The Stupidity of Netanyahu’s ‘Fix It or Nix It’ Complaint
Benjamin Netanyahu wants you to know that he doesn’t understand how international agreements work:
The Iran nuclear deal should be changed to eliminate provisions removing restrictions on Tehran’s atomic programme over time or it should be cancelled, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Tuesday.
“Change it, or cancel it. Fix it, or nix it,” Netanyahu said in a speech at the U.N. General Assembly annual gathering of world leaders.
It is worth remembering that if Netanyahu had been allowed to have his way two years ago there would be no nuclear deal and no restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. After having spent decades exaggerating the danger to Israel from an Iranian nuclear weapon, Netanyahu worked overtime to try to sabotage the negotiations that made it impossible for Iran to acquire one, and then denounced the agreement that those negotiations produced. Like Iran hawks here in the U.S., Netanyahu won’t accept any deal with Iran that Iran would ever agree to, because that would involve a compromise that these hard-liners are ideologically and maybe psychologically incapable of accepting.
The objection to the sunset clauses in the JCPOA is an old one, but it is being trotted out again as part of the ongoing effort to undermine the nuclear deal. It is one of the more ridiculous objections to the agreement, and it is telling that this is what opponents of the deal are reduced to complaining about. Practically every international agreement has similar provisions that require the agreement to be renewed after a certain period of time. No one wants to be locked into any agreement forever, and a deal that didn’t have sunset clauses wouldn’t have been acceptable to Iran. In other words, if you can’t accept a deal that restricts Iran’s nuclear program for 10-15 years (some provisions last much longer than that), you won’t be able to get any deal. There is no “fix” available that Iran would accept, and so insisting on “fixing” the deal is much the same as calling for abandoning it.
Paul Pillar notes that the sunset clauses are beside the point if all parties continue to value the deal:
As long as they continue to regard the bargain as being on balance beneficial, the provisions of the JCPOA will endure, perhaps through a relatively simple extension agreement. If their calculations change significantly for whatever reason, those provisions may die. Either way, it won’t be the fine print in a sunset clause that determines the outcome.
So this is not something that needs to be “fixed” in any case. It is simply the latest in a string of bad-faith objections that hard-liners make to an agreement that they have vehemently opposed from the start.