Iran Deal a Luxury Trump Can’t Afford to Lose

Imagine Iran without the nuclear deal - “Have you noticed? The nuclear agreement with Iran is no longer in the headlines. Not long ago, Iran’s nuclear program was the central issue in U.S. foreign policy,” write Thomas Pickering and Jim Walsh for The Charlotte Observer. “We don’t fret about an imminent Iranian nuclear threat, because there isn’t one. Tough and principled American diplomacy removed that danger for the foreseeable future… Now, imagine there was no international agreement curtailing Iran’s nuclear program, no program of unprecedented inspections, no removal of thousands of centrifuges, no disablement of the Arak reactor, no shipping out of 98 percent of Iran’s enriched uranium.”

--“Absent an agreement, Tehran’s hardliners might have taken [Hashemi] Rafsanjani’s passing as an opportunity to push forward with the nuclear program. But they can’t, because Iran’s program is locked down under the most intrusive inspection system ever devised… If we [kill the deal], it will be the U.S. – not Iran – that will get the blame. Our allies have already made clear that, if we break the agreement, they will not join in new sanctions. And without an agreement, Iran’s hardliners will be free to do whatever they want with their nuclear program. Instead, we should begin now to think about how we can make that deal a more permanent arrangement for Iran and the rest of the world.” Full story here.

Analyzing JCPOA - According to International Crisis Group’s recent report on the Iran agreement, “one year since its ‘implementation day’, 16 January 2016… the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – is both a success and in jeopardy.” The report argues, “the JCPOA’s transformational potential has not yet materialised in the face of powerful stakeholders who moved to ensure it was a ceiling on, not a foundation for, détente between Iran, its neighbours and the U.S. The conundrum is that without addressing the broader political antagonism that pits Iran against its neighbours and the West, the JCPOA at best will remain fragile and its implementation halting, but without full implementation, resolving the underlying political antagonism may prove impossible.”

--“The most troubling uncertainty is the new U.S. administration’s approach… Trump is the first U.S. president in more than two decades who enters office not needing to worry about Iran crossing the threshold to nuclear weaponization undetected. If he tries to adjust the JCPOA unilaterally through coercion, the accord may not survive, reigniting the nuclear crisis and compounding regional instability… This report analyses the one-year record of implementation, draws lessons and offers suggestions for improving and sustaining an accord that remains a net positive for non-proliferation.” Full report here.

See also - “A Year Later, Iran Nuclear Deal OK, But Road Ahead Could Be Rocky,” an interview with NPR: All Things Considered host Kelly McEvers and Ali Vaez, senior analyst with the International Crisis Group on the implementation of the Iran agreement and its future under President-elect Donald Trump’s administration.

Iran complies - “Iran has complied with a deadline set by its landmark nuclear deal with world powers by removing hundreds of centrifuges, machines that enrich uranium, from a site buried deep inside a mountain, the U.N. atomic agency said on Monday,” writes Francois Murphy for Reuters. “The transfer of centrifuges and other equipment from Fordow to storage at another underground enrichment site at Natanz was completed within a deadline of one year from the day the deal was put in place, Jan. 16 of last year, the IAEA said.” Full story here.

Tweet - @Livableworld: Why is the #IranDeal a success? Because it keeps Iran from obtaining a #nuclear weapon and is preferable to war

Feinstein & Smith call for LRSO cancellation - “The Defense Department has proposed to build a new, powerful nuclear cruise missile called the Long-Range Standoff weapon (LRSO). In our opinion, this weapon is unnecessary, incredibly expensive and would move the United States closer to actually using a nuclear weapon — an unthinkable action,” write Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Rep. Adam Smith in Ploughshares Fund’s recent report 10 Big Nuclear Ideas for the Next President. “The LRSO would be part of a proposed 30-year, $1 trillion plan to overhaul the entire nuclear weapons enterprise. However, this proposal is neither affordable, executable nor advisable.”

--“We are convinced that the LRSO creates unnecessary risks of miscalculation in a conflict, lowers the threshold for nuclear use, is not necessary to preserve nuclear deterrence and will draw scarce resources away from other nuclear assets and advanced conventional capabilities... We firmly believe that the only legitimate reason to maintain nuclear weapons is deterrence. Nuclear weapons are not and must not become ‘flexible options’ for use in nuclear warfighting as an alternative to the use of conventional weapons.” Full report here.

Mattis agrees, LRSO needs rethinking - “President-elect Donald Trump’s choice for secretary of defense believes the US needs to maintain its intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) program, but showed a willingness to consider whether developing a new nuclear cruise missile is the right path forward,” writes Aaron Mehta for Defense News. At his recent confirmation hearing, Gen. Mattis gave his “most measured comments... when discussing the Long-Range Standoff Weapon (LRSO), the new nuclear cruise missile design, and the part of the nuclear modernization that the non-proliferation community has targeted as unnecessary.”

--“’I need to look at that one,’ Mattis said in response to a question about LRSO. ‘My going in position is that it makes sense, but I have to look at it in terms of its deterrence capability.’” Full article here.

