The Joint Comprehensive plan of action (JCPOA), more derisively known as the Iran nuclear deal, may have been flawed, but remains a better alternative to the current lack of any agreement with Iran. The JCPOA was brokered in 2015 in an attempt to prevent the Iranian government from obtaining nuclear weapons.
This deal had several issues, one of which has been resolved. It placed a 10-year moratorium on the production of enriched uranium in Iran. It included provisions for the reinstatement of the 2014 status quo if the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) found that the Iranian government did not violate the agreement. It also required the removal of sanctions and limited the ability of foreign actors to import weapons into Iran. One key objection was how capable the IAEA would be at verifying that Iran was not clandestinely pursuing nuclear weapons.
Other misgivings included a failure to address Iranian proxy warfare in regions such as Lebanon or Yemen. Furthermore, it merely delayed the program by 10 years. Another issue was the means of ratification. There was a debate on if it was a treaty worthy of congressional approval and if, contrary to standard practice where two-thirds of the senate is needed to ratify a treaty, the opposition needed a third of the senate to pass a bill to counter it.
However, despite its flaws, the deal has been implemented, and Iran appeared to comply.
The conditions of the deal lasted until June 2018. In concordance with election promises, decided to renege on the deal. As a result, Iran can contravene the deal without the appearance of acting in bad faith. Iran has begun to enrich uranium beyond JCPOA levels.
Besides the decrease in trust of the United States, there are other reasons the deal was sufficiently strong to address the nuclear aspect of Iranian belligerence. Firstly, Iran will not, assuming they did comply with the deal, be able to produce nuclear weapons immediately after the deal expires. Furthermore, regardless of the supposed efficiency before the deal was passed, the Iranians appear to be in compliance and Nasrallah, the head of Iranian proxy group Hezbollah, was in hiding without knowing his own location.
The withdrawal from the deal means the administration has squandered the political currency they possess with respect to Iran. Furthermore, the flaws in the deal cannot be rectified merely through withdrawal from the deal. The issue of executive overreach, if one holds the deal was an example of violating the Senate’s powers of advice and consent, will not be fixed by the administration withdrawing without a Senate vote. In fact, such disregard for the Senate would merely exacerbate such issues regarding the co-equal nature of the legislature and executive. Flaws regarding the deal’s silence on Iran’s proxy war with other regional powers would not be broached in further attempts to avert an Iranian regime with nuclear weapons. Furthermore, one condition of a new deal would be normalizing relationships with Iran, making establishing pressure if Iran is found to violate the deal more economically challenging.
Knowing that agreements with the United States can be renegotiated, Iran will return to the anti-Western stance it possessed between 1979 and 2014, as it will not trust the treaties to be binding. This disincentivizes the regime from making deals, increasing the chances that they will persist in pursuing a nuclear weapon. Furthermore, it fosters instability, as they maintain their program even if they desired to stop, hoping for a better deal from another president. There is still time, but the United States would need to build credibility which it currently lacks. Furthermore, with the recent walkouts on talks with the Taliban, the current administration appears to be an unreliable partner. French President Emmanuel Macron’s attempts to salvage the deal are negated through a purely economic question: What can Macron offer the Iranians in exchange for their compliance with the conditions on the nuclear project?
Macron has already called out Saudi Arabia, leaving Iran with little incentive to negotiate rather than merely continue with its present trajectory and actions.
Sanctions, internal turmoil and the threat of Israel and the United States replacing sanctions with military exercises brought Iran to the table in 2014. But 2019 is not 2014, and conditions have changed. With the hawkish elements of the current administration pushing for military action in Iran, and less potential for economic pressure on the Iranian government, what can propel Iran to negotiate with Western leaders.
Jacob Ningen is a contributor for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org