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The Fanatical Nuclear Deal Saboteurs Return

One of the chief would-be saboteurs of the nuclear deal with Iran, Tom Cotton, laid out [1] what he thinks Trump should in a speech yesterday:

Tom Cotton, a Republican, said Trump should “decertify” Iran’s compliance with the agreement in a report required by Congress every 90 days and next due on Oct. 15. That, Cotton said, would let Congress approve a list of demands that the president could then press European allies who are part of the accord — and reluctant to leave it — to accept.

“The Congress and president should lay out how the deal should change and the consequences for Iran,” Cotton, a member of the Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday evening in Washington at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. “The world needs to know we are serious, we are willing to walk away, we are willing to impose sanctions and a lot more than that. And they’ll know that when the president declines to certify the deal, and not before.”

If the administration and Congress do this, their new demands will be rebuffed. European allies aren’t going to respond well to an ultimatum, especially when they see no reason for the new list of demands. Iran will use this maneuver as proof of our government’s bad faith, and they won’t be wrong. In the best-case scenario, the U.S. then reneges on the deal and the other parties continue to honor their obligations. That would still leave the U.S. isolated and embarrassed by its incompetent political leaders, and it would create strains with close allies for no reason. In a much worse scenario, a decision by the U.S. to renege on our obligations would give Iran the excuse to ignore theirs, and that could make an attack on Iran once again a real possibility with a president as reckless and a Cabinet as hostile to Iran as we have. That much worse scenario is pretty clearly the one that Cotton wants, and that alone should make us very wary of anything he recommends.


The important thing to remember about Iran hawks like Cotton is that their opposition to the nuclear deal is bound up entirely with their desire for confrontation with Iran and ultimately regime change. Cotton refers frequently to threatening military action and taking such action against Iran throughout his speech [2] and the Q&A afterwards. They hate the nuclear deal because they correctly see it as an obstacle to the instability and upheaval they want to cause, and so they want to do whatever they can to weaken it.

To that end, there is no end to the number of lies they will tell about the deal. For instance, Cotton goes so far as to claim [2] that the JCPOA is “weaker even than the 1994 Agreed Framework with North Korea,” which is just laughably untrue. Even many skeptics of the nuclear deal acknowledge that it is more stringent than the Agreed Framework, and most arms control experts consider it to be one of the strongest non-proliferation agreements ever negotiated. Of course, Cotton can’t acknowledge any of these facts or speak honestly about them, because that would confirm that his hostility to the deal is driven entirely by his hostility to Iran itself.

Cotton’s proposals for “fixing” the deal are all the familiar hawkish tropes we have come to expect. For instance, he wants to eliminate sunset clauses. As I have pointed out before, this is a stupid objection to the deal, since any agreement would contain them, and no deal could be negotiated that wouldn’t contain them. He wants the deal to include restrictions on Iran’s missile programs. In addition to being unnecessary for the purposes of limiting Iran’s nuclear program, there is no international consensus in favor of this, and Iran obviously wouldn’t agree to it. Like the other changes Cotton proposes, it is a non-starter. In other words, Cotton’s “fix” amounts to to making impossible demands in the hopes of blowing up the agreement.

Cotton’s speech is mostly nonsense, and he really outdoes himself when he starts talking about North Korea:

If anything, certifying the disastrous deal with Iran will show the North Koreans that we lack the will to confront them. And, speaking of that, isn’t it curious that North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests have accelerated so rapidly since we agreed to the Iran deal?

In Cotton’s world, acknowledging the reality of Iranian compliance and keeping our word demonstrate a lack of resolve. He can’t seem to grasp that North Korea’s commitment to its nuclear weapons and missile programs in recent years is related to its leadership’s determination not to suffer the fate of Gaddafi in 2011, and that determination would only be made stronger if it saw that the U.S. was reneging on an agreement with Iran. Cotton’s incessant talk about military action against Iran will just confirm their assumption that states that agree to foregoing nuclear weapons will sooner or later become targets of U.S. attack.

