The best alternative to an agreed agreement

Today, the best alternative to the JCPOA is to reach a real agreement that will permanently prevent an Islamic nuclear Iran and avert its other destructive mischief.

June 16, 2018 22:28
4 minute read.
US President Donald Trump holds up a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA

US President Donald Trump holds up a proclamation declaring his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement after signing it in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, May 8, 2018. (photo credit: JONATHAN ERNST / REUTERS)


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‘The pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking”
Charles Krauthammer June 8, 2018

Thousands of papers, at least one blockbuster movie and countless college professors have made a living off analyzing and showcasing the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. For years it has been used as the textbook example of how to manage a major international crisis. It is a case exemplifying how sound minds and strong will, primarily those of a young and the newly elected president John F. Kennedy prevailed, to avoid a nuclear war.

Once resolved, the Iranian Nuclear Crisis (and the North Korean one) will surely be cases studied to a similar extent.

The Cuban missile crisis, essentially about averting the threat of Russian missiles being placed within spitting distance of American shores, generated several international theories and negotiation concepts. A key one being, the BATNA model, – where a negotiated agreement between sides to a conflict is not feasible, each side should strive for the best alternative to a negotiated agreement, BATNA. In this case, once the Russians believed that America’s best alternative to an agreement of removing the missiles from Cuba was war between the superpowers, an agreement was reached to remove the Russian missiles from Cuba (and American missiles from Turkey).

The Iranian Nuclear Crisis and the way the newly elected American president is managing it, may warrant a new international theory. Namely, when a signed agreement is clearly flawed, even if there are multiple and significant signees, there is a need to find the best alternative to that agreed agreement.

The Iranian nuclear crisis, evolving over the past 25 years, became an imminent threat to international peace, seldom seen before.

The threat led to a negotiated agreement, signed by six major world powers, the European Union and Iran towards the end of former president Barack Obama’s term in office. The objective was to prevent a nuclear Iran.

That “agreed agreement,” aka the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was bound for failure. Not only was is based on a false pretext, concerning Iran’s actual nuclear ambitions, as recently revealed by Israeli intelligence for all to see, but it was also structured in an ill-advised manner, whereby even if Iran would fully comply with all the agreed provisions, which it did not, the Islamic Republic’s path to nuclear bombs was paved within a decade.

Therefore, a newly elected President Trump, decided that in the best interest of American and global security, not to mention in accordance with a key campaign promise, the US would withdraw from the “agreed agreement.” On May 8, 2018, the strongest party to the ‘agreed agreement’ did just that. Other parties to the pact also see its severe faults and may act similarly.

Now there are two alternatives to the agreed agreement.

The first is to retract and replace the ill-fated agreement with a better one. One that not only substantiates that Iran will never be able to acquire nuclear weapons but also addresses its belligerent missile program, subversion in (and at times invasion) of other sovereign states and its second-to-none state sponsorship of terrorism. Thereafter, sanctions on Iran can gradually be lifted and economic incentives introduced.

The second alternative is regime change. This will become the only alternative if the first option fails. Regime change is a challenge that has often led to chaos, not only in the Middle East. Examples are many, but rarely in the course of history has such a change been more warranted than in Iran of 2018.

Regime change is not a novel concept for Iranians and may be more acceptable than many perceive. Genuine protests led by “the Green Movement” against Iranian rulers, in June 2009, preceded the heralded 2010 Jasmine Revolution in Tunisia, that was widely credited to be the Arab Spring trigger.

For weeks, mostly young Green Movement activists clashed with Iran’s oppressive mechanisms in hope that a newly elected American president at the time, who promised change, would support them. That did not happen. The hope for change, found disappointment in Teheran’s streets as the protests dwindled, leaving the Green Movement leaders under house arrest until this day. Not to be forgotten by the masses, there are still many Iranians with renewed hope that America’s new policy will facilitate regime change. They see the American withdrawal from the JCPOA as a promising sign.

The demand for a regime change of radical Islamic rule has gained traction again in Iran.

With revisited US sanctions looming, new cracks in the Islamic regime are seen and heard again. The JCPOA did not bring about the promised economic improvement to the people of Iran. To the contrary, the main beneficiaries were the regime’s Revolutionary Guards. Therefore, many Iranians, ironically see the US withdrawal from the agreed agreement as an opportunity.

Today, the best alternative to the JCPOA is to reach a real agreement that will permanently prevent an Islamic nuclear Iran and avert its other destructive mischief. If that is unattainable, a regime change would be the best alternative to the late agreed agreement.

Ophir Falk is a visiting scholar at Georgetown University and a research fellow at the International Institute for Counterterrorism in Herzliya.

Lt.-Col. (ret.) Michael Segall, an expert on strategic issues with a focus on Iran, terrorism, and the Middle East, is a senior analyst at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs and at Alcyon Risk Advisors. The opinions expressed in this piece are those of their own.

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