal.

Trump said that "at the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction &mdash that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program." He went on to say that "last week, Israel published intelligence documents, long concealed by Iran, conclusively showing the Iranian regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons."

The accurate part is that Israeli President Benjamin Netanyahu presented a trove of Iranian documents.

What&rsquos less accurate is that those documents added much to what the international community had known for some time.

In 2008, notes of a Vienna briefing on Iran by the chief inspector of the International Atomic Energy Agency leaked out. In a summary posted online, the briefing provided diagrams and documents on the development of a "spherical device," high-explosives testing and missile launch sequences, including an explosion at 600 meters. The notes said that "elements available to the Agency are not consistent with any application other than the development of a nuclear weapon."

However, the briefing notes said the activities continued only into January 2004.

Netanyahu&rsquos presentation, based on documents taken from a warehouse in Tehran by Israeli spies, also exhibited a spherical device and work done on high power explosives. He did not describe activities after 2003. So, much of what Netanyahu offered was already known.

Trump said the deal handed the regime "many billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash. A great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States."

The deal released Iranian assets frozen under a variety of sanctions. The key point is that these assets, whether they were cash in the bank, real estate or something else, belonged to Iran in the first place.

The United States did deliver about $1.7 billion in cash to Iran. That represented $400 million plus interest that Iran had paid the United States before the Iranian revolution in 1979 for military hardware that was never delivered.

The total value worldwide of freed Iranian assets was about $56 billion, according to a 2015 estimate from the U.S. Treasury Department.

The deal restricted certain Iranian nuclear activities for periods between 10 to 25 years, and allowed for more intrusive, permanent monitoring. It also forbid Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons in the future. (You can read more details here.)

We previously found that Iran had largely complied with the deal, and many experts praised the pact for keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of Tehran.

Over the 28 months the deal has been in effect, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the foremost authority on the matter, said it found Iran committed no violations &mdash aside from some minor infractions that were rectified.

The deal required the U.S. president to waive American sanctions. Exiting the agreement freed Trump to reinstate them, which he did in tandem with the withdrawal announcement.

The White House said renewed sanctions will target "critical sectors of Iran&rsquos economy," including its energy, petrochemical, and financial sectors.

Prior to the deal, American and international sanctions shackled the regime. From 2012-15, the Iranian economy shrank by 9 percent per year, oil exports fell by more than half and more than $120 billion held in overseas banks were frozen.

The lifting of sanctions had roughly the opposite effect. It spurred around 7 percent growth over the past two years, returned oil exports to nearly pre-sanctions levels and unfroze the countries foreign assets.

In a lengthy statement, former President Barack Obama defended his signature foreign policy achievement, called Trump&rsquos announcement a "misguided" decision that "risks eroding America&rsquos credibility" and warned that walking away from the deal could make conflict more likely.

"If the constraints on Iran&rsquos nuclear program under the JCPOA are lost," Obama wrote, "we could be hastening the day when we are faced with the choice between living with that threat, or going to war to prevent it."

While the accord&rsquos ultimate fate is unclear, European allies of the United States expressed disappointment.

"France, Germany, and the UK regret the U.S. decision to leave" the Iran nuclear deal, said French President Emmanuel Macron, adding "the nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake."

The top European Union diplomat, Federica Mogherini, said that the "European Union is determined to preserve" the agreement.

"Together with the rest of the international community, we will preserve this nuclear deal," she said, Tasnim News Agency reported.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that Iran will remain in the nuclear deal. Iranian state television said Trump&rsquos decision to withdraw was "illegal, illegitimate and undermines international agreements."

Rouhani ordered the country's atomic agency to prepare to enrich uranium and said that "this is a psychological war, we won&rsquot allow Trump to win." However, the Washington Post reported Iran will negotiate with Europeans, Russia and China about remaining in the deal.

"If the Europeans are willing to give us sufficient guarantees, it makes sense for us to stay in the deal," said the deputy speaker of Iran's parliament, Ali Motahari, according to the Iranian Students' News Agency.

Bloomberg Mideast journalist Ladane Nasseri tweeted that Russia Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov will arrive in Iran on May 10 to hold talks on the Iran Deal.

"Visit part of Iran's ongoing discussions w/ signatories other than US to nuclear accord, local media reporting," she tweeted.

Outside of the deal, Israel&rsquos Netanyahu expressed his support, as did Iranian adversary Saudi Arabia.