The senator also imagines that European allies that have repeatedly and publicly stated their refusal to renegotiate the deal will somehow go along with what he wants, but he doesn’t give any evidence that this is so. That’s usually how hawkish arguments on this and other issues work: they make unfounded claims, they boldly assert that X will happen without being able to give any reason why it would, and they propose unworkable “solutions” that would inevitably make everything worse. In a sane world, Cotton’s recommendations would be laughed out of the room, but unfortunately his views seem to be very close to the ones informing the administration’s approach to this issue.

15 Comments (Open | Close)

15 Comments To "The Fanatical Nuclear Deal Saboteurs Return"

#1 Comment By KXB On October 5, 2017 @ 10:05 am

“his hostility to the deal is driven entirely by his hostility to Iran itself.” I’d say his hostility is driven by the cash he gets from AIPAC and defense contractors.

#2 Comment By Frederick Martin On October 5, 2017 @ 11:08 am

The hawks are out in full force today. Check out this gem from National Review:


I’m still waiting for the evidence that Iran is the “number one sponsor of anti-American terrorism in the Middle East”, as Mr. McCarthy claims. A Corner blog on NRO yesterday referred to supporters of the deal as the “foreign policy establishment” (LOL). These people are so eager for conflict with Iran that they can’t even hope to contain themselves anymore.

And it goes without saying, but I’ll type this anyway: Cotton is, and always has been, a moron, particularly when foreign policy is involved. I’ll never forget that ridiculous piece he wrote for the New York Times in April after Trump authorized the airstrikes in Syria claiming it “restored America’s credibility”.

#3 Comment By Seth Owen On October 5, 2017 @ 12:21 pm

Any war with Iran in the wake of reneging on the deal would necessarily be an enormous disaster that would make Iraq look like a walk in the park.

Iran is unlikely to do us the favor of shooting first, so we will end up starting an unprovoked war of aggression. (Oh, we’ll dress it up as ‘preventative War,’ but no one outside Trump’s base will buy it.) we will have zero international support, largely for the very good reason we will be in the wrong. Our adversaries such as Russia and China will rejoice at the gift.

There is no chance we can ‘win’ such a war at any cost the American people are likely to accept. Iran is far bigger and more capable than Iraq, has more difficult terrain and will have international support. Every patriotic Iranian will rally to the regime, no matter how they feel about the Ayatollah. It’s yet another unwinnable war in the region. Rather obviously, one of the ways Iran would fight back is by complicating our efforts in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan. What progress we have made will be wiped out.

The good news s that Trump may screw up in Korea first and we won’t have the resources to bother Iran.

#4 Comment By The Human Future On October 5, 2017 @ 12:29 pm

Cotton wants to send more Americans to their deaths in wars for Israel.

#5 Comment By GregR On October 5, 2017 @ 1:17 pm

That National Review article is an absolute lie. It argues that there are sites that Iran won’t allow the IAEA to inspect… Which may very well be true and that that refusal is justification to blow up the deal.

Except for the following:
1) The IAEA hasn’t been refused access to any sites.
2) When Haley raised these sites as an issue the IAEA asked for her evidence on which sites she suggested they inspect and the evidence that would justify doing so. She was unable to either name a site to inspect, or provide any evidence of illegal activity. These are minimum thresholds under the agreement to even ask for additional site inspections.

Even IF we asked and Iran said no, there is an arbitration clause that requires it be put to a vote of the eight members (United States, Iran, Russia, China, France, Britain, Germany and the European Union). A vote of 5 in favor of allowing site inspections overrules Iran’s refusal.

So the only way Iran could be in breach of the deal is if there was a site nominated for inspection and permission was refused (Which hasn’t happened), and then a vote was made by the members in favor of inspections (which hasn’t happened), and then Iran refused access (which again hasn’t happened).

This isn’t even a good lie.

#6 Comment By jk On October 5, 2017 @ 1:42 pm

It always surprises when neocons forget where 15/19 of the 9-11 originated from. If that is not a metric for terrorist factory, what is.

#7 Comment By Jon K On October 5, 2017 @ 3:11 pm

It’s interesting that there’s no consideration of the negative fallout from taking this course of action. Hawks seem to think that the US will always be asked to be a party to decisions made by the larger world. It hasn’t occurred to them that breaking deals made by prior administrations may over time have the effect of getting the US excluded entirely from future decision-making. Why bother including a party that can’t be trusted to stand by the agreements it has made in the past? It’s not worth the hassle.

