Sherman: With every threat Trump tweets the Iran deal ‘looks better and better’

August 17, 2018 - 15:18

Wendy Sherman, the former senior U.S. nuclear negotiator with Iran, says with every threats that Donald Trump makes the 2015 nuclear deal “looks better and better”.

“With every threat Trump tweets and every list of empty promises his administration releases, the Iran deal looks better and better,” Sherman wrote in an article in the Foreign Affairs published on Wednesday.

Following is an excerpt of the article:

In the international negotiations that resulted in the 2015 agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear activities, I led the team of American diplomats representing the United States. During the talks, my Iranian counterparts would occasionally ask how they could be assured that any deal we struck would be durable. Most Republicans opposed it, and looking at the

Trump’s decision has shaken the world’s faith in the United States’ commitment to multilateral diplomacy.forthcoming 2016 U.S. presidential election, the Iranians wondered what would happen if the GOP took the White House. I would answer by asking them a similar question: “What if hard-liners opposed to the deal regained power in Iran?” It usually ended the discussion, as I thought it should: after all, I always expected that the greatest challenge to the deal’s success would be violations by Iran, not the political machinations of the president of the United States.

Of course, I was wrong. In May of this year, U.S. President Donald Trump decided to pull the United States out of the agreement and reimpose the U.S. sanctions on Iran that the deal had lifted, a move that will go down as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in U.S. history. The Iran deal was not perfect; no deal ever is. Nonetheless, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the agreement is formally known, offered the best possible assurance that Iran would never obtain a nuclear weapon.

Exiting JCPOA ‘will go down as one of the worst foreign policy blunders in U.S. history’I don’t know if the Iran deal can survive the reinstatement of sanctions, which the United States set aside in exchange for the Iranians’ pledge to vastly reduce their uranium enrichment, produce no weapons-grade plutonium, and allow international inspectors to rigorously verify their compliance. The JCPOA’s restrictions close every possible path for Iran to obtain fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Although some of the restrictions that the deal places on Iran end after 10, 15, 20, or 25 years, its prohibition on Iran’s obtaining a nuclear weapon never ends. So far, the Iranians have stuck to the terms of the deal.

Trump’s decision has shaken the world’s faith in the United States’ commitment to multilateral diplomacy. No matter how much Trump

derides the deal, the JCPOA stands as a model for combining the threat of sanctions and continued isolation with the hard work of negotiating, even between countries whose

But as he and his team are learning, direct talks with adversaries are difficult. They require courage, persistence, and a realistic sense of one’s own power.relationships are shaped by conflict and distrust. Before Trump undercut it, the JCPOA was advancing U.S. interests and making the world safer. Far from being “the worst deal ever,” as Trump likes to say, it represents a model that his administration should emulate as it negotiates with North Korea over its nuclear arsenal. In that situation, Trump has relied mostly on threats, bluster, and rosy pronouncements. But as he and his team are learning, direct talks with adversaries are difficult. They require courage, persistence, and a realistic sense of one’s own power.

Trump’s policies often seem to follow little logic other than to do the opposite of what (Barack) Obama did, no matter the circumstance and no matter the consequences. In this sense, his exit from the JCPOA was always a fait accompli. The deal had survived as long as it did thanks only to some of Trump’s early advisers, who understood its value. But they hadn’t lasted long in the chaos of the Trump administration.

With the hawkish John Bolton now driving Iran policy as Trump’s national security adviser and the president seeming to want to ingratiate himself with Israel and Saudi Arabia, the administration appears to have replaced the Iran deal with a threat of violent regime change.

Trump’s policies often seem to follow little logic other than to do the opposite of what Obama did, no matter the circumstance and no  matter the consequences.

Even if Washington’s European allies can hang on to the JCPOA on paper, their corporations will face uncertainty in Tehran and pressure from Washington. Virtually all large companies have already backed away from their ventures in Iran. For the economic development Iran hoped the deal would bring, the regime will now turn to China and Russia. And worst of all, if Iran decides to pull out of the deal and end the inspections of its nuclear facilities, the chances that the country will someday develop nuclear weapons will be vastly increased. …, a nuclear-armed Iran would be much worse, since it would be able to act more aggressively and deter the United States and its allies from pushing back.

His behavior (Trump’s behavior) has given U.S. allies less reason to trust Washington on future deals or to take U.S. interests into account. He has thrown away a hard-nosed nuclear deal that set a new standard for verification, and he punched a hole in a highly effective web of sanctions and international consensus that made the Iran deal—and future deals like it—possible.

The JCPOA represents the state of the art of professional multilateral diplomacy. As Trump is now finding out through his difficulties in pinning down a deal with North Korea, verifiable nuclear agreements backed by U.S. allies and adversaries are hard to come by. With every threat Trump tweets and every list of empty promises his administration releases, the Iran deal looks better and better.

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