Key Problems Trump Needs to Address on the Iran Nuclear Deal

By Amir Basiri

Forbes

February 28, 2017

Iranís recent ballistic missile test was the latest manifestation of its enmity toward the international community and its disrespect for its commitments under UN resolutions and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the nuclear deal forged between Tehran and world powers in 2015 is formally known.

Fearful of what U.S. President Donald Trump will do with the nuclear accord, proponents of the agreement have tried to frame it as a certifiable success and a historic achievement that prevented open warfare with one of the longest-standing foes of the international community and the U.S.

However, the Iranian regime continues to dismay them with its openly hostile behavior.

But while apologists of the appeasement policy toward Tehran tout the achievements of the JCPOA, they fail to mention any of the shortcomings and failures that have earned deal the title of ďthe worst deal ever negotiated

And on that front, handsome much can be said.

The new round of sanctions against Iranian regime individuals and entities is a positive step toward curbing Iranís evil machinations. But thereís a lot more that needs to be done.

Hereís are the key facts that make the JCPOA a weak agreementóif not a failed oneóand need to be addressed.

Uranium enrichment

Backers of the Iran deal maintain that the accord has put caps on Iranís nuclear program by limiting its enriched uranium stockpile, level of enrichment and number of functional centrifuges. But all of those limits are predicated on hoping that the Iranian regime will keep its word, which is not saying much. 

And the mere fact that an extremist regime and the leading state sponsor of terrorism is allowed to enrich uranium is in itself a failure. Whatís interesting is that, before capitulating to Tehran, it was the Obama Administrationís stated position that Iran has no right to enrich uranium.

Iran could have perfectly achieved a peaceful nuclear energy program by purchasing fuel from the international market, and it would have even cost less than maintaining a domestic enrichment program. Tehranís insistence on its ďinalienable right to enrichmentĒ further betrays its true intentions. 

Having a nuclear threshold state in the Middle East will only exacerbate tensions in the neighborhood and possibly drive other nations to pursue their own nuclear program to protect themselves in case Iran does away with its commitments and breaks away toward nuclear weapons.

Sunset clause

The JCPOA provisions a sunset clause, which sets expiration dates on the limits imposed on Iranís nuclear program. 

This gives Iran the green light to extend its centrifuges beyond the current 6,000 limit after 10 years, and after 15 years itíll be free to grow its nuclear stockpile beyond the current 300-kilogram cap as well as create heavy water reactors, which can generate weapons-grade plutonium. 

Even Obama admits that in years 13, 14 and 15 of the deal, Iranís breakout time ďwould have shrunk almost down to zero,Ē which means if Iran decides to dash for the bomb, it would have it in no time. 

Proponents of the deal are hopeful that, by then, the Iranian regime will lose heart for pursuing nuclear bombs. However, statements by high Iranian authorities only prove that Tehran continues to entertain thoughts of restoring its nuclear program to its previous stateóand beyond. 

If the past four decades are any indication, nothing short of regime change will deter the mullahs ruling Iran from their nuclear ambitions or other evil intentions meant to preserve their power.

Non-transparent inspections

Following the forging of the pact, Obama stressed that the JCPOA does not rely on trust but on verification. The White House declared that under the new nuclear deal, ďIran has committed to extraordinary and robust monitoring, verification and inspection.Ē 

But Iranís written commitment, the mechanisms put in place to verify Iranís compliance to the terms of the deal, are very weak. 

Under the accord, the task of policing Iranís nuclear activities will fall to a small band of IAEA inspectors who are supposed to have real-time access to Iranís declared nuclear sites. However, Iran strictly limited access to its long-suspected Parchin facility, and proceeded with providing its own environmental samples of the site without inspectors physically present, the result of an alleged side deal between Washington and Tehran.

Moreover, should inspectors desire to investigate a new suspicious site, Iran can stall the process for up to 54 days, enough time to sanitize its sites and remove evidence. 

Case in point: The IAEAís first and second quarterly reports on Iranís implementation of the nuclear deal provide less information on the regimeís nuclear activities than the reports preceding the agreement, a fact that caused worry among U.S. Senators who originally supported the deal.

And letís not forget that Iran never officially ratified its adherence to the Additional Protocol, giving it yet another loophole to renege on its obligations at its whim. 

Given Iranís history at concealing its nuclear program, contrary to what Obama said, the current inspections regime puts too much trust in the Iranian regime.

Coming clean on past activities

The JCPOA never addressed in earnest the Possible Military Dimensions (PMD) of Iranís nuclear program. While the IAEA did release a report in which it stated clearly that Iran was involved in research and development of nuclear bombs, the fact was never acknowledged by Iranian officials, who continue to claim Tehranís nuclear program is of a peaceful nature. 

The international community nonetheless decided to close the investigation and let Iran off the hook, and in defense of its position, the Obama Administration claimed it was unrealistic to expect Iran to come clean on its past military nuclear program. 

Neither did the administration acknowledge it was wrong to trust in a Fatwa (edict) issued by the Iranian regimeís supreme leader supposedly banning nuclear weapons development activity.

Not holding Iran to account for its past violations or its lying to the international community will set a bad precedent and pave the way for future duplicity and evasion of inspections.

Iranís other illicit activities

While the Iran deal provided Tehran access to billions of dollars in unfrozen assets and lifted sanctions, the international community didnít put necessary safeguards in place to guarantee Iran would not use the bonanza to fuel its other nefarious activities, namely its support of terrorism or its ballistic missile program. 

Again, Obama put too much trust in Iran, as he clearly stated in his press conference on the morrow of the dealís signing, expressing hope that ďbuilding on this deal, we can continue to have conversations with Iran that incentivize them to behave differently in the region, to be less aggressive, less hostile, more cooperative, to operate the way we expect nations in the international community to behave.Ē

Yet a year after the dealís implementation, Iran has used the windfall cash from the nuclear deal to not restore its bankrupt economy, but to fill the coffers of the Revolutionary Guards and push forth its meddling in Syria, and its violent agenda in Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon. Iran has continued to develop and test ballistic missiles, make the waters of the Persian Gulf unsafe, take foreign nationals as hostages, and carry out other activities defiant of the spirit of the deal.

Facing the truth

Before and after signing the JCPOA, the Iranian regime has proven that it will not be a peaceful member of the international community. The ballistic missile test was just the latest episode and another wakeup call. 

Whether Trump was earnest in his promise to scrap the Iran deal, or to renegotiate it, or to strictly monitor its implementation is yet to be seen. But when he said that it was a bad deal, he spoke truly, and we should disillusion ourselves about the realities of a deal that is based on putting too much confidence in the promises of a regime that has time and again betrayed the trust of the international community. 

Addressing these key failures and taking a tougher stance against the Iranian regime and its acts of mischief can put us on the path to a safer Middle East, and by extension, a more peaceful world.