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Don’t Renege on the Nuclear Deal Because of Sunset Clauses

Ali Vaez explains [1] once again why the sunset clauses in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are unavoidable and why scrapping the deal because of them makes no sense:

Years down the road, however, when the IAEA gains confidence that there are no undeclared nuclear activities and materials in Iran, it will be unreasonable not to treat Iran like any other NPT [Non-Proliferation Treaty] member state in good standing [bold mine-DL]. This means that the unprecedented verification measures would end, but rigorous inspections would continue in perpetuity.

If the Trump administration cannot accept this, then its real problem is not with the provisions of the deal or Iran’s compliance with them. It is, rather, either with the NPT itself or with the nature of the Iranian political system. If so, no deal would be satisfactory, unless it entails Tehran’s total capitulation to U.S. demands or a regime change [bold mine-DL]. Neither appears in the cards.

When Iran hawks claim that the nuclear deal “paves the way” to an Iranian nuclear weapon, what they mean is that some of the deal’s provisions will expire after 10 or 15 years. Leaving aside the possibility that Iran’s government might be significantly different by then, objecting to sunset clauses amounts to objecting to making any agreement on the nuclear issue. Not only are they a standard feature of agreements like this one, but no government would agree to accept such significant restrictions on its nuclear program forever. If those restrictions were going to be accepted by Iran at all, they had to be for a limited amount of time.

The larger point is that Iran is permitted to have an advanced nuclear program under the NPT, and the nuclear deal has been negotiated to allow that after Iran has demonstrated in good faith that it isn’t trying to use its program to build nuclear weapons. However, the deal also obliges Iran to ratify the IAEA’s Additional Protocol in a few years. Vaez explains why that matters and why it invalidates this hawkish criticism of the deal:

Assuming the other parties to the deal reciprocate by holding up their end of the bargain, Iran will ratify in 2023 the IAEA’s Additional Protocol, which allows short-notice inspections of undeclared facilities in Iran and which it is now voluntarily implementing. To date, no country on earth has developed nuclear weapons under the watchful eyes of the IAEA’s inspectors who are empowered by the access that the Additional Protocol affords them.

So even once certain provisions of the deal expire, the IAEA will have the ability to monitor Iran’s nuclear program with their consent. The IAEA will be able to monitor the program so closely that it would be practically impossible for Tehran to build nuclear weapons without being caught even if they intended to try. In that scenario, it is very unlikely that Iran would even attempt to build nuclear weapons, and it is is even less likely that they would be successful. That is what Iran hawks call “paving the way” to a bomb. It’s just one more reminder that their objections to the deal are unfounded and usually made in bad faith.

5 Comments (Open | Close)

5 Comments To "Don’t Renege on the Nuclear Deal Because of Sunset Clauses"

#1 Comment By Christian Chuba On October 3, 2017 @ 11:23 am

Another reason is that Iran made some unusually draconian concessions in order to get a ONE TIME repatriation of their frozen assets from the U.S.

I was floored when Iran agreed to eliminate 98% of their enriched uranium stockpile and live with those restrictions for 15yrs. The restrictions on their conventional and ballistic weapons also had no relationship to the nuclear program accept as a measure to pressure them into some kind of agreement. Iran only agreed to the 8yr and 10yr moratorium on being able to import weapons because they got a repatriation of their own money.

So if the Administration wants to eliminate sunset clauses then how about an annual stipend for Iran, why should payments have a sunset clause? [rhetorical]

#2 Comment By David M On October 3, 2017 @ 1:52 pm

I can’t get over how ridiculous it is that the deals opponents are both complaining the deal doesn’t last long enough and trying to end it sooner. It’s basically screaming they aren’t arguing in good faith, but for some reason they aren’t laughed out of the room.

#3 Comment By Joe F On October 3, 2017 @ 2:34 pm

The irony here is that if Trump withdraws, he will ensure that the US got taken to the cleaners on this deal, as they have already reaped the benefits of cancelled sanctions and repatriation of money. Some deal maker

#4 Comment By CharleyCarp On October 3, 2017 @ 2:58 pm

Maybe the President thinks that if the deal is cancelled, Iran will have to give the money back. That’s what would happen in a NYC commercial real estate deal, right?

The most obvious response to critics on sunset grounds is to suggest that the world’s greatest dealmaker try to get an extension of the sunsets. What’s he willing to offer for that?

Oh, I see: backing away from the threat of cancellation.

Maybe that would work, after all, but to avoid a continual repeat of this thing, Iran would have to insist on the end of ‘recertification.’

#5 Comment By Whine Merchant On October 3, 2017 @ 5:01 pm

Trump’s populist approach to shoring-up support from his core believers is to dumb-down everything to their level: the most complicated negotiation any of them ever see is a simple home mortgage or car loan. The world of diplomacy is too complex for a tweet, and the arcane internal politics of contemporary Iran’s theocracy make North Korea look simple.

Stoking his base with cartoon images of mythical US grandeur is his product and abetting the neo-con war party is the price he is happy to pay.