The Trump administration announced yesterday that it has found Iran to be in compliance with the nuclear agreement negotiated in 2015 — the very same deal that candidate Trump promised to dismantle.
According to the terms of the agreement, the president’s administration must notify Congress every 90 days that Iran has been certified as compliant. This the Trump administration did on the deadline yesterday, having come to the same conclusion as the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Associated Press reports.
Compliance, according to the stipulations of the agreement as negotiated by the Obama administration and others, is to be rewarded with sanction relief. Despite the Trump administration’s conclusion that Iran is currently complying, the letter Secretary of State Tillerson sent to Congress indicates that neither he nor President Trump feel beholden to lighten the sanctions. From Yahoo news:
“President Donald J. Trump has directed a National Security Council-led interagency review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action that will evaluate whether suspension of sanctions related to Iran pursuant to the JCPOA is vital to the national security interests of the United States.”
Iran is a state-sponsor of terror, sponsors the Assad regime in Syria and violates human rights, and is subject to sanctions unrelated to the nuclear deal for those reasons. However, Trump seemed to agree with critics that the carrot-and-stick provisions of the agreement were insufficient.
Twitter users have already taken advantage of the permanency of the internet to remind us and the president of his promises on the campaign trail.
The #IranDeal is a catastrophe that must be stopped. Will lead to at least partial world destruction & make Iran a force like never before.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 11, 2015
The larger problem here is that the fundamental flaw in the nuclear agreement remains — verification — as does the fundamentally dangerous assumption about Iranian trustworthiness. On the first point, inspectors are given “managed access.” They don’t get to go where they please when they please; Iranian approval is necessary. Inspections can be denied or delayed. Little imagination is necessary to picture another Lincoln-Steffens-visits-the-USSR situation (“I’ve seen the future and it works”) or another Michael-Moore-visits-Cuba situation (sorry for making you picture Michael Moore).
Managed access is only sufficient when the party managing the access is honest. In addition to all of the above reasons Iran is under sanction, which would lead any reasonable person to consider them untrustworthy, Iran already has a history of stonewalling information on its nuclear research.
I sincerely hope that the Trump administration and the IAEA are correct and Iran is complying. Of course, the agreement only calls for a halt in the enrichment of uranium for ten years. Not a single centrifuge is dismantled. In Charles Krauthammer’s words:
They will now be fed xenon, zinc and germanium instead of uranium. But that means they remain ready at any time to revert from the world’s most heavily (indeed comically) fortified medical isotope facility to a bomb-making factory.
The fact that President Trump, who is normally more distrusting of experts than I am, has shown little skepticism of his administration’s findings so far only makes the news more troubling. The Iran deal was one issue on which his personality appeared to incline him to keep his promises. It was no surprise that Obama and his administration assumed Iran would comply. The same cannot be said of Trump.