Will Now Decide if the Iran Deal Survives
April 1, 2018
you heard a series of loud booms on March 22, they probably came from the
exploding heads of many in the American and European political elite, following
the appointment of John Bolton as White House national security adviser. With
the ascension of this ďhawk,Ē President Obamaís nuclear accord with the
Islamic Republic of Iran appears to be on life support. Whether the deal
survives is effectively Europeís choice, but Mr. Trump must be prepared to
accept a real fix if itís offered.
Jan. 12, Mr. Trump laid out three conditions for the Europeans to meet for the
U.S. to remain in the nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan
of Action. First, eliminate the provisions under which key nuclear restrictions
expire over time. Second, constrain Tehranís nuclear-capable long-range
missile program. Finally, allow for the inspection of military sites where the
regime conducted clandestine nuclear activities in the past and may be doing so
now. If the Europeans do not agree to these demands by May 12, Mr. Trump will
impose powerful economic sanctions against the Islamic Republic.
U.S., France, the U.K. and Germany negotiated the 2015 deal, along with Iran,
China and Russia. Beijing and Moscow arenít likely to agree to a fix. But the
Europeans are another story: They are massively invested in the U.S. and remain
critical business partners for the Iranians. Europe is exposed to American
secondary sanctions against Iran, and it has economic leverage over Tehran.
Europeans also fear U.S. or Israeli military action against the Islamic
recent trans-Atlantic talks have included how and when economic sanctions would
be reimposed if Iran violates key red lines. The two sides also have been
defining illegitimate commerce with the Islamic Republic. These discussions have
focused on companies with ties to parties that control Iranís economy,
including the supreme leader, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and the
clerical establishment, as well as state and military companies.
and American negotiators are also studying sanctions specifically targeted
against the Revolutionary Guards, the praetorians of the Iranian regime.
Sanctions on Hezbollah, the first and favorite foreign-born child of the Islamic
revolution and Iranís most effective Shiite militia in the Syrian civil war,
are also being discussed. Trans-Atlantic measures against Iranian cyberwarfare
and interference with maritime shipping remain on the table.
Mr. Boltonís announcement, European negotiators were digging in on key aspects
of these talks. While showing some flexibility on Iranís long-range missiles
and military-site inspections, they refused to budge in any meaningful way on
sunset provisions. Germany has been particularly intransigent on this issue, as
well as on Washingtonís call for Europe to designate Hezbollahís military
and political wings as a terrorist organizationóa longstanding and bipartisan
American request. This resistance is even stranger given that Hezbollah has
engaged in terrorism on European soil.
the U.K. and Germany also have refused to join the U.S. in designating the
Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, which the Trump administration
did in October. And they have resisted deploying the most powerful sanctions
proposed to target Iranís missile program. Tehranís short-, medium- and
intermediate-range missiles threaten U.S. forces in the Middle East and
Americaís closest regional allies.
is a lot riding on these talks, as Tehran is moving toward regional dominance.
It has shown its willingness to deploy its deadly forces and foreign Shiite
militias abroad. The Islamic Republic continues to develop easy-to-hide advanced
centrifuges and long-range ballistic missiles. Its economy will be increasingly
immunized against American sanctions. This should be as unacceptable to the
Europeans as it is to the U.S.
the U.K. and Germany are now in a bind. They are terrified that concessions to
Washington could prompt Iran to walk away, leading to a full-blown nuclear
crisis. They watched President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry
cave to Iranian nuclear blackmail, which was Tehranís negotiation strategy in
2015. But now they face an equally daunting challenge from Mr. Trump and his
soon-to-be national security adviser, who seem prepared to walk away from the
nuclear deal without even trying to fix it.
the Europeans the least awful option should be to fix the nuclear deal. At least
in private, they found it to be far short of the brilliant diplomatic
achievement that Mr. Kerry touts. They will have to swallow some pride, as their
dislike for Mr. Trump is profound. But if they donít act, Mr. Bolton will
ensure that the president walks away in May.
the Europeans really want to have a nasty trans-Atlantic row over the clerical
regime? They ought to want to make this too good a deal for Messrs. Trump and
Bolton to turn down.
the president rejects such an agreement, the Europeans will have negotiated in
good faith. But, if they wonít go far enough to strike an accord with
Washington, then they will in part own the consequences that follow.