Opinion: Keeping Iran deal is in America’s best interests

This undated image distributed on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, by the North Korean government, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an undisclosed location. North Korea’s latest nuclear test was part theater, part propaganda and maybe even part fake. But experts say it was also a major display of something very real: Pyongyang’s mastery of much of the know-how it needs to reach its decades-old goal of becoming a full-fledged nuclear state. The jury is still out on whether North Korea tested, as it claims, a hydrogen bomb ready to be mounted on an ICBM. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

This undated image distributed on Sunday, Sept. 3, 2017, by the North Korean government, shows North Korean leader Kim Jong Un at an undisclosed location. North Korea’s latest nuclear test was part theater, part propaganda and maybe even part fake. But experts say it was also a major display of something very real: Pyongyang’s mastery of much of the know-how it needs to reach its decades-old goal of becoming a full-fledged nuclear state. The jury is still out on whether North Korea tested, as it claims, a hydrogen bomb ready to be mounted on an ICBM. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP, File)

The Iran Nuclear Agreement was one of the signature diplomatic undertakings of the Obama Administration. The deal aimed to cut off all the major pathways Iran could take towards constructing a bomb. These steps included reducing Iran’s uranium stockpile by 98 percent, keeping the level of enrichment for the uranium they do have below where it would need to be to create a nuclear weapon, and redesigning the only reactor they had that could produce weapons grade plutonium.  When the deal was signed it was estimated that Iran was only 2-3 months from producing a bomb’s worth of material.

In exchange for this, Iran primarily got two things. One, the U.S. relaxed sanctions specifically put into place to force Iran to negotiate. Additionally Iran was able to access assets that the U.S. had frozen. The total amount of these frozen assets is around 100 billion dollars and Iran would be able to access slightly over half of this amount. To be clear, this is Iran’s own money and not U.S. money that they will have access to. I have chosen to highlight items that our current president often leaves out in his speeches, but are nevertheless relevant to understanding and having an informed opinion on the deal.    

Trump has said since the campaign that he wants to scrap the agreement, and is currently thought to be moving more aggressively in that direction. Every three months Trump has to certify Iran’s compliance with the deal, which he did reluctantly in July. He has stated he expects to find Iran in violation at the next report in October, despite the fact that the most recent international inspection yielded no evidence that Iran was violating the agreement.

Leaving the accord would create a massive security threat. North Korea is a major foreign policy issue in large part because they have nuclear capabilities. A nuclear Iran would further complicate an already unstable region, and be a greater threat to other countries like Israel. If Iran shared nuclear technology or weapons with some of the terrorist groups it has been known to support, the result could be catastrophic.

Unilaterally announcing, with no real proof, that Iran was violating the nuclear accord would be a diplomatic catastrophe. The other signatories to the agreement (Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia) have all indicated that they agree with international inspectors and seek to keep the deal in place. If the U.S. were to withdraw, the country would be isolated on the issue and therefore have a much weaker position on future negotiations.

U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley has publicly stated that the President would be justified in scrapping the accord because Iran is in violation of the “spirit” of the arrangement. This is an extremely dangerous position to take when it comes to international diplomacy. If a country agrees to an accord or treaty, they are expected to uphold their end of the bargain. Declaring Iran noncompliant when they have thus far followed the agreement would diminish the value of America’s word in the eyes of the world. Such a move would provide incredible propaganda for Iran and other countries that are distrustful of the United States. They can point to how they did everything that was asked of them and yet the U.S. broke off the deal because they essentially didn’t like it anymore.

Something that doesn’t get mentioned enough is that the nuclear deal was a victory for moderates in Iran, and helped them do well in the most recent elections. The more control moderates are able to exert over Iran, the less repressive the country will become. Every new liberty moves Iran one step closer to being an open and free country once again. Killing the nuclear deal would likely set back much of the progress that has been made towards the goal.

Canceling the Iran Nuclear Deal would be a massive mistake in regards to national security, diplomacy, and Iran’s gradual movement toward a more democratic society. Unless Iran is found to have actually violated the agreement, the President should stay in the agreement.


Jacob Kowalski is opinion editor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at jacob.kowalski@uconn.edu.