Most Americans probably believe that complying with the hard-fought pact that forced curbs on Iranian nuclear weapons development in exchange for lifting the crushing international sanctions against Iran is the official gauge that the deal is working. As do all of the signatories to the JCPOA: France, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, Germany and the European Union, none of which seem to have any interest in breaking off the accord. But the U.S. is pushing for more inspections on additional military sites, suggesting the Iranians are hiding something. Haley all but declared in her speech that the Iranians were guilty if they weren’t rushing to open up the additional sites, and the IAEA was weak for not demanding it.
But no matter. As Haley explained, the JCPOA is just one “pillar” in three pillars of compliance that President Trump will be assessing before he decides whether to cut loose. And be assured, “the end result has to be the security of the United States…we will always look out for our interest, our security.”
Paul Pillar explains why two of Haley’s three “pillars” for judging Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal are irrelevant:
The big problem with Haley’s formulation is that Iran is a party to only one of those three “pillars,” the JCPOA [bold mine-DL]. The requirements for Iranian compliance are found entirely within the JCPOA. Certainly Iran cannot be held responsible for whatever happens to go into U.S. legislation enacted by the U.S. Congress. Some of the clauses in Resolution 2231 do reflect understandings reached during negotiation of the JCPOA, but the resolution does not incorporate additional obligations that Iran negotiated and undertook [bold mine-DL]. The much-commented upon clause regarding ballistic missile activity was carefully and intentionally drafted so as not to constitute a legal obligation.
Before the JCPOA was concluded, Iran hawks were adamant that Iran would never live up to its side of the agreement. Now that Iran is doing just that, they have been forced to move the goalposts and insist on linking the fate of the deal to everything else Iran’s government does. The hawks are holding a working non-proliferation agreement to an impossible standard that they have set in order to guarantee that it can always be found lacking, but this is unreasonable and shouldn’t be taken seriously by anyone else. If all diplomatic agreements were judged by such an exacting standard as this, no agreements would ever be made or maintained.
We should welcome a debate over whether the JCPOA is in U.S. national security interests. The previous administration set up the deal in a way that denied us that honest and serious debate.
This would be funny if it weren’t so obnoxious. Iran hawks have never been interested in an “honest and serious debate,” because whenever there has been such a debate they have been resoundingly defeated. Opponents of the deal were never denied their opportunity to debate the deal on the merits, but for the most part they preferred to rail against an imaginary version of the deal and the “appeasement” it supposedly represented. It is important to understand that Haley doesn’t want a debate over “whether” the JCPOA in in our national security interests, but wants to set things in motion so that the U.S. can take actions that would probably destroy the agreement. Reopening the issue when there is no compelling reason to do so isn’t just a waste of time, but puts at risk a diplomatic success that was years in the making.