Iranian President Hassan Rouhani walks on a red carpet in Tehran.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The stated purpose of the Iran nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), is to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. There are many who claim Israel opposed the negotiations with Iran and that we were, and are, opposed to any deal with the Iranian regime. Nothing could be further from the truth.
If the JCPOA actually prevented Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability, Israel would have been its loudest cheerleader. After all, who would benefit more from a good deal than Israel, the country Iran repeatedly says it will annihilate?
Unfortunately, the JCPOA is a terrible deal that does not prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.
When Iran agreed to negotiate, years of sanctions had devastated its economy. Across the table sat the most powerful countries on Earth, the “P5+1.” This put Iran in an extraordinarily weak bargaining position. Therefore, extracting concessions from Iran should have been relatively easy. However, astonishingly, the P5+1, led by the United States in the person of secretary of state John Kerry, gave in to Iranian demands on issue after issue, until a deal was reached that legitimized the Iranian nuclear program while failing to address Iran’s behavior in the region.
Far from preventing Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon, the JCPOA nearly guarantees Iran will have the means to develop a large nuclear arsenal in just a few years. The deal enriched Iran, increasing its ability to project power through proxies, while permitting continued work on the means to deliver a nuclear weapon. And the deal’s sunset provisions allow Iran to have an industrial-scale uranium enrichment program in a decade.
In just a few days, US President Donald Trump will decide whether the US will remain a party to the JCPOA. President Trump has demanded major fixes to the JCPOA and said if such fixes are not forthcoming, he will withdraw and re-impose sanctions. Deal proponents claim leaving the JCPOA would tarnish the reputation of the United States. They should remember, however, that this deal was agreed to by president Barack Obama without the consent of the US Congress. In fact, a bipartisan majority of both the House of Representatives and the Senate indicated their opposition. They simply could not muster the supermajority needed to scuttle it.
At the time, a group of senators sent an open letter to the leaders of Iran. The letter made clear that without the consent of Congress, the deal would be seen as an Executive Agreement between president Obama and Ayatollah Khamenei. They stated such an agreement could be nullified by the “stroke of a pen” of any future president and that a future Congress could “modify the terms of the agreement at any time.” So it shouldn’t come as a great surprise that an agreement that only had minority, partisan support would prove fragile after future elections.
There are four major flaws in the agreement that must be addressed if it is to have any chance of achieving the goal of keeping the world’s most dangerous weapons out of the hands of the world’s most dangerous regime.
1. The sunset clauses must be eliminated. The Iranians are patient and smart. They are using the time before the restrictions on uranium enrichment expire to perfect other aspects of nuclear weaponization. Ideally, their entire uranium enrichment infrastructure would be dismantled, rather than simply mothballed. But at minimum, to be viable, the deal’s restrictions must be made permanent.
2. The JCPOA must be expanded to include ballistic missiles. The Iranians continue to work on ballistic missile development without restriction. They already have missiles that can reach Israel. They are now working to improve the accuracy and payload of their current arsenal and to create intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear warhead to any location on the planet. Any new negotiations must strictly limit Iran’s ability to develop and enhance ballistic missile technology.
3. The inspections regime must be strengthened. The Iranians have proven time and again they are untrustworthy. The latest proof are the 100,000-plus documents Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed just last week. Under the JCPOA, military sites are off limits to inspections. Given the concern is that there could be an ongoing military component to the Iranian nuclear program, it is reasonable to demand inspection of military sites. The standard should be “anytime, anywhere” snap inspections. Only by having the right to investigate and inspect when and where it deems fit can the IAEA truly certify Iranian compliance.
4. Iran’s behavior in the region must be addressed. When Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed the US Congress in 2015, he pointed out the absurdity of allowing restrictions on Iran to sunset arbitrarily based on the calendar, rather than Iranian behavior. The Iranian nuclear program is viewed as a unique danger because of Iran’s malevolent actions across the region and around the world. Any new negotiations should, at a minimum, insist Iran ends its support for terrorist organizations including Hezbollah and Hamas and cease aiding the atrocities in Syria.
Israel will support negotiations and a deal that truly, and permanently, forecloses Iran’s ability to develop nuclear weapons. And we will support negotiations to address Iran’s malign behavior in the region.
However, without substantive fixes to the JCPOA, I believe President Trump should withdraw from the agreement and reinstate crippling sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran.The author, Israel’s minister for regional cooperation, has been intimately involved in issues related to Israeli foreign policy,