John J. Bastiat / September 26, 2017

‘Iranian Treaty Compliance’ and Other Oxymorons

Trump is poised to make serious changes to the way the U.S. deals with Iran.

“We know Iran has already violated parts of the [nuclear] agreement. … They’re not just walking ‘up to the line’ on the agreement: They’re crossing the line at times.” —National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster

In the wake of his recent comprehensive review of U.S. policy toward Iran, President Donald Trump ably demonstrated he “gets it.” Referencing his future stance on the Iran nuclear deal brokered by his not-ready-for-primetime predecessor, President Trump hinted to reporters last week at the United Nations General Assembly, “I have decided. I’ll let you know what the decision is.” The president has often slammed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), that is, the so-called “Iran Deal.” That deal is also more appropriately termed a “treaty” — unless of course you’re Barack Obama and don’t want the Senate involved in ratifying it. Thus, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to infer Trump’s decision won’t favor Iran.

That’s certainly more than can be said for the previous decision oozing out of the executive branch, which traded Iran’s unverifiable “promise” to “limit” its development of nuclear weapons in exchange for the blanket lifting of crippling economic and political sanctions. In other words, as envisioned and executed during the Obama regime, Iran got a free pass. That ended last week.

Correctly labeling the fatally flawed agreement for what it is, in his address to the UN General Assembly the president branded JCPOA as “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the U.S. has ever entered into” and “an embarrassment to the U.S.” (Other than that, it’s a great agreement.) The president further warned that the status quo could have grave consequences: “We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.” These words are welcome and overdue.

Ending this raw deal for America is more than justified. As National Security Advisor and retired Gen. McMaster noted, Iran routinely violates even the overly generous terms of the current agreement. Although the administration did — reluctantly — certify this quarter’s compliance by Iran with JCPOA, the move seems, at the least, to be a political timing piece, not an affirmation that things are “jiggy” with a nation whose stated goal is to wipe Israel “and its allies” (read: us, a.k.a. “The Great Satan,” in Ayatollah-speak) “off the face of the earth.” Sure: Who wouldn’t want to enter a deal with a country like this? In any case, we wouldn’t advise optimism on certification next quarter (deadline October 15th). Some media sources claim ending JCPOA could trigger diplomatic upheaval with the five other nations, including China and Russia, that were involved in negotiating it, but so what? Ruffled “frenemy” feathers are nothing new or abnormally threatening to the U.S., while a nuclear-tipped Iran is.

Moreover, Iran shows no signs of changing its evil ways. Responding to Trump’s UN address, Iran dragged its usual “death to them all” diplomacy up from the gallows to give a fresh stink-eye to the rest of the civilized world. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani flatly declared that any ideas about renegotiation are dead on arrival. He also stated that “the Iranian people deserve an apology” from Trump, since he labeled their government a “murderous regime.” An apology? Since when does truth-in-diplomacy about, well, a murderous regime warrant an apology — especially to the people suffering under it?

As Trump further noted, “The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy.” As has been documented in myriad articles on countless occasions, Iran is also one of the world’s leading state sponsors and exporters of terrorism. More recently, it colluded with North Korea to co-develop both countries’ ballistic nuclear weapons programs, while simultaneously giving the middle finger to International Atomic Energy Agency nuclear facility inspectors. Iran restricted and even denied inspectors’ access to facilities that must be inspected to certify compliance with the JCPOA.

Then, last weekend, Iran test-fired another long-range ballistic missile as a figurative shot across the bow.

The only way to deal with rogue regimes such as these is to speak in the one language they all understand: Power. Iran must be made to understand that relief on likely soon-to-be-re-imposed sanctions is directly tied to its conduct, and that bad conduct means no relief — or even tighter sanctions. A good first step in that direction is to decertify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA.

As U.S. Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley noted, “If the president chooses not to certify Iranian compliance, that does not mean the United States is withdrawing from the JCPOA. If the president finds that he cannot certify Iranian compliance, it would be a message to Congress that the administration believes either that Iran is in violation of the deal, or that the lifting of sanctions against Iran is not appropriate and proportional to the regime’s behavior, or that the lifting of sanctions is not in the U.S. national security interest, or any combination of the three.”

In other words, decertification doesn’t end JCPOA; it simply gives the U.S. more leverage than it currently has. That’s at least a small first step in the right direction.

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