May 6, 2018

The Iranian nuclear deal - fix it or nix it

With the growing use of various social media, I have begun putting more immediate and shorter pieces of analysis on such fora as Twitter (please follow me: @MiddleEastGuy).

Here is what is called a "thread" about the Iranian deal and the upcoming Presidential decision on whether to continue certifying Iran as in compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and continue to provide sanctions relief, or refuse to certify the agreement and trigger the re-imposition of crippling US sanctions. I have expanded some of the text to make it easier to read for "non-tweeters."

You can probably guess my view on the JCPOA debacle....

The above photo appeared in a Washington Post article that begins:

WASHINGTON — John Kerry’s bid to save one of his most significant accomplishments as secretary of state took him to New York on a Sunday afternoon two weeks ago, where, more than a year after he left office, he engaged in some unusual shadow diplomacy with a top-ranking Iranian official.

He sat down at the United Nations with Foreign Minister Javad Zarif to discuss ways of preserving the pact limiting Iran’s nuclear weapons program. It was the second time in about two months that the two had met to strategize over salvaging a deal they spent years negotiating during the Obama administration, according to a person briefed on the meetings.

Tweet 1:
[Former U.S. Secretary of State] @JohnKerry was badly outplayed by #Iran|ian counterpart [Foreign Mininster] @JZarif and #Russia's [Foreign Mininster] Sergey Lavrov to further [U.S. President Barack Obama] @POTUS44's signature [foreign policy] failure. Now he is likely in violation of the #LoganAct* as he conspires to aid [Iran,] the world's primary state sponsor of terrorism.

Tweet 2:
Lavrov went one better than @JZarif requesting that ballistic missile restrictions be lifted - I doubt he thought even the hapless @JohnKerry would agree. Not only did Kerry cave in to virtually every Iranian demand, he gave in to the Russians,too.

Tweet 3:
During the "negotiations" - an ambitious description of the total Kerry cave-in - the "anytime, anywhere" inspection/verification protocol was changed to a lengthy notification and appeals process, and former military aspects declarations of the Iranian program were forgotten.

Tweet 4:
As for Iranian military sites, the final document does theoretically grant access to [United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency] IAEA inspectors. The Iranians dispute this - who knows what side secret agreements were reached by Zarif and Kerry? Anything to get a deal - any deal, even a bad one.

Tweet 5:
I am not against an agreement that removes #Iran as a nuclear threat. I am against a bad deal that is not verifiable. The #IAEA refuses to demand access - authorized by the deal - to Iranian military sites, as it believes Iran's refusal will be a reason for the U.S. to leave the deal.

Tweet 6:
I suspect [U.S. President Donald Trump] @realDonaldTrump may stay in the deal for the sake of the @NATO alliance ([French President Emmanuel] Macron and [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel), but remember the "allies" are in this to sell things to Iran, not to limit Iranian nuclear efforts. I urge the President to consider American national interests, not Europe's.

Of course, I was savaged by supporters of the JCPOA. Most of these detractors are either members of the Obama Administration, supporters of the terminally ineffective John Kerry, or have no appreciation for the Iranian regime. They all have a vested interest in the Obama legacy - otherwise, they will be unmasked as supporting the world's worst supporters of terrorism, the mullahs in Tehran.

Either fix this disastrous agreement - not likely - or kill it.

On the May 6 edition of the CNN show Fareed Zakaria GPS, retired General Danny Yatom, former director of the Israeli intelligence service, urges President Trump to remain in the JCPOA, with the following important condition, which Fareed did not highlight.

Yatom advises the President to use the recent Israeli intelligence revelations about Iranian failure to declare the scope of its previous nuclear weapons programs, the Previous Military Dimensions (PMD), as specifically required by the JCPOA, to force the Iranians to agree to amendments to the agreement.

I know Danny Yatom - he is a tough former commando, experienced strategic and tactical intelligence officer, and a skilled politician. He is not naive. Certainly he knows that the Iranians have specifically rejected any amendments or adjustments to the JCPOA.

Why would they agree to changes? They have received almost all the benefits already - another Kerry failure. If the agreement fails, they will feel justified in resuming (many of us believe it has never stopped) their nuclear weapons program and will have reaped most of the benefits of the JCPOA as well.

That said - I can live with Yatom's suggestion, but I seriously doubt the Iranians will agree.

* The Logan Act is a 1799 statute that bars private citizens from interfering with diplomatic relations between the United States and foreign governments. It makes it a felony, punishable by a fine or imprisonment of up to three years, if an American citizen, without government authorization, interacts “with any foreign government or any officer or agent thereof, with intent to influence the measures or conduct of any foreign government or of any officer or agent thereof, in relation to any disputes or controversies with the United States, or to defeat the measures of the United States.”