Trump Can Improve the Iran Deal
By Mark Dubowitz and
Wall Street Journal
September 25, 2017
Powerful voices at home and abroad are pressuring President
Trump to give his blessing to his predecessor’s nuclear agreement with Iran.
Mr. Trump has repeatedly pledged to renegotiate the deal, known as the Joint
Comprehensive Plan of Action, or scrap it altogether. There is a way for him to
highlight the agreement’s egregious deficiencies while showing his
determination to improve the deal or leave it. We call this strategy
“decertify, waive, slap and fix.”
The president should follow through on his commitments by
refusing to certify the JCPOA under the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.
That law requires Mr. Trump to certify every 90 days that Iran is fully
implementing the nuclear deal and hasn’t significantly advanced its
nuclear-weapons program. Additionally he must certify whether the suspension of
sanctions remains vital to U.S. national-security interests and proportionate to
Iran’s efforts to terminate its illicit nuclear programs. The next 90-day
deadline is Oct. 15.
If the president continues to certify the JCPOA, inertia
and the status quo will probably capture him the way a policy of “strategic
patience” on North Korea got Mr. Obama. This will effectively guarantee the
clerical regime pathways to missile-delivered nuclear weapons.
The JCPOA is a prelude to a Middle Eastern version of the
North Korean mess. It gives the clerical regime sunset-expiring restrictions,
advanced centrifuges, intercontinental ballistic missiles, the ability to
frustrate U.N. inspectors’ access to military sites where Tehran has conducted
secret nuclear-weapons and uranium-enrichment work in the past, and tens of
billions of dollars in sanctions relief, with hundreds of billions to follow.
The Iranians will continue to run amok in the Middle East, using foreign cash to
pay for their imperialism.
The president should refuse to certify for another reason:
The nuclear deal’s fundamentally flawed architecture—not just how it is
enforced—makes it too dangerous to continue. By patiently following the deal
the Islamic Republic can gain nuclear weapons, as well as a nuclear-capable
arsenal of missiles giving it regional hegemony and the ability to threaten the
United States. It also will have a powerful economy immunized against sanctions
pressure by the time the JCPOA restrictions expire. Allowing this is not in the
“vital national security interests of the United States.”
Decertifying doesn’t mean breaking the deal. That happens
only if the U.S. reimposes sanctions that have been lifted or suspended under
the JCPOA. On Sept. 14, as required by the JCPOA, the
president again waived nuclear-related sanctions, this time on Iran’s
central bank and oil exports. He accompanied this “waive” with a “slap”
imposing new sanctions on companies and individuals connected to Iran’s
ballistic missile program and recent cyberattacks. An engineering company
working with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was also targeted.
These sanctions, which are fully compliant with the JCPOA,
are a decent start. But Mr. Trump must do more. He should designate the
Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, as Congress has required he do by
Oct. 31. He should also instruct the Treasury to blacklist companies with
Revolutionary Guard and military ownership, which represent about 20% of the
total market capitalization of the Tehran Stock Exchange. He should redesignate
Iran Air (which is buying planes from Boeing and Airbus)
as a terrorist entity for airlifting weapons and fighters to Syria. All these
measures are consistent with the JCPOA.
We propose the president “fix” U.S. policy by making it
clear he does not accept the Iran deal’s dangerous flaws. He should insist on
conditions making permanent the current restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program
and the testing of advanced centrifuges and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles,
as well as the buying and transferring of conventional weaponry. He must insist
on unfettered access for U.N. weapons inspectors to Iranian military sites.
Congress should do its part to help fix the deal.
Reinstating the JCPOA sanctions after decertification would ruin the
“decertify, waive, slap and fix” approach. To persuade Republicans, who are
the most likely to vote to reinstate JCPOA sanctions that have been waived or
lifted, the administration needs to demonstrate a comprehensive strategy to fix
the deal and use all instruments of American power to neutralize and roll back
Iranian aggression. Democrats should help fix the deal or explain to Americans
why a brutally repressive and aggressive Iranian regime should have a North
Korean-style glide path to dozens of nuclear weapons and ICBMs.
The Europeans are already responding to Mr. Trump’s
threats to walk away from the deal. French President Emmanuel Macron has said
to consider supplementing the agreement to address the sunset
provisions and missiles. European leaders who want to preserve the accord are
now working on a U.S.-EU consensus on ways to fix it. They should outline
conditions under which trans-Atlantic sanctions would be reinstated if Iran
doesn’t play ball. Otherwise, they can watch Mr. Trump exit the deal and use
the considerable financial power of the U.S. to force European banks and
companies to choose between America’s $19 trillion market and Iran’s $400
Decertification is the critical first step of a strategy to
prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from becoming a nuclear state. The famously
blunt Mr. Trump must send an unambiguous message to Tehran’s clerics: His
administration will not tolerate a nuclear Iran, nor can it abide by the
agreement as it stands. But the strategy doesn’t depend on Iranian
acquiescence. It gives the Europeans a chance to come on board to fix the deal
in order to save it.
If they don’t, the consequences could be severe.