Key US Allies Warn Trump Not to Kill Iran Accord

America’s closest allies are warning President Trump that pulling out of a key nuclear security accord would weaken alliance solidarity and risk increased chaos in the Middle East. "I can think of no regional issue that would not be even more difficult to handle if Iran possessed nuclear weapons," said David O’Sullivan, the European Union Ambassador to the US. “It is all about taking the nuclear issue out of the equation.”

“We don’t think it will be possible to renegotiate it,” added German Ambassador Peter Wittig, “and we believe there is no practical peaceful alternative to this deal.” French Ambassador Gérard Araud called attempts to do so “a nonstarter” and “dead air.”

Ambassadors Wittig and O’Sullivan were joined by their French and British counterparts at the Atlantic Council last week to discuss Europe and the Iran Deal. The Europeans contend that the Iran Deal is working; that it enhances security; and that Iran’s bad behavior can be dealt with without trashing the nuclear deal.

The Iran Deal has prevented a nuclear crisis in the Middle East, enhancing international security significantly: “These problems are on our doorstep… These issues matter to us and to our national security more than you could imagine,” said British Ambassador Darroch, pointing out that crises in the Middle East are directly correlated to refugee flows into Europe. “This agreement is delivering on a very, very important objective, which is to make sure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons,” agreed Amb. O’Sullivan. Amb. Darroch stressed the success of the deal, citing Iran’s removal of heavy water and centrifuges: “these are real and huge advances as product of this deal - so no wonder we all support it.”

Furthermore, the Iranians are complying: the IAEA continues to certify their compliance, and the Europeans emphasized that walking away would have global repercussions: “that would affect our credibility in the West, when we’re not honoring an agreement that Iran has not violated… what kind of signal would this send to countries like North Korea?” asked Amb. Wittig.

Iran’s bad behavior in non-nuclear realms is no reason to renegotiate the current deal, said Amb. Araud: "nothing in the agreement is preventing us from facing the challenges raised by Iran on other issues.” Amb. Darroch concurred: “let's intensify those discussions, but let's keep the JCPOA.”

U.S. negotiators have long warned that abrogating the deal is counterproductive and harmful for U.S.-Europe relations; chief Iran Deal negotiator Wendy Sherman has said that “Either directly or indirectly, ripping up this deal by the United States is the worst thing we could do for American national security.”

Federica Mogherini, the European Union’s foreign policy and security chief, had previously argued that there is “no need to reopen the agreement because it’s fully delivering,” and stressed the implications of abandoning the Iran Deal in the midst of a crisis with North Korea: “We already have one potential nuclear crisis… We definitely do not need to go into a second one.”

Secretary of State John Kerry echoed that sentiment: “sticking with the deal means we don’t jump back in the barrel headed toward military conflict with Iran, and we can focus on North Korea’s white-hot nuclear threat today.” He continues: “We maintain leverage by sticking with the agreement, and European foreign ministers tell me that they would join us in confronting other Iranian misdeeds. What leverage do we gain by walking away when we know Iran is complying?”

Experts and a bipartisan coalition of U.S. politicians agree, with former Biden national security advisor Colin Kahl calling a better Iran Deal a “myth” and Virginia Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) warning of the consequences of abandoning the deal. Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Corker (R-TN) has come out against tearing it up. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs has affirmed that Iran is in compliance and that leaving the deal is unwise.

Between U.S. experts’ advice and our allies warnings, the message is clear that if the U.S. wants to renegotiate or walk away from the Iran Deal, it will do so alone.

More resources

--“One Very Big Reason Not to Scrap the Iran Nuclear Deal,” Jeremy Bernstein for The New York Times, October 2, 2017 here.

--“Ex-Netanyahu national security adviser urges US to keep Iran Deal,” Laura Rozen for Al-Monitor, October 2, 2017 here.

--“Europeans Intensify Lobbying to Preserve Iran Deal,” Jamie Dettmer for Voice of America, October 1, 2017 here.

--“German Ambassador On Keeping the Iran Deal,” Amb. Peter Wittig interviewed by Rachel Martin for National Public Radio, September 29, 2017 here.

--“Trump wants to cancel the Iran Deal. His administration doesn’t seem to know what it does.” Zack Beauchamp for Vox, September 29, 2017 here.

--“Trump Goes Rogue on Iran,” Nick Wadhams for Bloomberg Businessweek, September 29, 2017 here.

--“No good reason for Trump not to certify Iran nuclear compliance,” Mark Fitzpatrick for IISS, September 25, 2017 here.

--“For the sake of national security, Trump must honor the Iran deal,” David Wade for The Hill, September 25, 2017 here.

--“Here Are the Facts about the Iran Deal,” Daniel DePetris for The National Interest, September 21, 2017 here.

--“France tells Trump that quitting Iran nuclear deal risks ‘spiral of proliferation,’” Julian Borger for The Guardian, September 18, 2017 here.

--“More than 70 top European officials urge the U.S. to re-certify Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal,” Melissa Etehad for LA Times, September 18, 2017 here.

--“U.S. must consider broader Iran threats when formulating new strategy - Tillerson,” William James for Reuters, September 14, 2017 here.

--“The U.S. Is Testing Support for Extending Iran Nuclear Limits,” Nick Wadhams for Bloomberg Politics, September 13, 2017 here.

--“Three strikes against claims that Iran is violating the nuclear accord,” Mark Fitzpatrick for IISS, July 27, 2017 here.

Rose Blanchard is a research assistant at Ploughshares Fund.

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