How did everyone else react?

In Iran, although President Hassan Rouhani called for restraint, some members of parliament burned American flags and chanted “Death to America”. Mr Rouhani says Iran remains committed to the deal.

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, as well as French President Emmanuel Macron, made trips to the US in the days leading up to the US’ certification deadline in a bid to save the deal, to no avail.

The EU issued a statement on Tuesday night rebuking Mr Trump’s decision, telling the US president he does not have the power to unilaterally scrap the international agreement.

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By way of contrast, Israel – a key US ally which opposed the Iran deal – was delighted with the decision.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu praised his US counterpart for having the “courage” to withdraw from the deal.

“Israel has opposed the nuclear deal from the start because we said that rather than blocking Iran's path to a bomb, the deal actually paves Iran's path to an actual arsenal of nuclear bombs and this within a few years time,” he said.


President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran deal. Here’s what you need to know.

President Trump announced Tuesday that the United States “will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.” Here at the Monkey Cage, we have covered the Iran deal from many different angles.

Here are five things to know about how we got here, what the U.S. pullout means and what happens next.

1. It’s very, very unlikely a new deal can be reached.

As Nicholas Miller explained Tuesday, a unique set of circumstances came together in 2015 to produce the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the formal name for the Iran nuclear deal.

Drawing on the history of U.S. nonproliferation policy, Miller noted that it took 30 years to get to the JCPOA, with many stalled efforts to rein in Iran’s nascent program along the way. As he summarized, “Three factors made the 2015 concessions possible: an uptick in Iranian nuclear provocations, a powerful multilateral coalition to stop those and domestic receptivity in Iran. None of those conditions exists now.”

On the first point — an uptick in nuclear provocations — some pointed to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s revelation of Iran’s “nuclear archive.” But as Or Rabinowitz noted, although the documents confirm what Iran wanted to do in the past, they do not violate the JCPOA.

2. Iran might have been willing to change the “sunset” provisions Trump dislikes.

Recently, Dinshaw Mistry examined the “sunset” provisions in the JCPOA that the Trump administration criticized. Some JCPOA provisions might allow Iran to resume enriching some uranium in 10 to 15 years unless renewed, although there are other, permanent barriers in the JCPOA to Iran again pursuing a nuclear weapon. The West has worried about those expiration dates for parts of the JCPOA from the beginning, as Amy Nelson explained in a December 2015 post. But Mistry argued that Iran might be willing to agree to extend or renew the enrichment restrictions.

Why? First, Iran might agree if it has gotten reliable deliveries of fuel for its nuclear reactor, as it has thus far from Russia. And second, by limiting its own program, Iran would make it less likely that Saudi Arabia would pursue a nuclear program, for example.

Of course, Trump’s action Tuesday makes such a diplomatic fix less likely, unless the deal’s European partners step up.

3. Iran might be happy to get out of nuclear limbo.

As Rupal Mehta and Rachel Whitlark explained last year when Trump was toying with scuttling the JCPOA, the deal was not so great — for Iran. They noted that Iran is a “latent” nuclear power — they have “some technical and material ingredients for a bomb, but have not gone all the way to produce a nuclear weapon.”

But nuclear “latency,” as their research shows, imposes costs on countries that exist in this “state of technological limbo,” with few benefits. Thus, “Iran gets no major security or bargaining advantages by retaining some nuclear capabilities under the terms of the JCPOA. Indeed, Iran is arguably worse off now for having historically pursued enrichment and reprocessing capabilities, given the bite of the sanctions regime (and the international isolation).”

What does this mean going forward? Iran’s response so far has been to cautiously suggest it will negotiate with the remaining JCPOA partners to stay in the deal.

But as Mehta and Whitlark concluded, “If there are renewed threats of military force and sanctions, Iran may seek to cut its latency losses and reap the benefits of being a full-fledged nuclear state.”

4. Even if it acquired nuclear weapons, Iran might not become more aggressive.

Okay, so what would actually happen if Iran got the bomb? In this 2015 piece, Mark Bell argued that although some states become more aggressive when they acquire nuclear weapons, Iran does not seem likely to be one of them. As a “reasonably powerful state surrounded by weak and unstable neighbors,” Iran is “less likely to use nuclear weapons to become more aggressive,” Bell argued.

What’s more likely is that Iran would “steadfastly defend the status quo and resist challenges” to its position. That might not be great from the U.S. perspective, but it’s also not a particularly dramatic departure from today’s world, either.

