Rebutting Trump’s Arguments for Canceling the Iran Nuclear Deal

The arguments for repealing the nuclear agreement are variously misguided and dishonest.

American president Donald Trump attends a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, January 19
American president Donald Trump attends a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia, January 19 (US Army/Alicia Brand)

Fred Kaplan rebuts the arguments President Donald Trump and his underlings have made for repealing the Iran nuclear deal in Slate:

“Iran got billions of dollars and we got nothing”

The money was Iran’s. It was frozen in international bank accounts as punishment for the country’s illegal nuclear program. When that program was dismantled, the freeze was lifted. “That’s how sanctions work.”

As for the United States getting nothing: preventing a nuclear-armed Iran, with its heightened possibilities of war, is far from nothing.

“Iran is violating the ‘spirit’ of the agreement”

“This is shamefully dishonest,” writes Kaplan. The nuclear deal was a carefully worded agreement; it is what it says it is, nothing more.

It is true Barack Obama hoped the deal might strengthen moderates in Tehran and pave the way for improved relations with the West. But that was a hope and he that stressed the deal was in America’s interest even if wider relations did not improve.

Indeed, “if relations remained dismal, the deal would be more vital.”

“Iran is testing ballistic missiles”

The United Nations Security Council has called on Iran not to develop ballistic missiles that could be used to deliver nuclear weapons, but it has not outlawed such activity.

The United States retain unilateral sanctions, but they could be undermined if Trump restored others sanctions that were lifted when they accomplished their goal. Why should Iran change its behavior in response to sanctions when the United States might arbitrarily reimpose them?

“Iran only has to wait ten years”

Parts of the deal expire in a decade: a ban on the production of advanced centrifuges, the monitoring of Iran’s civil nuclear procurement and the automatic “snapback” of sanctions if it cheats.

Other parts expire in fifteen years, including a cap on enriched uranium below what’s needed for bomb-grade material, a stockpile cap on even that level of “low”-enriched uranium and a ban on heavy-water reactors (which would be needed to turn enriched uranium into a bomb).

The International Atomic Energy Agency will continue inspecting centrifuge production for 25 years.

And other Iranian commitments — to allow other inspections, to reprocess spent fuel (rather than turn it into weapons) and respect the Nonproliferation Treaty — have no expiration date at all.

Bottom line

[N]either Iran nor any of the deal’s other signatories will see the need to open it up for renegotiation … much less scuttle it altogether.