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The Nuclear Deal Saboteurs Are Back

Some Republican Iran hawks predictably want [1] Tillerson to refuse to certify [2] that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal:

Now, three months later, GOP senators are losing patience and want Tillerson to call out Iran for alleged violations of the deal and other assorted mischief, whether the administration’s internal policy review is completed or not.

Tillerson should ignore the senators’ letter. It would be a very serious mistake for the Trump administration to undermine the deal. That would gain the U.S. nothing while angering our European allies that helped negotiate the agreement. Maintaining restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program is in our security interests and it is good for the cause of nonproliferation in general. Refusing to certify that Iran is in compliance with the agreement would open the door to a new round of sanctions that could end up wrecking the deal all together. Iran hawks repeatedly tried and failed to sabotage the deal during the negotiations and then kept trying after the agreement was finalized, and now they are trying again.

The senators’ argument, such as it is, isn’t remotely persuasive. They try to confuse the issue by citing Iran’s “malign actions since the signing of the JCPOA,” but these have no bearing on whether the nuclear deal is in the national security interests of the United States. Whatever malign actions Iran may take elsewhere, keeping their nuclear program restricted clearly is in our interest. Refusing to certify the deal won’t do anything to reduce or hamper these “malign actions,” but it would jeopardize a successful nonproliferation agreement. As if to drive home how weak their case is, the senators refer to the brief detention of U.S. sailors in Iranian waters as proof of Iranian “aggression.” They neglect to mention that the diplomatic channels opened up by the nuclear negotiations allowed that incident to be quickly and peacefully resolved. The senators also assert that Iran has “consistently violated the terms of the JCPOA,” but this is simply false and the senators must know that it is. The reality is that continued sanctions relief is necessary to keep the deal on track, and only those that are dead-set against successful diplomacy with Iran (as Cotton, Rubio, et al. clearly are) would object to it.


None of the other parties to the agreement doubts Iran’s compliance, and the IAEA has confirmed that Iran is sticking to its part of the agreement. Aside from the obvious problems with refusing to certify compliance when Iran is demonstrably complying with the deal, the hard-liners’ maneuver is a reminder why it was always a mistake to give Congress a say in the process. The Corker-Cardin bill [3] was an unnecessary piece of legislation, and requiring the Secretary of State to re-certify the deal every 90 days creates undesirable uncertainty about the agreement’s durability. Because of that provision, we are going to have to put up with periodic eruptions of Iran hawks’ ridiculous arguments against the deal every few months. We may hope that the saboteurs will continue their impressive losing streak, but with this administration there is a real danger that they might finally succeed in scuttling the successful nuclear deal.

9 Comments (Open | Close)

9 Comments To "The Nuclear Deal Saboteurs Are Back"

#1 Comment By Mohawk Valley On July 12, 2017 @ 4:59 pm

And they’re trying to sabotage it not to punish Iran for real non-compliance or to protect America from some other real danger, but to accommodate the demands of Saudi Arabia and Israel.

#2 Comment By Crprod On July 12, 2017 @ 5:54 pm

If the US pulls out and the others remain, we will once again be left holding the bag.

#3 Comment By Chris Chuba On July 12, 2017 @ 6:25 pm

I’ll add this to my list of things that make me gag when hawks piously intone that ‘rogue nations do not follow a rules based world order’.

I could live with it if Congress said, ‘we want to renege on the deal’ but I cannot brook them saying, ‘declare that they are not in compliance’ when the facts say otherwise.

So much for the vaunted rules. Here’s my list of the rules we have broken.
1. Invading Iraq without UN approval or right of self defense.

2. Overthrowing Gaddafi when the UN only authorized a safe zone.

3. Bombing Syria without UN approval or right of self defense, or even making a pretense of an investigation. We actually derailed an OPCW onsite inspection.

4. (pending) Unilaterally declaring Iran in non-compliance of an agreement and bypassing the JCPOA terms of complaint resolution.

We are the biggest rogue nation on the planet.

#4 Comment By Clifford Story On July 12, 2017 @ 7:02 pm

What’s interesting here is that Tillerson may well Do The Right Thing. There seem to be two foreign policies now, Donnie’s and Tillerson’s, and increasingly it’s the latter that’s presented as the foreign policy of the United States. He seems to be winning that power struggle, and gaining confidence as he does. Tillerson appears, much to my surprise, to be growing in office (while Donnie shrinks).

#5 Comment By William Burns On July 13, 2017 @ 9:03 am

Clifford Story,

I’d like to believe that, but don’t forget we’ve got a massive Iran hawk at Defense.

#6 Comment By Slugger On July 13, 2017 @ 11:11 am

A tiny economy like North Korea can develop nuclear weapons and a delivery system. Iran has a GDP about thirty times the size of NK. The only reason that Iran does not have nukes is because they don’t want them. Harsh actions against Iran will surely convince them to build nukes. Every other small to moderate regime will arrive at the same conclusion.

#7 Comment By Centralist On July 13, 2017 @ 11:17 am

Cause diplomacy is for the weak is what they think.

#8 Comment By rayray On July 13, 2017 @ 7:13 pm

Well put.

And the reason, IMHO? Iran is a sophisticated, marginally democratic nation with an aggressive business sector. They are dying to get back into the global marketplace.

NK…not so much.

#9 Comment By Omar On July 13, 2017 @ 11:10 pm

If the US could make decisions in it’s own national interests, then the deal with Iran would be supported across the political spectrum. But the Congress is bought and paid for by Israel and Saudi Arabia and their lobbyists living in the DC swamp. Instead of draining the swamp, Trump is drowning in it.