5. But reneging on the deal also has negative consequences for dealing with Iran — and for making other agreements.

Even if Iran sticks to the deal or doesn’t drive for a nuclear weapon, Trump’s action Tuesday creates problems for dealing with not only Iran but also the country next up on Trump’s nuclear agenda: North Korea.

As Jane Vaynman explained last year, the JCPOA’s inspection provisions, which “go further than U.S.-Russia agreements and indeed most arms control cases,” come with a trade-off for Iran. It got the benefits of signaling its compliance but at the cost of letting outsiders get access to its military capabilities and potential targets in a conflict.

Vaynman concluded in October 2017 that a “U.S. violation” of the JCPOA would make “future agreements more difficult to negotiate.” If the U.S. demands even more information to prove countries like Iran (or North Korea) are not cheating on any future deal, those countries might balk, because “opening up to greater foreign observation would create additional safety concerns for a state’s other military capabilities and even regime survival where autocrats fear assassination or coup.” U.S. demands for a more stringent deal might therefore mean that “the need to maintain secrecy is likely to outweigh the benefit of such openness.”

More broadly, Trump’s action on the JCPOA makes it harder for the United States to signal it will uphold its international agreements, muddying the waters ahead of the North Korea talks Trump mentioned at the end of his Iran deal announcement.

As William Spaniel wrote when Trump was still a presidential candidate in July 2016, deals like the JCPOA rely on a simple logic: the potential proliferator gets some benefit from giving up its nuclear program. As he wrote, “There’s no incentive to uphold an agreement if rivals might capriciously cut concessions, restore sanctions, or otherwise skip out on their end of the bargain.”


Trump pulls United States out of Iran nuclear deal, calling the pact ‘an embarrassment’

President Trump on Tuesday said he is pulling the United States out of the international nuclear deal with Iran, announcing that economic sanctions against Tehran will be reinstated and declaring that the 2015 pact was rooted in “fiction.”

Trump’s decision, announced at the White House, makes good on a campaign pledge to undo an accord he has criticized as weak, poorly negotiated and “insane.”

“The Iran deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen,” Trump said in remarks at the White House. “In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.”

The move amounts to Trump’s most significant foreign policy decision to date. While he cast the U.S. action as essential for national security and a warning to Iran and any other nuclear aspirant that “the United States no longer makes empty threats,” it could also increase tensions with key U.S. allies that heavily lobbied the administration in recent weeks not to abandon the pact and see it as key to keeping peace in the region. They tried to convince Trump that his concerns about “flaws” in the accord could be addressed without violating its terms or ending it altogether.

After Trump’s announcement, the leaders of Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement expressing “regret and concern” and pledging their “continuing commitment” to terms of the agreement, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

“This resolution remains the binding international legal framework for the resolution of the dispute about the Iranian nuclear programme,” British Prime Minister Theresa May, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said in their statement. “We urge all sides to remain committed to its full implementation and to act in a spirit of responsibility.”

That was a plea to Iran not to take steps that would break the deal, something Iranian officials have said at times they would do if Trump followed through on his frequent threats to yank the United States out of the agreement.

While the U.S. exit does not render the rest of the deal moot, it is not clear whether there is enough incentive on the part of Iran to sustain the agreement. Relief from U.S. banking sanctions was a main reason for Tehran to come to the table.

“In response to US persistent violations & unlawful withdrawal from the nuclear deal, as instructed by President Rouhani, I’ll spearhead a diplomatic effort to examine whether remaining JCPOA participants can ensure its full benefits for Iran,” Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “Outcome will determine our response.”

The United States will reimpose all sanctions and could add new ones, U.S. officials said.

Discussions with allies about new negotiations would begin Wednesday, White House national security adviser John Bolton said.

Bolton, filling in some of the blanks in Trump’s remarks, said that all U.S. nuclear-related sanctions lifted as part of the agreement are now back in effect. “We’re out of the deal. Right now. We’re out of the deal,” he said.

A memorandum signed by Trump at the conclusion of his statement means that “no new contracts” with Iran will be permitted, Bolton said. Although the United States cannot prevent the Europeans or others from having financial relationships with Iran, nearly all global transactions at some point pass through dollar exchanges and U.S. banks, arrangements that are now prohibited.

