Guest editorial: Senate can improve Iran deal
President Trump announced last week that he wouldn’t re-certify the 2015 Iran deal, reiterating claims that the deal “was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into.”
Though Trump threatened to terminate the agreement if the Congress, U.S. allies and Iran cannot agree to stronger terms, Trump chose not to withdraw from the deal, a fortunate show of restraint considering he would be within his authority to do so.
For all its shortcomings, the agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, has been vital in containing the threat of a nuclear Iran, at least for now. The agreement between Iran, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, Germany and the European Union imposed strict limits on Iran’s nuclear program and by all accounts has worked as intended.
Under the terms of the deal, Iran lost more than 97 percent of its enriched uranium stockpile, removed two-thirds of its centrifuges, and agreed to a litany of uranium and plutonium limits, inspection requirements and other demands set to expire over the course of 10 to 25 years. In return, Iran received relief from sanctions.
While Iran has committed a few minor technical violations which have since been corrected, Iran is currently in compliance, according to the International Atomic Energy Agency, which is tasked with monitoring Iran’s compliance. Trump himself has recertified the deal multiple times this year, as recently as July. At this point, there is no evidence that Iran isn’t fulfilling its obligations. Trump, however, argues the deal is too one sided, mostly to the benefit of Iran.
In response to Trump’s refusal to re-certify Iran’s compliance, other parties to the agreement have staunchly defended it, including the leaders of France, Germany and the UK, who called on Trump and the Congress “to consider the implications to the security of the U.S. and its allies before taking any steps that might undermine the JCPOA.” Indeed, terminating American participation in the agreement will only undermine the credibility of U.S. diplomacy while doing little to ensure global security.
To his credit, Trump did raise many valid concerns about Iran in his remarks, including with regard to Iran’s missiles.
To the first point, Trump explicitly called out Iran’s ballistic missile program, which was once prohibited under a 2010 U.N. resolution but became more ambiguous under the 2015 resolution of the U.N. Security Council endorsing the JCPOA, which terminated the 2010 resolution’s language “that Iran shall not undertake any activity related to ballistic missiles capable of delivering nuclear weapons” in favor of language saying “Iran is called upon not to undertake” such activity.
The leaders of the U.K., France and Germany echoed Trump’s concerns about Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as broader concerns about Iran’s destabilizing efforts across the Middle East. The U.S., in partnership with others, should take on these concerns through negotiations without undermining the JCPOA. By kicking the matter over to Congress, rather than scrapping the deal, Trump has done the right thing. Mindful of the potential consequences of the U.S. unilaterally pulling from the deal, the Senate should develop an approach that doesn’t undercut the agreement, but rather strengthens it and affirms American commitment to the deal.
— The Orange County Register, Oct. 18