Despite Donald Trump’s insistence during the presidential campaign that the 2015 nuclear agreement with Iran – the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – was the “worst deal ever” and Iran’s failure to fully comply with this agreement, the Trump administration Tuesday certified to Congress that Iran is in compliance with the agreement and will continue to receive sanction relief. The administration added, however that the agreement is under review.
Make no mistake: this is a huge win for the Obama administration and the permanent foreign policy bureaucracy – the so-called swamp – who desperately want to protect this flawed and dangerous agreement at all costs.
The certification probably indicates the outcome of the Trump administration’s review of the JCPOA is a forgone conclusion just like a similar review in 2001 by the Bush administration of a deeply-flawed nuclear agreement with North Korea.
The publicly known reasons that Iran is not in compliance with the JCPOA include:
- Iran is not allowing International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors access to military sites. If Iran is engaged in covert nuclear weapons work, this is where it is taking place. As long as Iran refuses to allow the IAEA unfettered access to all military sites, it is not in compliance with the JCPOA and the international community cannot be confident that Iran’s nuclear weapons program has been halted.
- According to a March 3, 2017 report by the Institute for Science and International Security, Iran has produced and stockpiled more heavy-water than it is allowed under the JCPOA and is storing some heavy-water outside of Iran. Heavy-water is a proliferation concern because it can be used in a nuclear reactor design that produces large amounts of plutonium, a nuclear weapons fuel.
- The Institute report also said that although a February 2017 IAEA report claimed Iran was in compliance with a commitment to limit its stockpile of reactor-grade uranium to 300 kg, it only met this cap because the JCPOA’s Joint Commission granted Iran exemptions to exclude several quantities of enriched uranium from the cap. Concerning the IAEA’s reporting on this issue, the Institute report said the IAEA was being forced to use “convoluted and potentially deceptive language.”
In his press conference Wednesday, Sean Spicer seemed to contradict an earlier statement by the State Department that it determined Iran is in compliance with the agreement. Both Spicer and State are ignoring violations like those listed above that should have caused the Trump administration to declare Iran in noncompliance with the JCPOA months ago.
Although the above violations are serious, it is worth stressing that Iran can continue making progress in its nuclear weapons program without violating the JCPOA since the deal allows it to enrich uranium with over 5,000 centrifuges, develop and test advanced centrifuges and construct a plutonium-producing heavy-water reactor.
As Israeli Ambassador to the United States put it in an April 14, 2017 Wall Street Journal oped, the JCPOA “is so inherently flawed that Tehran doesn’t even have to break it. Honoring it will be enough to endanger millions of lives.”
As I explained in my book “Obamabomb: A Dangerous and Growing National Security Fraud,” the Obama administration was fully aware of these concerns but agreed to the JCPOA anyway because it desperately wanted a legacy Iran nuclear deal for President Obama and probably did not view Iran’s nuclear weapons program as a serious threat.
Foreign policy careerists – the swamp -- share the Obama administration’s views on the Iran deal and are working hard to protect it. They are claiming the only alternative to this agreement is war with Iran and that withdrawing from the deal would isolate the United States. In a November 2016 article I explained why these arguments are false and why it is urgent that the Trump administration kill or substantially renegotiate the fraudulent Iran deal.
Unfortunately, it appears that some Trump officials have been convinced to stick with the deal.
A major reason for this is because almost all foreign policy posts responsible for the Iran deal are staffed by Obama administration holdovers due to the failure of the Trump administration to fill jobs at the State and Defense Departments.
When Secretary of State Tillerson certified Iran was in compliance with the JCPOA on Tuesday, he added that U.S. Iran policy “is under review.”
Wednesday, Tillerson tried to respond to conservative criticism of his compliance finding by stating that Iran remains a state sponsor of terror and the JCPOA is an incredibly flawed agreement.
I don’t take any comfort from these statements because they remind me of the 2001 review by the Bush administration of the disastrous nuclear deal with North Korea – the Agreed Framework – which allowed North Korea to keep its nuclear weapons and was violated by Pyongyang while the ink was drying on the agreement.
The 1994 Agreed Framework was also strongly opposed by congressional Republicans and was supported by the foreign policy establishment which claimed there was no alternative to this deeply flawed pact.
The Bush administration repeatedly said North Korea was in compliance with this deal even though it wasn’t and completed a policy review in June 2001 that kept the deal but promised tougher enforcement.
The Agreed Framework collapsed when the U.S. presented North Korea with evidence that it had a covert uranium enrichment program that violated this agreement.
North Korea used the time and huge concessions it gained from the Agreed Framework to accelerate its nuclear weapons and missile programs. It conducted its first of five nuclear tests in 2006.
I fear history is about to repeat itself.
Tuesday’s certification that Iran is in compliance with the JCPOA and statements by some Trump officials may indicate the Swamp will once again convince a Republican administration to keep a deeply flawed nuclear agreement with a rogue state negotiated by a prior Democratic administration.
Meanwhile, I believe Iran’s nuclear weapons program continues, probably in close coordination with North Korea.
Fortunately, there is still time for President Trump to get this right and fulfill his campaign promises to tear up, or substantially renegotiate, the fraudulent nuclear deal with Iran.
The first thing he should do is to tell Secretary Tillerson to immediately start filling State Department jobs that deal with the Iran deal with appointees who support the president’s position on this issue. -- Tillerson also must be told to stop declaring that Iran in compliance with this agreement.
Most importantly, President Trump must publicly restate his strong opposition to the JCPOA to make it clear to his appointees and the Swamp that he will not tolerate a nuclear agreement with Iran unless it actually halts Tehran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons and also addresses Iran’s missile program, support of terrorism and its efforts to destabilize the Middle East.