Iran is not only violating the spirit of the no-nukes deal, it is violating its letter. The prologue to the deal explicitly states: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” This reaffirmation has no sunset provision: it is supposed to be forever.
Yet the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently stated that it could not verify that Iran was “fully implementing the agreement” by not engaging in activities that would allow it to make a nuclear explosive device. Yukiya Amano of the IAEA told Reuters that when it comes to inspections, which are stipulated in Section T of the agreement, “our tools are limited.” Amano continued to say: “In other sections, for example, Iran has committed to submit declarations, place their activities under safeguards or ensure access by us. But in Section T, I don’t see any (such commitment).”
For its part, the IAEA has been complicit in allowing Tehran to circumvent the agreement and act as a law unto itself. Consider that after the deal was negotiated with the five permanent U.N. Security Council members, it was revealed that Tehran and the IAEA had entered into a secret agreement which allowed the Iranian regime to carry out its own nuclear trace testing at the Parchin complex, a site long suspected of being a nuclear testing ground, and would report back to the IAEA with “selective” videos and photos. This arrangement, which went behind the back of Congress, is especially suspect when considered in light of the Iranian regime’s history of duplicity.
To be sure, revelations about Iran testing the boundaries of the JCPOA and crossing the line into violation are not new. While many of these violations have not been disclosed by the previous U.S. administration, or by the IAEA, there is a myriad of information and analysis suggesting that Iran has previously failed to comply with several provisions of the JCPOA. It has twice been revealed that Iran exceeded the cap on heavy water mandated by the agreement, and has also refused to allow testing of its carbon fiber acquired before the deal was implemented. Moreover, it has also been reported that Tehran has found new ways to conduct additional mechanical testing of centrifuges, in clear violation of the JCPOA.
These violations are not surprising when considering Iran’s belligerent posture in the Middle East. Iran continues to exploit the instability in the region to prop up and fund terror groups such as Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis, whose chants of “death to Israel” are now also accompanied by vows of “death to America.” For its part, the Iranian-funded Hezbollah has an estimated 100,000 missiles aimed directly at Israel. As such, it is clear that rather than combating Iran’s threatening posture, the influx of money thrust into the Iranian economy, coupled with ambiguities in the text of the agreement, have had the reverse effect of emboldening the Iranian regime and fortifying its hegemonic ambitions. Iran also continues to test its vast ballistic missile program and deny its own people fundamental human rights.
Yet, even if Iran were to comply with the letter of the nuclear agreement, it would still be able to build up a vast nuclear arsenal within a relatively short timeframe. The approach adopted by the Trump administration, articulated in a statement delivered by the president several days ago, is justified by the realities on the ground. By announcing that he is decertifying Iran’s compliance with the nuclear agreement, President Trump is giving Congress 60 days to act. Not only is President Trump giving the United States back some of its leverage, but he is also sending a powerful message to the rogue leaders in Iran and North Korea, who are believed to have cooperated on missile technology, that the era of containment and deterrence policies is over. The United States is returning to its original mission of prevention.
Interestingly, in the aftermath of President Trump’s address, the Saudi Press Agency reported that King Salman called the U.S. president to offer his support for America’s more “firm strategy” and commitment to fighting “Iran’s aggressive activities.” Israel’s prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, offered similar praise for the new U.S. posture, saying in a statement that President Trump “has created an opportunity to fix this bad deal, to roll back Iran’s aggression and to confront its criminal support of terrorism.” It is no secret that these two previously discordant states are now cooperating in unprecedented ways as they try to counter the threat posed by a nuclear Iran. When Israel and the Gulf States are on the same page, the world should listen.
There are those that argue that by decertifying, President Trump has undercut American credibility and sent a message to the world that it can’t count on one American president following through on deals made by his predecessor. But the fault for that lies squarely with President Obama who refused not only to make his deal a binding treaty, but also to seek any congressional approval, both of which would have assured greater continuity. He knew when he signed the deal that it could be undone by any future president. The goal, of course, is not to undo the deal but rather to undo its sunset provision and to make Iran keep the commitment it made in the prologue: Never obtain “any nuclear weapons.”
Alan M. Dershowitz is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus, at Harvard Law School and author of “Trumped Up: How Criminalizing Politics is Dangerous to Democracy.” Follow him on Twitter @AlanDersh and on Facebook @AlanMDershowitz.