Jerusalem — “The only alternative to the Iran nuclear deal is war.” That is what the Obama administration and proponents of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran claimed in 2015. Nobody in the Middle East believed that the United States would ever strike Iran, but enough Americans did that the deal went through.

President Trump has long opposed the deal, calling it one of the “worst and most one-sided transactions” ever. On Oct. 15, the president faces a deadline to recertify or decertify the agreement; various reports say he will opt for the latter. The deal’s defenders, horrified by this prospect, are once again warning of catastrophe. “Hard to see how abandoning” the Iran deal “doesn’t lead to war,” tweeted Samantha Power, a former ambassador to the United Nations.

Such scare tactics were dishonest enough in 2015. Today, in view of the agreement’s ruinous consequences, they are morally indefensible.

The alternative was never war, but a better deal. Rather than lifting sanctions on Iran, allowing it to retain its nuclear infrastructure and develop more advanced centrifuges, a better deal could have ramped up pressure on the Islamic Republic. This would have stripped Iran of capacities like uranium enrichment, which is unnecessary for a civilian energy program, and linked any deal to changes in Iran’s support for terrorism, its regional aggression and its gross violation of human rights at home.

Photo
President Obama speaking about the Iran nuclear deal in 2015. Credit Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

A better deal also would not have removed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in 2025. That “sunset clause” is overlooked by the agreement’s proponents, who stress that Iran has so far complied with the deal. But why wouldn’t Iran comply right now? In a mere eight years it can reactivate its nuclear plants and rapidly enrich enough uranium for dozens of nuclear bombs. Instead of blocking Iran’s path to nuclear weapons, the agreement paves it.

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Supporters of the agreement further assert that it curbs Iran’s funding of terrorism and its threats against other states. Just the opposite has happened. With billions of dollars in sanctions relief, the regime is solidifying its rule over Syria, Iraq and Yemen, tightening its stranglehold on Lebanon, and increasing its bankrolling of Hezbollah and Hamas. And, in flagrant defiance of the United Nations, Iran is developing and testing intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry multiple nuclear warheads. Meantime, the ayatollahs have pledged to destroy Israel and, ultimately, America. Rather than reducing the likelihood of war, the agreement has made many wars inevitable.

In 2015, the agreement’s promoters insisted that the United States could no longer maintain an international front against Iran and that sanctions, set up to last indefinitely, would soon unravel. Now they predict that the international community will not follow America’s lead in withdrawing from the deal and reimposing sanctions. Worse, they warn, Iran might use the opportunity to evict United Nations inspectors and ramp up its nuclear program.

All of these assumptions are false.

Had American sanctions on Iran remained in place in 2015, companies would have had to choose between doing business with the United States, the world’s top-ranked economy by gross domestic product, and Iran, ranked 27th. That same stark choice will confront businesses if sanctions are reinstated.

Similarly, the contention that Iran will rush to make nuclear weapons in the absence of an agreement is unfounded. Iran could have made that rush well before 2015 but it did not. The reason was the 2012 speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United Nations General Assembly and the implicit military threat that backed it up.

The world, he declared, must not allow Iran to amass enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb. “Red lines don’t lead to war,” he said. “Red lines prevent war.” That red line will remain indelible whether the deal is strengthened or canceled. What was true in 2015 holds equally today: The more credible the military option, the lesser the chance it will need to be used.

The agreement’s apologists say that altering or negating the agreement will irreparably harm America’s prestige. Yet it is difficult to see how America’s status is served by a refusal to stand up to Iran’s complicity in the massacre of half a million Syrians and its efforts to annihilate American allies.

Israel’s position on the Iran deal was and remains clear. “Fix it or nix it,” Prime Minister Netanyahu recently told the United Nations. If canceled, the deal must be replaced by crippling sanctions that force Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons capacity. Fixing the deal would include conducting stricter inspections of suspect Iran nuclear sites, imposing harsher penalties for Iranian violations and, above all, eliminating the “sunset clause.”

Either way, revisiting the agreement will send an unequivocal message to the world. It will say that Iran’s state-funded terrorism and its attempts to establish a Shiite empire will not be tolerated. The weakness of the Iran deal invites wars, it will say, while displays of strength prevent them. It will say that the United States is truly unwilling to accept a nuclear Iran — not now, not in a decade, not ever.

