I urge President Donald Trump to decertify Iranian compliance with the catastrophic 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and to reimpose sanctions on Iran for its failure to cease supporting international terrorist groups and internal human rights abuses. I also recommend decertifying the deal and imposing sanctions because Iran is already in breach of the agreement, permissive as it is towards Tehran.
I believe that the alternative option presented to President Trump by Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and National Security Adviser General H.R. McMaster – to “decertify” the JCPOA but to keep the United States in this deeply flawed agreement – is illogical and useless. Such an idea depends on the U.S. negotiating an improved agreement with Iran, which has absolutely no motive to renegotiate a deal so clearly beneficial to itself. It would also mean that the U.S. would continue to stand by a completely flawed and dangerous nuclear deal without in the future requiring the President to decertify Iranian compliance with the agreement. In this way, the agreement would continue, whether Iran was held to be in compliance or not.
The main problem with the JCPOA, apart from its failure to address and restrict Iranian ballistic missile research and development, as well as its sunset clauses which will enable Iran to be freed of any restrictions of any kind in a matter of some eight to ten years, is that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which was previously charged with monitoring Iran’s behavior with regard to nuclear research and development, has been unable to perform this role since the introduction of the JCPOA, because it no longer has the ability to verify Iranian statements and activity.
Indeed, the IAEA admitted publicly a couple of weeks ago that this was indeed the case and that it cannot fully assess whether Iran is working on sensitive nuclear technology due to restrictions on inspections and specific sites in Iran.
Under the terms of the JCPOA, the IAEA may only inspect certain declared nuclear sites, and then only with four weeks’ prior notification, but not any sites designated ‘military’ by Tehran, nor any other suspected sites of illicit Iranian nuclear research or activity. Thus, all claims by the JCPOA’s apologists, including the former Obama Administration, about the IAEA carrying out robust inspections under the JCPOA are perpetuating a misleading falsehood by failing to mention these crucial limitations.
As Yigal Carmon and A. Savyon of the Middle East Media Research Institute (MEMRI) have observed, “Carrying out inspections in the other sites can take place only after political negotiations in the Joint Commission of the JCPOA – which comprise the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Russia, the IAEA, and Iran – and only after some 30 days have passed from the time of the submission of the intelligence information that prompted the request for inspection, and only after the sources of this intelligence have been fully revealed to Iran, Russia and China. under these conditions, there is no real possibility of real and effective inspection of Iran’s nuclear activity.”
A further issue is that the JCPOA removed from the IAEA the authority to remove Iranian stocks of enriched uranium, transferring this task to Russia, with no oversight as to how much has been removed or where these stocks are stored by Russia. The JCPOA was also made by the Iranians dependent on the IAEA terminating its investigations of the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s past nuclear research, even though IAEA investigations had pointed to illicit military activity by Iran.
It is clear now, especially since the recent IAEA statement about its inability to verify Iranian compliance, that the JCPOA is so terribly flawed that it prevents the world from even determining whether Iran is complying with its terms.
It has also been clear since the nuclear deal was concluded in Vienna in 2015 that Iran is not complying with even the deal’s highly permissive terms.
Remember, this deal did not compel Iran to dismantle its thousands of centrifuges; or to close its Arak plutonium facility; or to close its underground nuclear facility at Fordow; or to agree to unfettered and unannounced inspections; or to permit its designated military sites to be subject to inspection; or fully account for the possible military dimensions of its past clandestine nuclear research and development programs; or to stop research and development on ballistic missiles.
Yet despite this, Iran has still been failing to comply with the deal. In fact, it has been violating there deal in numerous ways, as well as acting in a fashion inimical to peace, including:
- An immediate, massive 32 percent increase in Iranian military spending.
- Increased funding for Iranian proxies.
- Iranian refusal to permit International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to inspect it’s Parchin nuclear facility and demand for a closure of investigation of the possible military dimension (PMD) of its nuclear program.
- Iranian refusal to negotiate the issue of its ballistic missiles.
- An $8 billion 2016 arms deal with Russia, whereby Iran is to purchase the S-300 air defense system, enabling it one day to insulate its nuclear sites from American or Israeli strikes, as well as Sukhoi-30 jets, comparable to American F-15 fighter-bombers.
- Exceeding in November 2016 the 13 metric ton threshold permitted under the deal for stocks of heavy water, according to the IAEA.
- Replacing in December 2016 old centrifuges with new IR8 centrifuges that can be used to produce weapons-grade uranium in far less time.
- Testing ballistic missiles in January 2017 without approval from the UN Security Council, contrary to U.N. Resolution 2231, passed shortly after the nuclear deal was signed, which calls on Iran “not to undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, including launches using such ballistic missile technology.”
- Continuing its “illegal proliferation-sensitive procurement activities” at a “quantitatively high level,” according to the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution.
The statement from the IAEA regarding its inability to determine Iranian compliance is but the latest chapter in this record of non-compliance.
Former UN Ambassador John Bolton has observed that UN Security Council Resolution 2231 which embodied the deal, “calls upon” Iran to forgo activity regarding “ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons” – but the JCPOA’s language allows Iran to claim solemnly that its missiles are not “designed” to carry nuclear warheads, “an assertion,” as Ambassador Bolton notes, “whose verification would require polygraphs and psychologists, not weapons inspectors.”
In short, the JCPOA is a positive impediment to stopping Iran eventually developing nuclear weapons. The president is called upon to make a determination of decertification as well as a decision on sanctions and the time to exercise those decisions.
We should also reject the argument that decertifying or withdrawing from the deal would spur Iran to hasten its efforts to obtain nuclear weapons. That ability was present before, during, and since the conclusion of the JCPOA. The only things likely to slow Iran is pressure, including and especially renewed sanctions.
In these circumstances, President Trump should indeed decertify Iranian compliance as a first step and reimpose non-nuclear sanctions. Barring any changes in Iranian conduct, President Trump should declare Iran in breach and take steps to end the deal, which can only lead to Iran becoming a nuclear power, with all the unspeakable consequences that would entail.
Morton Klein is President of the Zionist Organization of America. (Visit www.zoa.org) A major Jewish weekly named him one of the top five Jewish leaders in America. Another named him one of the top dozen “Jewish activists of the Century.” He also worked in medical research as a biostatistician with two time Nobel laureate Linus Pauling.