President Donald Trump has once again given notice that the United States is truly the defender of democracy in the world. Withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran Deal; reality has supplanted hope. It was argued that the deal constrained Iranian ambition and would keep them from developing a nuclear weapon, which may have been true if Iran had ever intended to live up to the intent of the deal, but even then, only until 2025 when the deal ended.
The deal itself is a master piece of deception, worse it was a master piece of self-deception. It was to open up, for the world to see, Iranian nuclear facilities and capabilities, except it did not. It would restrict Iran from making weapons grade uranium, except it would not. Lastly it was to reduce the tension in the region and reduce the potential for war, except it did not.
Inspections were a part of the deal except for certain military facilities and with a 24-day advanced notice for the others. Iran was restricted in the number of centrifuges it could operate and further restricted to non-weapons grade uranium. It is not difficult to increase uranium enrichment and increase the capacity of the current centrifuges. The deal also released over $100 billion which was not used to help the Iranian people but to arm and train Iranian proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon as well as militia forces in Iraq under the control of the IRGC. Iran has used the money as well as the increased revenue from the lifting of sanctions to export terrorism and destabilize the region.
When people point out that the International Atomic Energy Commission certifies that Iran is in compliance with the deal it should add the caveat, "to the best of our knowledge and ability." Iran has openly defied UN Security Council Resolutions against the building and testing of ballistic missiles, why would they not then covertly defy the deal and continue research and development of nuclear weapons.
If the intent of the deal was to make the world a safer place it failed. President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry often sold the deal as "it’s this deal or war." It was this attitude that allowed the Iranians to blackmail the world. It is an obvious but somewhat over used comparison to point out PM Chamberlain returned from Munich with a treaty signed by Adolph Hitler that "guaranteed peace in our time."
A much-overlooked problem with the deal is that all the optics were on keeping Iran from developing a nuclear weapon and ignoring the more immediate consequence of funding and exporting terrorism. Immediately after the deal was approved by President Obama, Iran received over 100 billion dollars. The money however never went to help the Iranian people but to support the activities of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
The ultimate result was the opening of a land corridor between Iran through Syria to the border with Israel. On the 10th of May a volley of missiles was fired at Israel from Syria likely from IRGC forces positions. Israel responded with a retaliatory strike on Iranian forces in Syria. Iranian backed militias, under the control of the IRGC, led the assault on Kurdish towns and cities in Iraq, including the oil rich city of Kirkuk and other areas which were considered disputed territories. Iran also supports through arms and training such groups as Hamas and Hezbollah which controls the Lebanese government. Regardless of what Obama and Kerry said it has become this deal and war.
The difference now is that the current administration has broken the mold of post-Vietnam American reluctance to lead in diplomatic confrontations with small nations, least we be declared a bully or a neo-colonial power. The other signatories of the deal, UK, France, Germany, China and Russia are very upset by the US withdrawal but not over the issue of regional stability or peace. For the Europeans the deal is and was about reopening Iran to trade. Russia wants Iran to continue to destabilize the region for its own purpose of returning and reviving its leverage. China was the major financial supporter of Iran prior to European reinvestment.
The tough stance of the administration can be seen in two ways, an opening for new negotiations or a return to past diplomatic form. It is likely a little of both. Opening new negotiations is an easy explanation, failure to understand that the US would pull out needed to be reinforced to bring Iran to the table. With all the tough talk from Iran and Europe, without the US the deal is dead. The major reason for this is the fact that the US not only pulled out, it re-imposed sanctions and with that comes secondary sanctions on any company that deals with Iran. This will eventually reduce Iranian ability to fund its adventurism which has also become a major touch point with its own citizens. The threat of military action will also lead to continued problems for the regime
While little news has been reported, hundreds of protests have erupted across Iran demanding social and economic reform. While we see the chants of "Death to America" we seldom hear the chants of the actual protestors yelling "Capitalist mullahs, give us our money back." The economic model of Iran is one of an oligarchy with wealth concentrated in the hands of a small elite. Concentrating on exporting the Islamic Revolution and the destruction of Israel, Iran has poured its money into funding external war and ignored the needs of its own people. The action of the US to reintroduce sanctions will continue to erode the standard of living and push more under the poverty line, which currently is estimated to be 40% of the population. This ultimately will increase the pressure on the regime.
Reactions have been universally negative, except for Israel, but not because of security concerns but economic, as stated above. As we have seen Iran can achieve a weapons breakout in about six months, now or in seven years. The concern expressed by Europe has been the secondary sanctions, never a fear of weapons development.
Iran has said it never wanted nuclear weapons and the Supreme Leader has declared this type of weapon to be against Islam. Perhaps the whole thing was a propaganda move to frighten potential enemies. Then the only reason for the deal was to increase the economy of a rouge state that is a state sponsor of terrorism. If that is the case, then the deal should end, and support should be given to the increasing number of Iranians who want change.