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Pompeo’s Nuclear Deal Dishonesty on Display

Then-Rep. Mike Pompeo, R-KS, speaking at a rally in 2013. He faces a senate grilling for his secretary of state nomination today.Mark Taylor/Creative Commons

Pompeo went on the Sunday shows this week to mislead the public as he usually does. Here he is on Fox News Sunday trying to spin the consequences of the failure of Trump’s Iran policy as a flaw in the JCPOA:

One of the central failures of the JCPOA is that whatever limits there were could be turned back on in a minute. We see this, right? They make an announcement; the next thing you know, they’re spinning centrifuges at higher and higher enrichment rates. This was a crazy failed deal.

In fact, many of the restrictions imposed by the JCPOA cannot be so easily undone, but that is almost beside the point. Any nonproliferation agreement with Iran naturally requires their ongoing cooperation and compliance. They are the ones that have to implement it and continue adhering to it. Iran chose to accept these restrictions to demonstrate that their nuclear program was peaceful, and the IAEA confirmed fifteen times in a row that they have respected these restrictions. Iran fully complied with the JCPOA for more than a year after the U.S. reneged on its commitments. Even now, they are complying with most of their obligations despite getting nothing they were promised in return for it. The Iranian government might have stopped complying at any point since 2015, but they have taken a few reversible steps only in the last few months and they did so because the U.S. egregiously violated its commitments.

The only reason that Iran has reduced its compliance over the past few months is that the U.S. continues to wage economic war against them in an effort to force them to abandon the deal. Iran’s modest, reversible actions are the direct result of Trump’s decision to violate the agreement, and Iran took these actions in an attempt to salvage the deal that Trump wants to destroy. Until Trump and his band of arsonists came along, the JCPOA was a huge success and arguably the most effective nonproliferation agreement ever negotiated. Trump, Pompeo, and Bolton have been trying to burn it down for the last sixteen months, and when parts of it catch on fire they have the gall to blame the only government that has made a consistent effort to abide by it. Pompeo should have been challenged about all of this, but of course he was allowed to deliver his propaganda lines without having to face any hard questions.

Pompeo’s complaint about the JCPOA’s “failures” is a typical hawkish rejection of the results of diplomatic compromise. Iran hawks have been chasing the fantasy of “zero enrichment” in Iran for decades, and they will never get it because Iran will never accept those terms. The only way to get Iran to agree to the other onerous restrictions on their nuclear program for any length of time was to concede that they would be allowed the ability to enrich uranium domestically. The fact that Pompeo calls this a “failure” shows how unreasonable and unrealistic his position is. Were it not for this so-called “failure,” there would never have been an agreement to begin with. All of this underscores that Iran hawks don’t care about negotiating a working nonproliferation agreement. They desire to demagogue the nuclear issue regardless of the consequences.

No one should take Pompeo’s assessment of the JCPOA seriously. He has been a bitter, reflexive opponent of the agreement all along, and he was one of the leading members of Congress that worked to sabotage the negotiations while they were still going on. The fact that such a hard-line, knee-jerk opponent of diplomacy with Iran thinks that it is a “crazy failed deal” is a good indication that it was a very successful compromise. Iran hawks have to pretend that the deal already “failed” in order to conceal their hostility to diplomatic engagement and their eagerness to create a pretext for conflict, but the reality is that they hate the JCPOA because it has been working and depriving them of that pretext for war.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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