Haley’s Risible Revisionism on the Nuclear Deal
Nikki Haley repeated a lot of the usual false and misleading hawkish claims about the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in a speech at AEI earlier today. This was a typical unfounded assertion:
The question of Iranian compliance is not as straight forward as many people believe. It’s not just about the technical terms of the nuclear agreement.
In fact, adhering to the “technical terms” of the agreement is what puts Iran in compliance with the deal. Iran hawks don’t like that Iran is complying with the agreement, not least since they insisted that Tehran would never do that, and so they have to invent an arbitrary new standard that they can use to find the agreement to be faulty. If Iran is abiding by the restrictions contained in the JCPOA, the deal is working as intended and Iran’s nuclear program has been successfully constrained. Try as Haley might, she cannot find a pretext for scrapping the deal short of simply making things up, which is what she proceeds to do later in the speech.
Haley says at one point:
The deal he struck wasn’t supposed to be just about nuclear weapons. It was meant to be an opening with Iran; a welcoming back into the community of nations.
That might have been an ideal outcome, but it’s not true that the deal was supposed to lead to this. That is not what the agreement required, and under the circumstances it was never likely to happen. Iran hawks here in the U.S. in particular were determined that any agreement on the nuclear issue would not become the basis for broader engagement or detente. They routinely accused the Obama administration of pursuing exactly that (also false), and now in a laughable about-face “complain” that the deal has not somehow magically achieved a goal that they vehemently oppose. Bear in mind that it is an open secret that these are the people that hate the possibility of an “opening with Iran.” They are desperate to prevent Iran from being welcomed back into the community of nations, and their determined opposition to any and all sanctions relief on Iran is proof of that.
Haley then repeats another falsehood:
We were promised an “end” to the Iranian nuclear program. What emerged was not an end, but a pause. Under the deal, Iran will continue to enrich uranium and develop advanced centrifuges.
No, we weren’t promised any such thing. Proponents of making a deal with Iran were entirely up-front about the fact that Iran would have to retain some limited enrichment capability in order to get them to agree to the restrictions on the rest of the program. Hard-line opponents of the deal wanted a “zero enrichment” requirement, among other maximalist demands, and they didn’t get their way. There was no chance that Iran would agree to the complete abandonment of their program, and that is why the P5+1 settled for the compromise that secured the more important goal of restricting Iran’s nuclear program. The purpose of the agreement was to make it practically impossible for Iran to be able to build a nuclear weapon, and then to verify that Iran was abiding by the restrictions imposed to ensure that. No agreement could have brought about the “end” to Iran’s entire nuclear program, and any deal that made that a requirement would have been rejected. The deal is doing exactly what it is supposed to do, and so Haley has to resort to the shoddiest revisionism possible to attack it.
It gave Iran what it wanted up-front, in exchange for temporary promises to deliver what we want.
In fact, sanctions relief has been halting, slow, and has provided Iran with far less foreign investment than it hoped. In exchange for that, Iran severely restricted its nuclear program and submitted to international inspections for more than a decade. In other words, Haley gets things almost exactly backwards here, and misleads her audience in the process.
The JCPOA is, therefore, a very flawed and very limited agreement. But even so, Iran has been caught in multiple violations over the past year and a half.
This is at best extremely misleading. The few violations in question have been very minor and quickly rectified. The IAEA has consistently found Iran to be in compliance with the agreement since it was implemented, and their continued inspections will help make sure that the deal keeps working.
Another one of Haley’s statements is not so much dishonest as it is simply dumb:
The deal drew an artificial line between the Iranian regime’s nuclear development and the rest of its lawless behavior.
There are many bad objections to the JCPOA, but this is probably the most ridiculous one. Yes, a non-proliferation agreement focused exclusively on the nuclear issue and imposed restrictions on the nuclear program alone. Whatever other undesirable behavior Iran engages in was never going to be up for discussion during these negotiations, and it would have torpedoed the negotiations over the nuclear issue to try to include other disagreements. Iran hawks simultaneously hate the very idea of diplomatic engagement with Iran and oppose it tooth and nail, and yet they also want to fault a specific set of negotiations on one issue for “failing” to resolve all outstanding issues with them. If there had not been an “artificial line” between the nuclear issue and the rest of Iran’s behavior, Iran hawks would have probably been successful in using their lame whataboutist arguments to derail the agreement. Fortunately, those arguments didn’t prevail two years ago, and we can only hope that they will continue to be ignored.
P.S. Richard Nephew has produced an annotated version of the speech in which he points out more Haley errors.