Iran Deal is Recertified, but Still in Danger
On the radar: Iran Deal reluctantly recertified; Iran nuclear threat removed by the Deal; Zarif: Iran has held up its end of the Deal; Trump administration walking into war; Nuclear-armed Iran could mean war; Talking U.S. nuclear policy with Michèle Flournoy; Levelheaded leadership needed to avoid nuclear crisis
Trump reluctantly certifies JCPOA compliance - “President Trump agreed on Monday to certify again that Iran is complying with an international nuclear agreement that he has strongly criticized, but only after hours of arguing with his top national security advisers, briefly upending a planned announcement as a legal deadline loomed,” writes Peter Baker for The New York Times. “The decision on Monday was the second time his administration certified Iran’s compliance, and aides said a frustrated Mr. Trump had told his security team that he would not keep doing so indefinitely.”
--“Mr. Trump did not want to certify Iran’s compliance the first time around either, but was talked into it on the condition that his team come back with a new strategy to confront Tehran, the official said. Last week, advisers told the president they needed more time to work with allies and Congress. Mr. Trump responded that before he would go along, they had to meet certain conditions, said the official, who would not outline what the conditions were.” For the full article, click here.
See also - The Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation sits down with Ambassador Wendy Sherman, the lead U.S. negotiator of the Iran Deal, and Richard Nephew, the lead American sanctions expert during the negotiations for their Nukes of Hazard podcast. Listen to “The Iran Deal Two-Year Anniversary” here.
The Iran Deal is working - “In its critics’ eyes, it has already failed. President Donald Trump and many of his supporters complain that it has not changed Iran’s regional behavior, pointing to Tehran’s continued support for regional proxies and ongoing ballistic missile tests as proof,” writes Philip Gordon and Richard Nephew for The Atlantic. “They allege a range of technical violations, even though the International Atomic Energy Agency—and Trump’s State Department, for that matter—have confirmed Iran’s compliance.”
--“In fact, the deal is doing exactly what it was supposed to do: prevent Iran from acquiring enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, demonstrate to the Iranian public the benefits of cooperation with the international community, and buy time for potential changes in Iranian politics and foreign policy. The Deal... remove[s] any realistic threat of a near-term Iranian nuclear weapon. The United States should use that decade wisely: standing up to and imposing costs on Iranian transgressions, supporting U.S. allies in the region, making clear to the Iranian public that the West is not an enemy, and preparing for the day when some of the deal’s restrictions will no longer apply. The Iran deal has bought valuable time. Squandering that time without a better plan would be foolish.” For the full article, click here.
See also - Press Release by the Arms Control Association: “Iran Nuclear Deal Still Working Effectively” here.
Take action - The July/August issue of Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists is available now, featuring articles from John Mecklin, Hans Kristensen and Ulrich Kühn - read online here today.
An interview with Javad Zarif - Jacob Heilbrunn, editor of The National Interest sat down with Javad Zarif, Iranian Foreign Minister, yesterday to discuss the United States and the Iran Deal. When Heilbrunn asked Mr. Zarif for his thoughts of the Trump administration violating the spirit of the deal, Zarif responded “[Iran has] taken a route that has been prescribed within the nuclear deal, taken it to the joint commission, and we will discuss that in the joint commission to make sure that the shortcomings by the United States are remedied. This has been the subject of an ongoing debate within the joint commission, not only during the Trump administration but also during the previous Obama administration.”
--Mr. Heilbrunn then asked Mr. Zarif about President Trump’s intemperance “in his dealings with Iran”. Zarif responds, “the rhetoric [of the Trump administration] is not conducive to greater understanding, not just with Iran but with other countries as well. We need to be more careful about the signaling, because we’ve seen that wrong signaling in the past few weeks in our region, particularly after the Riyadh summit, has caused a rather serious backlash in the region—not between U.S. allies and Iran, but among U.S. allies. If it comes to a major violation, or what in the terms of the nuclear deal is called significant nonperformance, then Iran has other options available, including withdrawing from the deal.” Full article here.
Sleepwalking into war with Iran - “Today, there are many unforeseen crises that risk bringing the U.S. and Iran—indeed, the entire Middle East—into direct confrontation,” writes Trita Parsi for The American Conservative. “The U.S. and Iran have a shared interest in defeating ISIS in Iraq, but after the fall of Mosul, the balance of their interest may lead them in a more confrontational direction. The Trump administration and Secretary Rex Tillerson have allowed the hotline with Tehran to go cold. Despite the significant risk of war, not a single phone call has taken place between Tillerson and Zarif. Not a single attempt at resolving the tensions diplomatically has been made.”
