Will President-elect Donald Trump crash the Iran deal on day one, as he said on the campaign trail? If so, Barack Obama’s signature foreign policy initiative, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will melt into air. Obama allies and Iran deal supporters at home and abroad are already showing their anxiety.
The president-elect shouldn’t tear up the agreement, argues the National Iranian American Council, a key voice in the administration’s deal-promoting echo chamber. NIAC’s Reza Marashi and Trita Parsi wrote last week that it’s “in the interest of the United States to build on the Iran nuclear deal to resolve remaining tensions with Iran and help stabilize the Middle East.”
The Europeans are also concerned. Last week, EU foreign ministers issued a statement from Brussels. “The upholding of commitments by all sides is a necessary condition to continue rebuilding trust and allow for continued, steady and gradual improvement in relations between the European Union, its member States and Iran.”
As we argued in these pages last week, the Iran deal is likely to collapse under its own weight if the incoming administration merely enforces its terms—something the Obama team has conspicuously failed to do. Instead, the Obama White House has bribed Iran, drummed up business for the regime, kept Congress from imposing nonnuclear sanctions, and excused Iranian violations. If the Trump White House simply stops propping up what the president-elect has called the “worst deal ever negotiated,” the Iranians are likely to walk.
What worries the deal’s supporters is that the new commander in chief will take an even more aggressive posture and undo with his own hands what he has called a “lopsided” agreement. Some argue that’s undesirable, and others impossible.
Senator Bob Corker, for instance, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, suggests that Trump should take a more tempered approach. “I don’t think he will tear it up, and I don’t think that’s the way to start,” said Corker, rumored to be in the running for secretary of state. “I think what he should do is build consensus with these other countries that [Iran is] definitely violating the agreement.”
Indeed, Iran is violating the agreement. Last week, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Yukiya Amano, noted that Iran had again exceeded its limit of heavy water (used to produce plutonium for nuclear warheads). Certainly the new president should seek to work with the deal’s signatories and other allies to build consensus on Iran. However, renegotiating the JCPOA—with a less than helpful Russia and China at the table, never mind Iran itself—involves risks. What if the world’s most famous negotiator can’t get a better agreement than his predecessor? It would lend weight to the Obama administration’s contention that the deal it secured with Iran was the best to be had. Worse, it leaves the new president with egg on his face and someone else’s deal in his pocket.
Trump is thus cornered, say Iran deal supporters; he has no choice but to abide by the agreement. The JCPOA is a “multilateral accord,” the European Union’s head of international affairs, Federica Mogherini, said last week. The JCPOA, she said, was “not concluded with one country or government but was approved by a resolution of the U.N. Security Council, and there is no possibility that it can be changed by a single government.”
Actually, that’s not true. There is very little to stop the Trump White House from toppling the JCPOA. The United States can reimpose its own nuclear-related sanctions, and more important it can reimpose multilateral sanctions—unilaterally. The means are outlined in Article 37 of the JCPOA and in U.N. Security Council Resolution 2231, which explain how the snapback measures work.
The instrument was designed to take advantage of the United States’ veto power at the U.N. Security Council, while sidelining the veto wielded by Iran’s two closest allies among the deal’s signatories, China and Russia. Let’s say Iran is found to be not in compliance with the JCPOA (and it is not, as the IAEA found last week). Any of the signatories can notify the Security Council, at which point the Security Council has 30 days to address the issue. If the concerns are not satisfied, a resolution comes before the Security Council to continue suspending nuclear sanctions on Iran. This is where the power of the veto comes into play—the United States would use its veto power to strike down the measure, at which point all multilateral sanctions would be reimposed. At that stage, Iran almost certainly walks out of the deal.
Iran deal supporters are likely to argue that the Trump White House cannot avail itself of this measure, even though the unilateral trigger on the “snapback” mechanism was how the administration sold the deal to some of its critics. The explanation for why Trump can’t use it is likely to be as bizarre and ad hoc as nearly everything that’s come out of the Obama administration’s Iran echo chamber. But here’s the thing—the advocates of the deal, like NIAC and other Obama surrogates, were powerful only because they were plugged into the White House for the last eight years. The “echo chamber” was just a well-funded fiction-writing workshop—as long as it was directed by the president of the United States, it produced what Obama deputy Ben Rhodes calls “narrative.” Once cut off from the White House, the echo chamber will simply spin fairy tales that bear no relationship to reality.
Untangling the Obama administration’s many myths will be among the multitude of tasks facing the incoming Trump White House. It can start with the simple expedient of enforcing the Iran deal, at which point it will die a quick death.
Article by Lee Smith The Weekly Standard – Read the original article here