Donald Trump is reportedly planning to decertify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) that Barack Obama struck with Tehran. But if he had hoped to start a war with Iran, Trump will need to find an excuse that has nothing to do with the actual deal.
In his prepared testimony today before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph E. Dunford wrote, “the briefings I have received indicate that Iran is adhering to its JCPOA obligations.”
According to The Hill, Gen. Dunford drew a clear line of separation between the nuclear issue — where Iran seems to be complying — and other points of contention, such as Iran’s support for proxies around the region and its missile development program.
“The JCPOA has delayed Iran’s development of nuclear weapons,” he added. However, “Iran has not changed its malign activity in the region since JCPOA was signed” and is “very aggressively” advancing other pursuits that annoy the United States, such as naval expansion and missile development.
[A]sked later in the hearing by Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) whether he’s advised Trump to recertify compliance, Dunford said he would prefer to keep his advice private until Trump announces his decision.
Dunford also said it would “make sense to him” that withdrawing from the deal would have ripple effects on the North Korea crisis.
“It makes sense to me that our holding up agreements that we have signed, unless there’s a material breach, would have an impact on others’ willingness to sign agreements,” Dunford said in response to Reed.
Trump has recertified Iran’s compliance with JCPOA twice since taking office. But in recent weeks, he has indicated a desire to withhold recertification in order to give hawks in Congress a chance to reinstitute the sanctions that the agreement had nullified.
In a speech to the United Nations last week, Trump called the JCPOA “an embarrassment” and vowed that “I don’t think you have heard the last of it.” The next day, he told reporters that his mind was made up on the issue of recertification, but he declined to say what his decision was.
Most US allies are dead-set against any attempt to step back from the deal or renegotiate it. The French ambassador to the US says that the agreement “is working as it is.” That view is echoed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Gen. Dunford’s testimony suggests that, if Trump is serious about scrapping the JCPOA, he will have to do so for reasons that have nothing to do with the actual deal.
Indeed, the alleged president seems to be looking for a reason. He tweeted this weekend about a supposed Iranian medium-range missile test, saying that the unrelated nuclear deal was “not much of an agreement” because of the launch.
However, the footage of the Khorramshahr missile turned out to be seven months old. Trump had seized on a fake news story.
“If Trump withdraws from the deal, it might permanently cement the perception that there is no durable diplomatic off-ramp for adversary proliferators,” writes Dartmouth professor Nicholas Miller.
In other words, should Trump follow through on his threat, America’s enemies could very well decide that our word cannot be trusted and that nuclear weapons are the only way to stay safe from aggressive American presidents.
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