Continue reading the main story

Jerusalem — “The only alternative to the Iran nuclear deal is war.” That is what the Obama administration and proponents of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran claimed in 2015. Nobody in the Middle East believed that the United States would ever strike Iran, but enough Americans did that the deal went through.

President Trump has long opposed the deal, calling it one of the “worst and most one-sided transactions” ever. On Oct. 15, the president faces a deadline to recertify or decertify the agreement; various reports say he will opt for the latter. The deal’s defenders, horrified by this prospect, are once again warning of catastrophe. “Hard to see how abandoning” the Iran deal “doesn’t lead to war,” tweeted Samantha Power, a former ambassador to the United Nations.

Such scare tactics were dishonest enough in 2015. Today, in view of the agreement’s ruinous consequences, they are morally indefensible.

The alternative was never war, but a better deal. Rather than lifting sanctions on Iran, allowing it to retain its nuclear infrastructure and develop more advanced centrifuges, a better deal could have ramped up pressure on the Islamic Republic. This would have stripped Iran of capacities like uranium enrichment, which is unnecessary for a civilian energy program, and linked any deal to changes in Iran’s support for terrorism, its regional aggression and its gross violation of human rights at home.

A better deal also would not have removed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in 2025. That “sunset clause” is overlooked by the agreement’s proponents, who stress that Iran has so far complied with the deal. But why wouldn’t Iran comply right now? In a mere eight years it can reactivate its nuclear plants and rapidly enrich enough uranium for dozens of nuclear bombs. Instead of blocking Iran’s path to nuclear weapons, the agreement paves it.

Supporters of the agreement further assert that it curbs Iran’s funding of terrorism and its threats against other states. Just the opposite has happened. With billions of dollars in sanctions relief, the regime is solidifying its rule over Syria, Iraq and Yemen, tightening its stranglehold on Lebanon, and increasing its bankrolling of Hezbollah and Hamas. And, in flagrant defiance of the United Nations, Iran is developing and testing intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry multiple nuclear warheads. Meantime, the ayatollahs have pledged to destroy Israel and, ultimately, America. Rather than reducing the likelihood of war, the agreement has made many wars inevitable.

In 2015, the agreement’s promoters insisted that the United States could no longer maintain an international front against Iran and that sanctions, set up to last indefinitely, would soon unravel. Now they predict that the international community will not follow America’s lead in withdrawing from the deal and reimposing sanctions. Worse, they warn, Iran might use the opportunity to evict United Nations inspectors and ramp up its nuclear program.

All of these assumptions are false.

Had American sanctions on Iran remained in place in 2015, companies would have had to choose between doing business with the United States, the world’s top-ranked economy by gross domestic product, and Iran, ranked 27th. That same stark choice will confront businesses if sanctions are reinstated.

Similarly, the contention that Iran will rush to make nuclear weapons in the absence of an agreement is unfounded. Iran could have made that rush well before 2015 but it did not. The reason was the 2012 speech by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the United Nations General Assembly and the implicit military threat that backed it up.

The world, he declared, must not allow Iran to amass enough highly enriched uranium to produce a nuclear bomb. “Red lines don’t lead to war,” he said. “Red lines prevent war.” That red line will remain indelible whether the deal is strengthened or canceled. What was true in 2015 holds equally today: The more credible the military option, the lesser the chance it will need to be used.

The agreement’s apologists say that altering or negating the agreement will irreparably harm America’s prestige. Yet it is difficult to see how America’s status is served by a refusal to stand up to Iran’s complicity in the massacre of half a million Syrians and its efforts to annihilate American allies.

Israel’s position on the Iran deal was and remains clear. “Fix it or nix it,” Prime Minister Netanyahu recently told the United Nations. If canceled, the deal must be replaced by crippling sanctions that force Iran to dismantle its nuclear weapons capacity. Fixing the deal would include conducting stricter inspections of suspect Iran nuclear sites, imposing harsher penalties for Iranian violations and, above all, eliminating the “sunset clause.”

Either way, revisiting the agreement will send an unequivocal message to the world. It will say that Iran’s state-funded terrorism and its attempts to establish a Shiite empire will not be tolerated. The weakness of the Iran deal invites wars, it will say, while displays of strength prevent them. It will say that the United States is truly unwilling to accept a nuclear Iran — not now, not in a decade, not ever.

Nytimes

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