We Need to Return to the Iran Deal
President Obama and President Rouhani had a telephone conversation in 2013, the first high-level contact between the U.S. and Iranian leaders since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Their conversation, opening lines of communication, culminated in the 2015 Joint Comprehension Plan of Action (JCPOA) curbing Iran’s nuclear enrichment capabilities. In return, Iran obtained relief from international sanctions. President Trump’s reckless withdrawal from the JCPOA in 2018 is a major setback. He discarded an extremely rigorous set of restrictions and inspections of Iran’s nuclear activities. He slammed the door on better relations between the US and Iran.
The United States needs to either return to the JCPOA or go back to the negotiating table with Iran to hammer out a new deal. To curb Iran’s enrichment capabilities with no time limits and to curb its ballistic missile testing would be useful – but not at the expense of no agreement at all. Restoring Iran’s economic ties to the modern world will keep it from being a rogue state. Ultimately, an agreement with Iran will result in a more stable Middle East.
Leaving the JCPOA undermines U.S. foreign policy objectives. While the United States has built close ties with the Gulf States and Israel, it has failed in its efforts to isolate Iran. Iranian influence is advancing in the Middle East through proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.
Leaving the JCPOA was also done contrary to many top national security officials. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Gen. Joseph Dunford and former Defense Secretary, James Mattis, both stated that leaving the JCPOA is contrary to U.S. national security interests. The administration ignored its own experts.
Leaving the JCPOA tarnishes U.S. credibility in the realm of multilateral agreements. The U.S. exit from the Paris Climate Accords and now from the JCPOA harms future negotiation prospects. Why should other nations such as North Korea take future U.S. diplomacy at face value?
Critics of the JCPOA say that Iran is a hostile rogue state. They say that it is backing Bashar al-Assad and his war against the Syrian people, supporting violent groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah, and intensifying the civil war in Yemen. Yet the JCPOA served as a stepping stone and gave the U.S. a platform to engage Iran directly with our concerns. Stepping away from any agreement with Iran undermines efforts to have Iran address these issues in accord with our values.
The U.S. should work to restore its credibility. It can best exert its international influence not through division and polarization, but through diplomacy and consensus. The JCPOA was the prime example of consensus-building and negotiating to avert further conflict. We must either go back to JCPOA or go back to the negotiating table. An agreement with Iran will enhance U.S. foreign policy interests, values, and credibility – and result in a more stable Middle East.
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