Existing contracts, Bolton said, will be subject to “wind-down provisions” of 90 days to six months, after which they will be required to “phase out.” Regulations giving specific time frames, he said, will be announced by the Treasury Department.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said the administration was revoking licenses for Boeing and Airbus, which were among the biggest deals since the nuclear accord. Boeing had planned to sell IranAir about 80 aircraft worth about $17 billion Airbus had agreed to sell 100 aircraft worth about $19 billion.

“The Boeing and Airbus licenses will be revoked,” Mnuchin said. “The existing licenses will be revoked.”

He argued that sanctions are what previously brought Iran to the negotiating table.

“These are very, very strong sanctions — they worked last time,” Mnuchin told reporters. “Our objective is to, again, eliminate transactions and eliminate access to their oil industry.”

Trump’s declaration puts a variety of companies in difficult positions. Though the French oil giant Total had hoped the contract it signed would be excluded from the newly reimposed sanctions, that seemed unlikely Tuesday.


Afghanistan poses huge security threat for U.S. and Israel

On Friday, Nov. 27, Israel was presumed to have been responsible for the targeted killing of Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh. Unfortunately, the United States under a Biden presidency, will most likely abandon this maximum pressure strategy, in favor of reentering a nuclear deal with Iran instead.

But Israel’s actions were not strong enough. In fact, the focus should not be solely on confronting Iran’s nuclear program, but also tackling their relationship to al Qaeda and their nefarious expansionism in Afghanistan. This is why a nuclear deal with Iran that does not address these other challenges, will never be able to eliminate the threats to the United States and Israel.

While Republicans have resisted strong actions against Saudi Arabia for exporting a religious ideology that is the lifeblood for groups like ISIS and al Qaeda, Democrats have traditionally undermined and ignored the complicated relationship between Iran and al Qaeda. The binary picture drawn of the Syrian conflict, of Sunni groups pitted against Shiite groups has further obscured these links.

But this seemingly unnatural relationship between Shiite and Sunni fundamentalist actors originates in the 1990s. In Sudan, the Islamist political leader Hassan al Turabi held a series of meetings between different extremists, among them Hamas, Hezbollah and the PLO, precisely when Osama bin Laden arrived in the country. One of al Turabi’s objectives was to persuade Sunni and Shiite extremists to put aside their differences and unite against their common enemy. Then, between 1992 and 1996, another round of meetings was sponsored by Mamdouh Mahmud Salim, a Sudanese cofounder of al Qaeda, between al Qaeda, Hezhbollah and the National Islamic Front.

As a result, Iranian actors established informal agreements of cooperation with al Qaeda, where Iran would give supplies and support to al Qaeda’s fight against Israel and the United States. The support given by Iran and Hezbollah mainly consisted of explosives and intelligence training, and al Qaeda members traveled to Iran and to Lebanon in the Valley of Bekaa. Iran’s help to al Qaeda materialized in the attacks on the residential complex of the U.S Air Force in Saudi Arabia, the U.S embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, and the USS Cole in Yemen.

Some of these attacks directly involved the approval of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, and former intelligence minister Hojjatoleslam Ali Fallahian, who is wanted by Interpol and Argentina for the bombing of the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires. Al Qaeda’s capacity to inflict damage to the U.S and Israel led Iran to broaden its relationship with al Qaeda, although this was treated carefully due to al Qaeda’s fear that it would drive away recruits to its cause. Still, this was not an obstacle for Iran to have played a hidden hand in helping the 9/11 attackers.

Since bin Laden was expelled from Sudan in 1996, Iran had facilitated the movement of al Qaeda operatives who transited to and from Afghanistan, where terrorist training camps had been established. Indeed, most of the 9/11 attackers had freely crossed Iran and Afghanistan. Instead of transiting through Pakistan, al Qaeda members had been using this route and had constructed relationships with Iranian officials in order to coordinate objectives of mutual interest.

Still, the Iran-Afghan connection does not originate with 9/11. Iran has had a long presence in Afghanistan, and its influence is second to Pakistan. Iran under the Safavid Empire controlled the western part of Afghanistan and it even conquered Kandahar. In 1857, the Qajar dynasty which ruled over Iran, renounced its possession of Herat as part of its territory. Since then, the borders between both countries have remained relatively stable, although as in the case with Pakistan, certain disagreements remain alive in the government’s historical memories. But that long presence left strong Iranian connections and influences in Afghanistan.

