Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Will the Iran Nuclear Deal Survive the Trump Era?

Magazine article Washington Report on Middle East Affairs

Will the Iran Nuclear Deal Survive the Trump Era?

Article excerpt

How the new administration of President Donald Trump will manage U.S. relations with Iran is one of the many questions confronting foreign policy experts in Washington. On the campaign trail, Trump criticized the multilateral Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), calling it "the worst deal ever negotiated." Since taking office, however, the president has signaled that he will not abrogate the deal.

At a conference hosted by the Atlantic Council and the Iran Project on Jan. 30, speakers and panelists gathered to ponder the future of the JCPOA. Most agreed that the deal has thus far been a success, and that Iran-aside from some minor issues that have been quickly resolved- has fulfilled its commitments under the agreement.

Despite this broad consensus, some still insist that the nuclear agreement was a mistake. One such critic, Mark Dubowitz, CEO of the neocon-leaning, pro-Israel Foundation for Defense of Democracies, appeared at the Atlantic Council event. Dubowitz insisted that the aforementioned minor violations were in fact Iran "testing the deal by incrementally violating it." Iran could use the deal as a "patient pathway" to a dangerous nuclear program, Dubowitz asserted, despite having agreed to never obtain a nuclear weapon as part of the JCPOA.

Jim Walsh, a senior research associate at MIT, described the JCPOA as the "strongest non-proliferation treaty ever negotiated" and said he sees no reason to believe that Iran has nefarious nuclear intentions. He noted that the Director of National Intelligence has stated that Iran's weaponization efforts have been on hold since 2003, and that Tehran has not made the decision to obtain nuclear weapons. Walsh also pointed out that Iran has largely shown good will on the nuclear front since signing an interim deal with global powers three years ago.

While he ardently campaigned against the deal, Dubowitz-whose organization works closely with lawmakers on Capitol Hill-said he now favors a rigid implementation of the nuclear agreement. "I think the Trump administration is adopting the right posture early out of the gate, which is not to abrogate the deal," he said.

Less assuring to supporters of the deal is the apparent forthcoming Republican strategy of aggressively placing additional non-nuclear sanctions on Iran. "If you were to predict where Congress and this new administration will go in the next 12 months, my guess would be that you'll see non-nuclear sanctions being the centerpiece of any new sanctions effort," Dubowitz said. "There's much that can be done outside the JCPOA."

The Trump administration on Feb. 3 announced new sanctions targeting 25 individuals and entities connected to Iran's ballistic missile program, and/or the country's elite Quds Force. …

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