Ariel E. Levite
Security, Middle East
By leaving the deal, Iran may now want the bomb more than ever due to a deepening the sense of existential threat from the U.S. bent on fomenting regime change in Teheran.
We ought to shed only few tears over the demise of the Iran nuclear deal (also called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA). The deal did have some significant virtues but was also replete with problems from day one. Its weaknesses were greatly accentuated by the Obama administration’s subsequent overselling of its virtues, failure to acknowledge its shortcomings, and worrisome additional compromises in its implementation. Yet, we do have good reasons to cry out loud over the manner in which President Trump has brought about its downfall. Indeed, there is also real cause for frustration and angst over what comes next.
The frustration comes from the realization that the deal was scrapped before a viable alternative was developed to replace it, making the positive benefits of the JCPOA very difficult-if not outright impossible- to sustain over time. It is greatly exacerbated by the dismissal out of hand by President Trump of the proposals diligently worked out between the Department of State and the EU3 to enhance the implementation of the JCPOA and address some of its greatest weaknesses. Those proposals would have attempted to resolve issues with the Iranian missile program and worrisome aspects of its regional behavior. The damage from withdrawing from the JCPOA is also increased by Trump’s abandonment of the serious effort to develop a common position between the U.S. and its European allies on the so called “sunset clause.” That clause would have allowed Iran to regain it’s so called “inalienable rights” to scale up its worrisome nuclear activities within a few years and therefore needed addressing.
As the recently revealed trove of Iranian nuclear documents convincingly attest, Iran had a full blown and advanced nuclear weapons program prior to 2003, which to this day Iran continues to flatly deny. These discoveries shatter its repeated claims to be wedded not only to the NPT ban on developing nuclear weapons but also to a so-called religious fatwah by its supreme leader allegedly disallowing nuclear weapons acquisition. All of this offers sobering lessons regarding the value of Iranian assurances of its benign nuclear intent.