During the Soviet invasion, Iran supported the mujahideen, especially from the Hazara ethnicity, although it’s influence extended to some Pashtun leaders like in their complicated relationship with Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who had collaborated with both al Qaeda and the Taliban and was exiled in Iran. Iran and Afghanistan experienced difficulties during the rule of the Taliban, when the Shiite minority was the subject of persecutions, culminating in the massacre of Hazaras and the killing of Iranian diplomats in 1998.

Still, these bitter times would not stop Iran from giving support to the Taliban, following the inauguration of the Karzai administration. But Iran engages in a double game, as it supports the Afghan government, often sending money directly to Hamid Karzai’s office, while also using other ways to delegitimize his administration. For example, Iran has used radio stations to attack the elections. Iran’s aim is to block American influence in Afghanistan and it will certainly fill the gap to suit its interests following a U.S. withdrawal.

It’s economic impact is felt heavily in Afghanistan, and it uses commercial investments and reconstruction projects to extend its influence in the country. Iran also heavily depends on Afghan water resources, whose dry border regions need the Helmand River for their social and economic development. Like this, Iran’s objective is to maintain water access and many of their political interventions in Afghanistan have sought to block Afghan projects that would see its supply reduced or diminished.

Iran long opposed the negotiations and signing of the Bilateral Security Agreement, as it has always been an obstacle to Iran’s ambitions in the country. If President-elect Joe Biden decides to normalize relations with Iran, and pull American military forces out of Afghanistan, it will be dominated by the political machinations of Iran and Pakistan.

An Afghanistan engulfed in civil war, where al Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIS are thriving, and which is being torn apart by Iran, will be a huge national security threat to the United States and Israel.


'So Misguided.' Barack Obama Weighs In On Trump's Decision to Pull U.S. From Iran Nuclear Deal

F ormer President Barack Obama immediately criticized President Donald Trump’s announcement Tuesday that the United States would withdraw from the Iranian Nuclear deal &ndash one of Obama’s signature foreign policy achievements &ndash as misguided and irresponsible.

“In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one Administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America&rsquos credibility, and puts us at odds with the world&rsquos major powers,” Obama in a rare and lengthy statement Tuesday, a little over an hour after President Trump announced his decision.

Obama said that, contrary to Trump’s assertion that the agreement had emboldened Iran, evidence shows Iran has weakened the country’s nuclear program and that Iran has complied with the stipulations. Leaving the program, Obama said, would heighten these risk factors, especially as President Trump prepares for an upcoming summit to discuss denuclearization with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and isolate America on the world stage.

Trump announced on Tuesday that he would withdraw the U.S. from the deal, which he called “defective to its core” and reinstate the sanctions against Iran that had been lifted as part of the agreement.

Obama rarely weighs in on the policy decisions of the Trump administration, but he has done so occasionally, primarily when it is designed to roll back his signature policies, like the Affordable Care Act or the Paris Climate agreements.


Iran's Mullahs Celebrate More Rewards from the 'Nuclear Deal'

On June 30, 2020, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo urged the United Nations Security Council to extend the arms embargo on Iran. The Security Council was reluctant to do so. The UN Security Council's unwillingness seems yet another indication of why the United States, having pulled out of the Human Rights Council and threatening to pull out of the World Health Organization in 2021, should finally go all the way and pull out of the whole "Club of Thugs" that the United Nations has become. At the very least, as has been suggested, "We pay for what we want. We insist [on] what we get, what we pay for. We abolish the system of mandatory contribution. "

The United Nations seems to have turned into a place that, instead of preventing war, preserves war.

"Iran is already violating the arms embargo, even before its expiration date. Imagine if Iranian activity were sanctioned, authorized by this group, if the restrictions are lifted. Iran will be free to become a rogue weapons dealer, supplying arms to fuel conflicts from Venezuela, to Syria, to the far reaches of Afghanistan." — Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, UN Security Council, June 30, 2020.

In short, thanks to the previous administration, the Iranian regime, the top state sponsor of terrorism, is about to be legally free to buy and sell, and import and export advanced weapons across the world.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo recently told the UN Security Council: "Iran is already violating the arms embargo, even before its expiration date. Imagine if Iranian activity were sanctioned, authorized by this group, if the restrictions are lifted. Iran will be free to become a rogue weapons dealer, supplying arms to fuel conflicts from Venezuela, to Syria, to the far reaches of Afghanistan." (Photo by Andrew Harnik/Pool/AFP via Getty Images)

While Iran's ruling mullahs have been celebrating their rewards from the nuclear deal -- which, by the way, Iran never signed -- according to its terms, the arms embargo against the Islamic Republic is scheduled to be lifted on October 18, 2020.

