Bibi’s Infomercial for the Iran Deal

May 1, 2018
Jeffrey Lewis

The following is an excerpt from Foreign Policy

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s dog and pony show on Monday, in which he displayed a trove of documents from Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear weapons program, had an audience of precisely one. It was part of a coordinated effort with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to persuade U.S. President Donald Trump to kill the Iran nuclear deal. And, if you don’t know anything about Iran’s pre-2003 nuclear weapons program, perhaps it was persuasive.

But if you do — if you happen to have a blog called Arms Control Wonk, for example — you will have heard it all before. There was nothing new in Netanyahu’s presentation, at least nothing that would change someone’s mind about the nuclear deal. In fact, Netanyahu’s presentation works as an advertisement for the pact he was trying to take down.

We should probably recap how we got here. Iran had a nuclear weapons program until 2003. The United States intelligence community concluded that Iran “halted” that program under pressure from international sanctions — although I have always thought “paused” would have been a better word. After more than a decade of negotiations, the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran and members of the international community was signed. The JCPOA, better known as the Iran nuclear deal, removed those sanctions in exchange for a number of commitments by Iran to limit its nuclear energy program and to expand access given to International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors.

The JCPOA has always been unpopular for a couple of reasons. Most treaties and international agreements tend to be beauty contests — whether you like them tends to come down to whether you like the country with whom you are signing a deal. This makes nonproliferation agreements a hard sell, because the government you are negotiating with typically hates you and vice-versa.

Continue reading at Foreign Policy

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