By Herbert London
President, London Center for Policy Research
There is a season for acceptance and a season for rejection. When it comes to compliance with the Obama nuclear weapons deal, it is time to withdraw completely at the congressionally mandated October 15 certification deadline.
There are those in the Congress and the Trump administration who believe it is too dangerous to simply walk away from an agreement. Secretary Mattis, for example, said it was in America’s national security interest to stay in the Iran deal. He, among others, has seized on the statutory provision that every 90 days the president must certify that the accord is in the nation’s security interest. They contend that President Trump should maintain the deal, but not sign the next certification this month, an odd combination of events.
As I see it, this strategic position, is clever by half. The issue isn’t really certification; it is the protection of U.S. interests. An Iran that promotes terrorism worldwide and at least in spirit has violated the accord is hardly a reliable partner.
The ayatollahs are unwilling to consider any change in the agreement, an agreement which will assuredly lead to the development of nuclear weapons in five or ten years depending on your interpretation of the JCPOA understanding. In fact, the Iranian leaders have cleverly convinced many in the U.N. that its missiles are not “designed” to carry nuclear weapons, a claim that cannot be verified based on the ambiguous inspection rules, or lack thereof.
Should the U.S. withdraw from the deal, it would not have the slightest practical effect on present conditions. Surely, there will be a U.N. condemnation. But President Trump’s instincts on this matter have been stated repeatedly. “This is a bad deal, a very bad deal,” he noted. If that is the case, it is time to send Iran a message: the U.S. will not countenance your violations, nor will the Trump administration stand by as you promote terrorism around the globe.
What the Obama administration promoted with Iran is now regarded as a precedent for fledging nuclear nations like North Korea. It has been argued that what is good for one devilish nation should be good for another. North Korea claims it has a right to possess and test nuclear weapons. When challenged on this point, the North Korean ambassador to the United Nations invariably refers to the P5+1 accord with Iran. After all, five of these six nations constitute the Security Council, the legal test for the United Nations.
Should the Trump team withdraw from the Iran deal – as I believe it should – the effect on our ties to Iran would be negligible. In fact, the deterrence that undergirds the U.S. position would be unaffected. North Koreans would learn that a different stance on world affairs is now on order, one not particularly eager to compromise with rogue states.
Next year will be the anniversary of the 1928 Kellogg Briand pact in which signatory states promised not to use war to resolve “disputes or conflicts of whatever nature or of whatever origin…” It was the so-called pact to end war which in retrospect had little effect. One might even argue that it introduced a period of naïve complacency that invited Nazi aggression a decade later.
The Iran deal is the twenty-first century version of Kellogg Briand, a pact which has created the absurd illusion that Iran would curb its terror activity and voluntarily adhere to an arrangement that cannot be verified. Just as Kellogg Briand depended on nations to maintain peaceful pursuits, the 159-page Nuclear agreement with Iran is written in the subjunctive case that maintains conditions that might occur, rather than conditions that must occur.
State Department officials who are trained to never say “no,” observe the deal as a useful, if not dispositive, document. They are willing to forgive violations and even avert their gaze to heavy water reactor developments which could ease the way to nuclear weapons. There is little doubt Iran and North Korea have been sharing nuclear technology. The road from Tehran to Pyongyang has been traversed dozens of times by nuclear scientists who stand athwart history saying “our time has come.”
Trump should deliver one firm and unequivocal message: The United States will not comply with a bad deal that is not in American interest and will completely withdraw from the nuclear accord with Iran.