On June 30, 2020, U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo urged the United Nations Security Council to extend the arms embargo on Iran. The Security Council, however -- particularly China -- was reluctant to do so. The UN Security Council's unwillingness seems yet another indication of why the United States, having pulled out of the Human Rights Council and threatening to pull out of the World Health Organization in 2021, should finally go all the way and pull out of the whole "Club of Thugs" that the United Nations has become. At the very least, as has been suggested, "We pay for what we want. We insist [on] what we get, what we pay for. We abolish the system of mandatory contribution. "

Rather than being the cure for world peace, the UN is now a major obstacle to world peace. The Soviet dissident, Natan Sharansky, once suggested at a meeting attended by Gatestone that if delegates to the UN are not allowed to vote in their own countries, they also should not be allowed to vote at the UN. The United Nations appears to have turned into a place that, instead of preventing war, preserves war.

The primary objective of any nuclear talks with Tehran should have been to halt Iran's nuclear program permanently, thereby eliminating the possibility of a nuclear arms race in the region and removing the strategic threat that a nuclear armed Iran would pose to the world.

However, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif told the Council on Foreign Relations at the time, "Let's establish a mechanism for a number of years. Not 10, not 15 — but I'm willing to live with less."

So, the "sunset clauses" -- a glide-path to legitimate nuclear capability -- were given to the ruling mullahs -- in exchange, apparently, for nothing. The sunset clauses essentially allow the Iranian regime, after the period of the agreement, to resume enriching uranium at a level they desire, spin as many advanced centrifuges as they want, make its reactors fully operational, build new heavy water reactors, produce as much nuclear fuel as it desires for its reactors, and maintain higher uranium enrichment capability with no restrictions.

The previous US administration submitted to Zarif's demands and accepted the deal, which promised shortly to repeal all sanctions on Iran's regime and pave the way for lifting the UN arms embargo against it.

According to Reuters, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said in November 2019:

"When the [arms] embargo. is lifted next year we can easily buy and sell weapons. This is one of those important impacts of this [nuclear] agreement. By remaining in the deal, we would reach a huge political, defensive and security goal [in 2020] . It would be a huge political success."

Indeed, with the removal of the UN arms embargo, Iran would be allowed legally to export and import advanced weapons.

Most likely, then, sophisticated weapons could fall into the hand of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Iran's terror and militia groups such as the Houthis, Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) -- which is a conglomerate of more than 40 militia groups -- causing yet more conflict and instability in the Middle East.

The previous administration granted that dangerous reward to the ruling mullahs of Iran with total disregard to the concerns of other countries in the region. As Pompeo told the UN Security Council last month:

"Don't just take it from me or the United States, listen to countries in the region, from Israel, the Gulf, countries in the Middle East who are most exposed to Iran's predations are speaking with a single voice: extend the arms embargo".

In June 2020, the UN also found that the missiles which had slammed into a Saudi oil complex last year were of "Iranian origin". UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres pointed out in the semi-annual report which was sent to the Security Council that "these items [weapons used in the attack] may have been transferred in a manner inconsistent with" UN resolutions.

According to the UN Resolution 2231:

". all States are to take the necessary measures to prevent, except as decided otherwise by the Security Council in advance on a case-by-case basis, the supply, sale, or transfer of arms or related materiel from Iran by their nationals or using their flag vessels or aircraft and whether or not originating in the territory of Iran."

However, not only has the UN been refusing to take any action, such as imposing sanctions on the Iranian regime, despite Iran's smuggling weapons and munitions to militia groups the international body also appears perfectly willing to lift the arms embargo against Iran.

"Iran is already violating the arms embargo, even before its expiration date. Imagine if Iranian activity were sanctioned, authorized by this group, if the restrictions are lifted. Iran will be free to become a rogue weapons dealer, supplying arms to fuel conflicts from Venezuela, to Syria, to the far reaches of Afghanistan."

In short, thanks to the previous US administration, the Iranian regime, the top state sponsor of terrorism, is about to be legally free to buy and sell, and import and export, advanced weapons across the world.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a business strategist and advisor, Harvard-educated scholar, political scientist, board member of Harvard International Review, and president of the International American Council on the Middle East. He has authored several books on Islam and US foreign policy. He can be reached at [email protected]

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