--“When asked about diplomacy with Iran during his visit to the Saudi kingdom, Tillerson said that he had no plans to reach out to Iran, although he didn’t rule it out in the future. That is simply not good enough. It is the foremost responsibility of the President and his administration to keep America safe and to only put American servicemen and women in harm’s way once all other options have been exhausted. On both of these counts, the Trump administration doesn’t just fail, they fail abysmally because they haven’t even tried. The United States is about to sleepwalk into yet another devastating war in the Middle East... without the Trump administration even giving lip service to diplomacy.” For the full article, click here.
See also - “We Shouldn’t Defend the JCPOA at the Expense of the Iran Deal” by Esfandyar Batmanghelidj for LobeLog here.
No JCPOA could mean war - “The stakes could not be higher. The deal—officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—places significant and verifiable constraints on Iran’s nuclear activities, effectively blocking its pathway to an atomic bomb,” writes Colin Kahl for New Republic. “If Trump exits the agreement, the prospects of a nuclear-armed Iran—or a major war to head off that outcome—would increase. The Trump administration is in the midst of a comprehensive review of the Iran deal, and the conclusions are likely to be harsh.”
--“Whether or not Trump ‘rips up’ the nuclear deal or launches an all-out war against Iran, rapidly escalating tensions could make the deal politically unsustainable in either country. And while his decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord raises the long-term odds of an environmental catastrophe, exiting or undermining the agreement with Tehran could unleash a far more immediate disaster. With North Korea edging closer to an intercontinental ballistic missile, China expanding in the South China Sea, and Russia hacking U.S. elections, a nuclear crisis with Iran is the last thing the world needs. Yet Trump appears to be steering—or stumbling—in precisely that direction.” For the full article, click here.
See also - “The United States and Europe are on a collision course over Iran” by Erin Cunningham for The Washington Post here.
Michèle Flournoy on U.S. nuke policy - Kingston Reif and Maggie Tennis for Arms Control Association sat down with Michèle Flournoy and discussed U.S. nuclear weapons policy. When asked about the upcoming Nuclear Posture Review and if it will set into motion any changes, she responds, “some of the president’s early statements on these issues are not based in any deep policy review or any in-depth briefings he’s received. I wouldn’t put too much emphasis on some of his initial statements or first gut reactions to topics as they have come up.”
--Ms. Flournoy goes on to discuss the future of New START and notes that “if we withdrew or failed to extend New START, it would be an unforced error on our part.” Reif and Tennis also ask about her view on the INF Treaty and Ms. Flournoy adds that she’d prefer a more cost-effective way to maintain the U.S. nuclear arsenal rather than spending approximately $1 trillion. She concludes by saying that nuclear weapons are not meant to be used and “we stand in opposition and in contrast to countries like Russia who talk in a very cavalier manner about escalating to nuclear use in order to try to stop conventional war, which is incredibly irresponsible and incredibly dangerous.” To read the entire interview, click here.
Living in the era of nuclear brinksmanship - “If ever we needed a wake-up call, the North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) test on July 4 supplied it with a vengeance: The era of nuclear amnesia is over,” writes Michael T. Klare for The Nation. “Ever since the end of the Cold War, we’ve lived without the dread of an overseas crisis that might spiral into thermonuclear war. More than ever, we need experienced, levelheaded leadership in Washington to manage the multiple crises arising abroad, starting with the North Korean nuclear threat.” For the full article, click here.
See also - “Income Inequality Will Survive the Nuclear Apocalypse” by John Carl Baker for New Republic here.
--“The Iran Nuclear Deal Has Been a Blessing for Israel” by Carmi Gillon for Foreign Policy here.
--“Trump administration certifies Iran still complying with nuclear deal” by Nahal Toosi for POLITICO here.
--“Obama's gift to Trump: A lasting deal on Iran's nuclear program” by Jen Psaki for CNN here.
--“Trump Is Violating The Iran Deal” by Reza Marashi and Tyler Cullis for HuffPost here.
--“Less Iran-Bashing And More Dialogue, Please” by Dr. Mehrdad Khonsari for HuffPost here.
--“The U.N. just passed a treaty outlawing nuclear weapons. That actually matters.” by Nina Tannenwald for The Washington Post here.
--“U.S.-China relations creak under failure to rein in Pyongyang” by Tetsushi Takahashi for Nikkei Asian Review here.
--“Distrust in Trump deepens North Korea concerns (POLL)” by Allison De Jong for ABC News here.
--“EU says it is mulling tougher sanctions against N.K.” for Yonhap News Agency here.
--Options for the Trump Nuclear Posture Review, featuring Adam Smith, Simon Limage, Brian McKeon and Laicie Heely. July 20, 2017 10:00 a.m. - 11:15 a.m. ET at the Center for American Progress, 1333 H Street NW, 10th Floor, Washington, D.C., 20005. Webcast available. Details here.