Even without President Donald Trump’s threat to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran, the accord has been “endangered” because of the “lack of bipartisan support,” a former White House official wrote in an analysis  for Foreign Policy, earlier this week.
Michael Singh, a former member of the National Security Council and current Managing Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, wrote that the president’s directive to fix the flaws of the deal should be regarded as “an opportunity to stabilize and strengthen the agreement,” that both the deal’s supporters and opponents should take advantage of.
Singh noted that even a multilateral accord requires not just “international consensus,” but “also the backing of a sufficient domestic coalition in the countries that are party to them.” This meant that when the deal’s flaws started to become apparent, it also became clear that “the deal would be lucky to survive the slings and arrows of Congressional efforts to deter Iran, or the ups and downs of the U.S.-Iran relationship.”
There are a number of “conceptual” flaws in the deal that Singh points out, including the language of the deal that allows Iran to ” continue enhancing its nuclear weapons capabilities even while adhering to the letter of the agreement,” the trade off between allowing Iran a free rein to indulge in its destabilizing activities while only temporarily asking Iran to limit its nuclear program, and that the sanctions relief that is offered is permanent while the restrictions placed on Iran last no more than 13 year.
Trump had demanded that four aspects of the deal needed to be addressed: demanding that Iran open up its military sites for inspection, demanding an end to its missile development program, an end to the sunset clauses that allow Iran to develop an industrial strength enrichment program, and punishing Iran for its terror support and human rights abuses.
Singh observed that while Iran has insisted that its military sites are off-limits to inspectors, this has never been tested perhaps because of “insufficient intelligence, or because Iran’s bluster deters nuclear inspectors from requesting access to suspicious sites, or leads them to bend over backwards to help Iranian officials save face.”
What needs to be done is for the United States to gather as much intelligence as possible and, with its allies, “make clear that there are no blanket exemptions to inspections, and ensure that Iran will not be permitted to dictate how or by which inspectors monitoring is conducted.”
If Iran persists with its missile development, and insists that it is under “no obligation under the JCPOA to limit its missile work, the United States and its allies acknowledge no obligation to refrain from penalizing those efforts.”
The U.S. and its European allies, Singh argues, should insist that though limits to Iran’s nuclear enrichment program end, they will not accepts “unchecked expansion of Iran’s nuclear activities,” but “rather that they expect Iran to negotiate a follow-on accord or practice self-restraint.”
It will be up to the U.S. to address Iran’s non-nuclear threats. The Trump administration, Singh wrote, “has thus far offered tough rhetoric about countering Iran, but little in the way of concrete policies.” While he calls the sanctions imposed on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Hezbollah as “necessary,” Singh assessed that “they are no substitute for political strategies to counter Iranian gains across the region and deny Iran further opportunities.” He noted that a complaint made about last year’s strike on a Syrian air base following a chemical weapons attack in the Idlib province was that it “was not followed up with further pressure on the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his partners.”
The deal has been endangered since its inception “due to its lack of bipartisan support and its lack of connection to any broader policy toward Iran,” Singh wrote in his conclusion. “Addressing those problems is in the interest of the nuclear deal’s advocates and critics alike.”
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