CNS Experts Respond to the US Withdrawal from the Iran Deal

May 9, 2018

Experts at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies expressed their concern with the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), also known as the “Iran nuclear deal.”

Dr. William C. Potter, the Sam Nunn and Richard Lugar Professor of Nonproliferation Studies at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, stated*: “It is hard to imagine a policy decision more detrimental to nuclear nonproliferation and US national security than US withdrawal from the JCPOA. The ill-conceived action almost certainly will spur nuclear competition in the Middle East, further undermine confidence in the credibility of US commitments, antagonize allies and adversaries alike, and empower the most regressive political forces in Iran. The decision of potentially historic proportion gives credence to the view that the best predictor of this administration’s future US foreign policy is the option most likely to damage US national interests.”

Comparing Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA to his contempt toward the Affordable Care Act and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program,  Joshua H. Pollack, Editor of the Nonproliferation Reviewwrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists: “It’s a safe bet that Trump understands none of these complex policy matters in any depth. In each case, he has condemned an Obama-era law or policy in hyperbolic terms, while foisting responsibility for a replacement on whoever is invested in the outcome. After all, a blackmailer can hardly afford to care about his hostages.  So far, this policymaking-as-psychodrama has yielded approximately nothing in domestic policy. How will it play out in the case of the Iran nuclear deal, for which there has been no shortage of voices proposing a ‘fix?'”

Jeffrey Lewis, East Asia Nonproliferation Program Director, said, “This decision was driven purely by personal and partisan motives. T here was no strategic reason to abandon an agreement that was working to prevent Iran from building a nuclear weapon. Worse, the administration has no plan what to do next. When Iran builds a nuclear weapon, it should be emblazoned TRUMP like one of his casinos.” Lewis also spoke to  VICE news and the New York Times.

“In a single action, President Trump has alienated our European allies, undercut the efforts of the most moderate Iranian government in decades, and made it clear that the United States can no longer be counted on to fulfil its own commitments,” said Laura Rockwood, Executive Director of the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation. “The JCPOA may have had its flaws, but what negotiated agreement among sovereign governments does not? It was not designed to address human rights or Iran’s ballistic missile program; it was designed to constrain Iran’s nuclear program, which is what it has been doing. Even Trump administration officials concede that Iran was complying with the agreement, and that there are no indications of an ongoing nuclear weapons program in Iran. Will his trashing of the JCPOA convince Iran to engage in negotiation of a ‘better deal,’ as Trump suggests? Not very likely. Would continuation of the JCPOA give rise to a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, as he asserts? The logic beggars belief. President Trump’s precipitous rejection of the JCPOA, over the clear objections of the closest allies of the United States, heralds a return to the unilateralism of the early 2000s—and look how well that worked.”

Speaking on live Deutsche Welle television, Senior Research Associate Miles Pomper said, “This isn’t really about the nuclear part of Iran’s foreign policy. The nuclear program is very well contained,” he said, pointing out the unprecedented access that international monitors had to Iranian facilities under the deal. “What you’re going to get now is for the Iranians to cut back some of that access. There will be more chance of a nuclear [weapon] program now than there had been, but you’ll also have less chance of knowing about it because we won’t have inspectors there.”

For more CNS experts’ insights into this and other high-profile WMD proliferation news, visit our media page or contact Managing Editor Rhianna Tyson Kreger.

*Experts comment on this and other matters in their own capacity, and do not reflect the official views of CNS, which does not take a position on policy matters.

Comments Are Closed