President-elect Donald Trump and the Republicans in Congress say they want to cancel the agreement for controls on Iran’s nuclear program.
This would have two bad results.
It would strengthen the hard-liners in Iran who want their country to have nuclear weapons capability, and who opposed the agreement in the first-place.
It would undermine one of Trump’s announced goals, which is to form an alliance dedicated to fighting the Islamic State (aka ISIS or ISIL), Al Qaeda and their offshoots.
Juan Cole, a historian of the Middle East, reported that many Iranians are happy about the election of Trump. Trump is friendly with Iran’s ally, Russia, and wants to aid another Iranian ally, the Assad government in Syria, against its enemies, the Sunni extremist rebels fighting Syria.
So if the United States is an ally of Iran’s allies, and an enemy of its enemies, the U.S. should be an ally of Iran. Isn’t that logical?
And, in any case, resuming sanctions against Iran would not produce a better deal.
The Iran nuclear weapons agreement ended United Nations sanctions against Iran, not U.S. sanctions. The United States had had economic sanctions against Iran ever since the 1979 Islamic revolution, but these had little effect in changing Iran’s behavior.
In 2006, the United Nations Security Council pass a resolution imposing trade sanctions against Iran intended to block its oil exports unless that country ceased its uranium enrichment program, which was used to fuel Iran’s nuclear power plants, but could have been a first step in developing nuclear weapons.
Iran, as a signer of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Agreement, had agreed to give up development of nuclear weapons in return for the right to develop nuclear power. The UN Security Council contended that Iran had not allowed UN inspectors to verify that it was not developing nuclear weapons.
The 2015 agreement, negotiated by the USA, the UK, France, Germany, Russia and China, lifted most of these sanctions in return for Iran limiting uranium enrichment for 10 years and allowing United Nations inspectors to visit sensitive sites.
Skeptics argue that the agreement does not go far enough, but it is too late to consider that argument now. The United States does not have the power to block Germany, Russia, China or any other country from buying Iran’s oil or selling it weapons.
The U.S. government still has pre-2006 sanctions against Iran in effect, but there is no reason to think they will change the U.S. government’s behavior.
The ultimate U.S. sanction is the threat of war—to attack Iran and bomb its nuclear sites. This would be a crime against humanity; it also would put Americans in more peril than before.
If I were an Iranian, that would make me want to develop nuclear weapons at all costs. If my country were attacked and my fellow citizens killed, I would want to take revenge, and I would find a way to do so.
Why, then, the eagerness to continue this failed and illogical policy?
The reason is that ending sanctions against Iran would tip the balance of power in the Middle East against Saudi Arabia and Israel and in favor of Iran.
Support for Israel is a matter of sentiment. Support for Saudi Arabia is the result of a tacit bargain made by Henry Kissinger years ago to keep oil flowing to the United States, and to buy from the U.S. arms industry.
I think unconditional support for any foreign country is a mistake. It is one thing to pledge to defend allies from attack, or to work with foreign countries based on mutual self-interest. It is another to support other countries when there is no benefit or even harm to Americans.
I hope President-elect Trump will reconsider and make peace with Iran. It is not too late.
Will Trump Shred the Iran nuclear deal? by Rajan Menon in The American Conservative.
Iran confident Trump’s bond with Putin will benefit it, too, by Juan Cole for Informed Comment.
Debacle, Inc.: How Henry Kissinger Helped Disorder the World by Greg Grandin for Common Dreams.