#8 Comment By bacon On October 5, 2017 @ 3:51 pm

Tom Cotton is one of the US exceptionalists who still think we’re in charge of the world, in spite of 50 years of experience demonstrating that we’re not.

#9 Comment By Fools Rush In On October 5, 2017 @ 6:18 pm

“I’m still waiting for the evidence that Iran is the “number one sponsor of anti-American terrorism in the Middle East”, as Mr. McCarthy claims”

“Anti-American” is Israel Lobby speak for “Anti-Israel”. I guess it’s nice that they’re still trying to conceal their corrupt loyalties, but there’s not much point to it anymore. Everybody knows what’s going on.

The sooner we get out of the Middle East and separate ourselves from parasites and users like Saudi Arabia and Israel, the better.

#10 Comment By Grumpy Old Man On October 5, 2017 @ 6:28 pm

These people are insane and Cotton is one of the crazier ones.

You can’t ignore the influence of the Israel Lobby, but the “American leadership” bug goes beyond those circles. We have a vast and metastasizing soup of private “security” outfits, and the military-industrial complex with outposts in most congressional districts. And quite a few true believers.

If this amounted to arms procurement as a form of digging holes and filling them up to create jobs, we could live with it. Them things, however, explode sometimes.

Let’s hope the M&M&Ms, Merkel, Macron, and May (however long she lasts), can keep our Great Helmsman in check.

#11 Comment By Whine Merchant On October 5, 2017 @ 9:41 pm

Summary: If President Obama negotiated it, and our allies support it, it is a “bad deal”.

Can we tee-off now?

#12 Comment By Round the bend … On October 6, 2017 @ 8:22 am

@Whine Merchant — “Summary: If President Obama negotiated it, and our allies support it, it is a “bad deal”.”

I wish that applied to our support for the Saudi wrecking and starving of Yemen. But like most of Obama’s Middle East policies (except the Iran deal), Trump is either sticking with them (i.e. Iraq, Syria), intensifying them (Afghanistan, Yemen), or extending them to whole new theaters (Niger).

#13 Comment By rayray On October 6, 2017 @ 1:05 pm

@Seth Owen
“Every patriotic Iranian will rally to the regime, no matter how they feel about the Ayatollah.”

In a political sense, it’s already happening. Trump’s rhetorical belligerence and ignorance is already a tremendous gift to the more conservative factions of Iran…as Larison has predicted many a time…

#14 Comment By ZGler On October 6, 2017 @ 2:52 pm

Most American Jews (myself included) don’t even support AIPAC and it’s neo-con priorities. From a December 2016 article in the NYT:

“Steven M. Cohen, a research professor at Hebrew Union College and a consultant to a recent Pew study of American Jews, said that Mr. Kerry’s speech represents the viewpoints of most American Jews. “On survey after survey, American Jews are opposed to Jewish settlement expansion. They tend to favor a two-state solution and their political identities are liberal or moderate,” he said.”

#15 Comment By Fayez Abedaziz On October 9, 2017 @ 3:19 am

Will somebody kindly inform us where these people appear from?
What a creepy looking and acting creature this egg-head is!
Shouldn’t there be some intelligent people
in the horror houses of Congress!
Why is it that it’s these guys and women in the legislative branch that peddle war, hate and lies, that are always given, by the sorry excuse for news media outlets, the most interviews and time?
Also, has anybody asked these do nothing for a living, except get rich by being elected,
why they don’t devote their damn time to solving the problems in in their state?
There are problems in every institution/social issue area of the nation.
So, this guy gets attention because he wants confrontation and war with nations around the world?
What a shame that a great nation such as America has such ignorant, hateful people.
Meanwhile, I have never seen, experienced or read, such an apathetic people as are now the American people.
That’s from my boyhood in the late 50’s-early 60’s to college in the late 60’s-mid-70’s, and being involved in issues and so on.
The Senate and Congress?
What a really bad joke of a bunch of ‘reps’

that: could care less about you and me and everyone else except for the lobbies
can you relate to what this old ‘hipster’s’ sayin’
right on (not that old, ha)