Likelihood of DPRK launch - “After North Korean leader Kim Jong Un declared on New Year's Day that his country was on the verge of testing an intercontinental ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S., Trump... tweeted, ‘It won't happen!’ As a matter of fact, it will happen -- unless a Trump administration radically rethinks U.S. policy toward the North,” writes Andrei Lankov for Bloomberg. “Most experts believe that sometime within the span of Trump's first term, the U.S. intelligence community will notify him that North Korea has successfully tested an ICBM and will in the near future deploy a significant ICBM and SLBM force capable of striking the continental U.S. ”

--“The truth is that for more than a decade, there’s been no real chance of fully eliminating the North’s nuclear program. Even now, though, the U.S. could negotiate something better than the current situation: a verifiable freeze on nuclear and missile testing, before North Korea develops an ICBM. Of course, Kim isn’t going to restrain himself for free. In return, he will demand many things -- a hefty aid package, above all, but also political concessions, including a formal peace treaty. No doubt his regime will probably try to cheat.” Full article here.

Tweet - @ErnestMoniz: One year later, the #IranDeal is producing results. @IAEAorg today confirmed removal of centrifuges from Fordow

Power advocates for DPRK sanctions - At her final press conference as U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power spoke out in favor of “implementing and enforcing ‘the most intense and aggressive set of sanctions that we’ve seen at the Security Council in a generation’ against North Korea,” writes Edith Lederer for The Washington Post.

--“Power also stressed the importance of preserving the nuclear deal with Iran which Trump has repeatedly criticized though he has not said what he plans to do about it once in office. She said it’s extremely important to the United States that a country that threatens Israel and the U.S., supports ‘terrorist groups’ like Hezbollah, and continues to destabilize Syria, Yemen and other countries ‘does not have nuclear weapons.’ Power said the six-party nuclear agreement is working, and it has provided a channel of communications between Iran and the U.S., who don’t have diplomatic relations.”

Russia sceptical of Trump’s nuke proposal - “In an interview with the Times of London published on Sunday, Trump indicated that he could end sanctions imposed on Russia in the aftermath of the 2014 annexation of Crimea in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal,” writes Nataliya Vasilyeva for Associated Press. “Russia isn't so anxious to get the sanctions lifted that it is prepared to ‘sacrifice something, especially in what concerns security,’ said Konstantin Kosachev, the Kremlin-connected chairman of the foreign affairs committee of the upper house of parliament.”

--“President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, sounded similarly cautious with reporters in Moscow later in the day. ‘Let's wait until he assumes office before we give assessment to any initiatives,’ Peskov said. He added that Russia never raises the issue of sanctions in talks with its foreign counterparts and doesn't intend to do so because it's not up to Moscow to scrap them.” Full story here.

Tweet - @AJEnglish: Trump said that he will offer to end sanctions against Russia in return for a nuclear arms reduction deal

Quick Hits:

--“Obama issues warning on 1st anniversary of Iran nuclear deal,” by The Associated Press.

--“Join U.N. nuclear arms ban talks,” an editorial from The Japan Times.

--“Why Dr. King Opposed the Atomic Bomb,” by Vincent J Intondi for Stanford University Press.

--“Can The Iran Nuclear Deal Survive Its 2nd Anniversary?,” by Peter Kenyon for NPR.

--“New Mexico town steps up for nuclear borehole project,” by Rebecca Moss for The Washington Times.

--“Russia expects dialogue with Trump on nuclear weapons: Lavrov,” by Andrew Osborn and Vladimir Soldatkin for Reuters.

--“Iran: Nuclear deal will not be renegotiated,” by The Associated Press.


--Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on the nomination of Rick Perry to be Energy Secretary on January 19, 2017 at 10:00 a.m., located at 366 Dirksen Senate Office Building, Washington. Find webcast on the committee hearing here.

--Senate Armed Services Committee votes on the nomination of Gen. James Mattis to be Defense Secretary (tentative) on January 20. Room TBA, Senate Office Building, Washington. Find webcast on committee’s website here.

--“Prospects for the Defense Budget in the New Administration," with Mackenzie Eaglen, American Enterprise Institute and Richard Kogan, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Center for Strategic and International Studies on January 23, 2017 at 10:30 am to 12:00pm. Event held at 1616 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington. RSVP online and webcast online.

--“Iranian Attitudes About US-Iranian Relations in the Trump Era,” a panel discussion featuring Ms. Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, Dr. Ebrahim Mohseni, Dr. Paul Pillar, moderated by Barbara Slavin, and hosted by The Atlantic Council. January 25, 2017 from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Atlantic Council, 1030 15th Street NW, 12th Floor, Washington, DC. RSVP and details here.

--“Atomic Football: The Nuclear Playbook in a Strange New Era,” a panel discussion featuring former U.S. Secretary of Defense William Perry, former covert operations officer for CIA Valerie Plame, and other experts. The event is hosted by Ploughshares Fund on January 25, 2017 at 6:30-9:00pm at the Norman Lear Center, 4222 Vineland Avenue, North Hollywood, Los Angeles, CA. More details here.

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