US President Donald Trump announces his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA Iran nuclear agreement during a statement in the Diplomatic Room at the White House in Washington, US, May 8, 2018.
(photo credit: REUTERS/JONATHAN ERNST)
The dramatic announcement by President Donald Trump on May 8 that the US is withdrawing from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was warmly welcomed by many in Israel, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, but criticized by most of the international community.
That doesn’t mean that Trump was wrong in rescinding what he called “a decaying and rotten” deal. The pact, better known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), between Iran and six world powers – the US, the UK, France, China, Russia and Germany – is essentially a bad one that rewarded a rogue regime. And as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clearly revealed in his April 30 news conference, Iran lied about its continuing pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Under the accord negotiated in the Obama era, Iran agreed to restrict nuclear activities and allow international inspectors in return for the lifting of crippling economic sanctions.
Now Trump – after citing the Israeli exposure of Iranian secret document – has vowed to impose the “highest level of economic sanctions” to deter Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons.
In response, Netanyahu said that “Israel fully supports President Trump’s bold decision to reject the disastrous nuclear deal with the terrorist regime in Tehran.”
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani warned that although his country would remain in the nuclear deal for now if it cannot agree with other parties on a way to move forward, it will resume the enriching of uranium for nuclear bombs.
Trump’s decision does raise serious questions about what happens next, especially when it comes to Israel.
Netanyahu and Education Minister Naftali Bennett have said that the US decision makes Israel safer, but in reality, with reports of Iranian movement in Syria and the IDF calling on residents of the North to make sure their bomb shelters are in order, the likelihood of conflict has actually risen.
From Israel’s point of view, Trump’s decision is cause for satisfaction but also concern.
First, it appears that the US president plans to disengage from the Middle East in general, and particularly in Syria, where Russia and Iran have taken a leading role in supporting the reprehensible regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Second, Iran continues to be a destabilizing agent in other countries in the region and a major sponsor of terrorism, especially in Lebanon, where it arms and finances Hezbollah, and in Gaza, where it supports the terrorist and corrupt Hamas rulers.
Third, Iran is continuing to develop a sophistical program of long-range missiles, capable of hitting not just Israel but its other adversaries in the region, including Saudi Arabia. European powers, headed by France, have consistently failed to persuade Iran to halt its production of ballistic missiles.
Fourth, Trump’s decision to renege on an international agreement harms US credibility and its relationship with other world powers. Even if former US president Barack Obama made a historical mistake in reaching the deal, he does have a point in saying that walking away from it “turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated.”
Finally, while Obama may be mistaken in saying that the JCPOA is working and has effectively rolled back Iran’s nuclear program, he could be correct in predicting that Trump’s move “could embolden an already dangerous regime; threaten our friends with destruction; pose unacceptable dangers to America’s own security; and trigger an arms race in the world’s most dangerous region. If the constraints on Iran’s nuclear program under the JCPOA are lost, we could be hastening the day when we are faced with the choice between living with that threat, or going to war to prevent it.”
We agree with the reaction of World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder who pointedly said, the Trump decision sends an “unmistakable message to Iran and its allies that its very real threats against the United States and all other free and democratic countries in the world will not be tolerated.”
However, for this to work, Trump needs to come up with a Plan B to stopping Iran and put one on the table soon. Iran’s nuclear ambitions still need to be stopped. It’s not enough to simply nix. You still need to fix.
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