Yes, Trump’s Going to Dump the
By Fred Fleitz
November 14, 2016
In the days following Donald Trump’s victory, a
variety of experts — mostly Trump critics — pronounced that, despite
Trump’s frequent statements during the presidential campaign that the July
2015 nuclear deal with Iran is one of “the worst deals ever made by any
country in history,” he has no choice but to stick with the agreement after he
Iranian foreign minister Javad
Zarif was one of the first to insist as much, claiming a Trump administration
cannot back out of the nuclear deal because it is not a bilateral agreement
between the United States and Iran but “an international understanding annexed
to a Security Council resolution.”
Trita Parsi, president of the
National Iranian American Council (which The
Weekly Standard’s Lee Smith once
described as “the tip of the spear of the Iran lobby” in the United States)
echoed Zarif’s statement. In a November 11 Foreign
Policy article, he argued
Trump can undermine the Iran deal but cannot directly dismantle it because the
JCPOA is a multilateral agreement “codified by the UN Security Council.” Any
attempt by a Trump administration to renegotiate the deal would violate
international law and isolate the United States, Parsi said.
Even some conservative experts have
suggested Trump probably won’t try to significantly modify or discard the
nuclear agreement, but will instead try to goad Iran into withdrawing by
strictly enforcing the deal.
But Trump senior national-security
adviser Walid Phares poured cold water on speculation that Trump plans to walk
back his statements about the Iran deal, when he commented on Facebook over the
weekend that the “Iran Deal will be dismantled.”
This firm statement by Phares
confirmed previous statements he and Mr. Trump have made that the deal is a
dangerous agreement that needs to be either significantly renegotiated or
abandoned. As an expert who has followed the Iran nuclear program for many years
inside and outside of government, I would like to expand on their statements by
offering three key points about the nature of the deal and ten guidelines for
1. The Iran deal is a
Donald Trump was exactly right when
he called the Iran deal a “horrible” and “disastrous” agreement. The
U.S. agreed to huge concessions to get this agreement, from no restrictions on
Iran’s sponsorship of terrorism to no inspections of military facilities.
There were secret side deals withheld from Congress that permitted Iran to
inspect itself for past nuclear-weapons work and receive secret planeloads of
cash in exchange for freeing U.S. hostages. To get the $150 billion in sanctions
relief Iran wanted, there was
another secret side deal — also withheld from the U.S.
Congress — which granted Tehran exemptions for failing to meet some of the
agreement’s key requirements.
So what did the United States get
for these concessions?
Not much. The Obama administration
claims the deal keeps Iran a year away from a nuclear deal for ten to 15 years.
But in fact, the time to an Iranian nuclear bomb will drop dramatically under
the deal, since Iran will be able to enrich uranium, develop advanced
centrifuges, and, with Chinese assistance, finish construction of a heavy-water
nuclear reactor that will produce one-quarter of a weapon’s worth of plutonium
It will be very hard to verify the
agreement since military sites — where Iran is likely to conduct covert
nuclear-weapons work — are off limits to inspectors. The deal dumbed down the
IAEA’s quarterly Iran reports, making it difficult for the world to
know the true extent of Iran’s compliance. Certainly, there already have been
reports of significant
Further, the deal was supposed to
improve Iran’s international behavior.
Instead, from ballistic-missile
tests to increased support to Hezbollah, Bashar al-Assad, and the Houthi rebels
in Yemen, Tehran’s behavior in the Middle East has significantly worsened.
Just in the last year, Iran has captured and held at gunpoint ten U.S. sailors
and fired anti-ship missiles at American and UAE ships. Is this what a new era
of cooperation with Iran was supposed to look like?
2. The deal is not legally
binding on us.
Knowing that a bipartisan majority
of Congress opposed the nuclear deal and that the U.S. Senate would never ratify
it as a treaty, the Obama administration arranged to go around the Senate by
negotiating the deal as an executive agreement endorsed by the U.N. Security
Council. Because Security Council resolutions are binding on all U.N. members,
it could therefore be argued that the nuclear deal was binding on the United
States even though it had not been ratified by the Senate.
But that is not how our
constitutional order works. American presidents historically have decided which
international agreements are to be treated as treaties, but the Iran deal
specified that it be ratified by the Iranian parliament.
If President Obama wanted to make a
long-term international agreement binding on the United States, he needs consent
from Congress. Anything else is a serious affront to the Constitution, and no
U.N. endorsement changes that.
(This is not the only example of
President Obama’s lawless approach to international agreements: The Paris
climate-change agreement was deliberately negotiated to make it binding on the
United States without Senate ratification and difficult for a future U.S.
president to cancel. The same principles apply, however, and I expect President
Trump pull out of the climate agreement as soon as possible.)
3. It’s not a true
The Obama administration also
attempted to entrench the Iran deal making it a multilateral agreement, but this
was just window-dressing.
The deal is technically a
multilateral pact agreed to by Iran, the United States, Russia, China, France,
the United Kingdom, and Germany, but it is actually a bilateral agreement
negotiated almost entirely between the United States and Iran. Iran has only
looked to the United States for additional concessions since the deal was
announced, and if we want to end the deal, we can.
So it is clear the deal must be
either discarded or substantially renegotiated, and that we have every right to
The first steps to renegotiation
should be (1) assembling a new anti-Iran coalition of our European allies,
Israel, and the Gulf states, and (2) imposing new sanctions on Iran in response
to its nuclear program, ballistic-missile program, sponsorship of terrorism, and
belligerent behavior. Russia and China could be allowed into the new coalition,
but they should not be given a veto over any new agreement. This coalition also
must be kept out of the United Nations.
Building the new coalition and
renegotiating the agreement won’t be the easiest task, but given Iran’s
belligerent behavior and the power new U.S. sanctions can have, a strong
president and secretary of state can do it.
An agreement that truly addresses
the threat from Iran’s nuclear program and the wider threats Iran poses will
require reversing all of the irresponsible concessions made to Iran by the Obama
Such negotiations must start from
the following ten guidelines:
1. Iran must cease all uranium
enrichment and uranium-enrichment research.
2. Iran cannot have a
heavy-water reactor or a plant to produce heavy water.
3. Iran agrees to robust
verification, including “anytime, anywhere” inspections by IAEA inspectors
of all declared and suspect nuclear sites.
4. Iran must fully and truthfully
answer all questions about its past nuclear-weapons-related work.
5. Iran must agree to
limitations on its ballistic-missile program.
6. Sanctions will only be lifted
in stages, in response to Iranian compliance with the agreement.
7. Iran must agree to end its meddling
in regional conflicts and its sponsorship of terror.
8. Threats by Iran to ships in the
Persian Gulf, U.S. naval vessels, and American troops must stop.
9. Iran must cease its hostility
10. Iran must release all U.S.
Renegotiating or terminating the
Iran deal will not just end the threat from a dangerous international agreement.
It will signify that this agreement
was an aberration by an incompetent U.S. president who tried to subvert the U.S.
Constitution, and it would send a powerful message to the world that the Obama
administration’s policies of American weakness and appeasement are over.
Trump critics have argued that
renegotiating or terminating the nuclear deal would isolate the United States
and hurt America’s global stature. But in reality, President Obama’s foreign
policy has already undermined America’s reputation around the world.
Fixing or killing the Iran nuclear
deal will be President Trump’s first step toward restoring America’s global