Tucson, AZ 8 May 2018.
Donald Trump’s announcement to withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated in 2015 between Iran and the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China once again is a dramatic and reckless step by a president who seems intent on destroying the accomplishments of the Obama Administration, trashing our multilateral agreements and straining the alliance structure constructed by the United States since the end of WWII in 1945. Just as Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Climate Agreement and the TPP, once again he is acting alone to jeopardize our international leadership and to make international problems more difficult to address. With this action, Trump has also strained relations with other major countries including China, whose assistance is vital to achieve a nuclear weapons agreement with North Korea.
At the heart of this agreement is one of the world’s most pressing issues, nuclear proliferation. The Agreement provided for a strict non-proliferation protocol with international inspections, which all of the partners to the agreement, even the Trump administration, has verified as being respected. Trump’s rash decision to withdraw has now put this accomplishment in serious jeopardy.
Trump has withdrawn from this agreement without providing any factual basis to justify such as decision. Trump’s rationale can only be described as “Trumped up.” The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has consistently found that Iran is complying with the agreement, and the Joint Commission of the JCPOA has not identified any violations. Our European Allies say Iran is in compliance. The Trump administration Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, has stated Iran is in compliance. In fact, there are credible reports of multiple instances where the Trump administration may be guilty of non-compliance.
Opponents of the agreement and have said that Iran is not complying with the “spirit” of the agreement. But the parties to that agreement have said repeatedly that the deal was limited to one critical objective, nuclear non-proliferation. All of the parties to the agreement have been clear that the nuclear deal was one step in a process of engagement with Iran. This deal represented a major shift in the foreign policy of the United States toward Iran which has been confrontational and interventionist since the CIA-orchestrated overthrow of Iran’s Prime Minister Mossadeq in 1953.
Everyone in the world, except perhaps Trump, understands that nuclear proliferation is a grave danger, one which must be approached multilaterally. Trump has now renounced the path of diplomatic engagement with Iran and has demonstrated to the world that this administration cannot be relied upon to stand by its word. While turning his back on the progress made by the other five countries which were parties to the agreement, Trump has failed to identify any better options to engage with Iran on other issues in dispute or to limit nuclear non-proliferation. Supporters of the Iran agreement are concerned that Trump’s rash action will encourage other countries, including some in the volatile Middle East, to commit to building a nuclear arsenal of their own and will make it harder to reach agreement with North Korea regarding its nuclear program.
In light of this irresponsible decision, Iran has many options including to relaunch its nuclear program which clearly is not in the interest of the United States or the international community. Iran and the other countries to the agreement could also agree to continue to respect the deal, isolating the U.S. and focusing world opinion on this administration’s intransigence and reckless behavior. Under Trump, the U.S. is being transformed from the leader of the world to a rogue state, led by a childish old man whose instincts are to destroy, not build.
The United States could also attempt to build an anti-Iran coalition, which would be hard to put together, offers no advantages to the U.S, and could not address the complex and dangerous issues in the region. Re-imposing full sanctions on Iran will hurt Americans. What seems clear is that Trump has no strategy and has devoted little of his “executive time” to understanding the Iran deal or considering the consequences of his actions.
Whichever approach Iran and the other parties to the agreement take, the consequences could be grave. Trump might opt for military action which would be a catastrophe for Iran, the U.S. and the world. After his talks with President Trump last week, President Macron of France, told Der Spiegel, the German news weekly, that if Trump opts out of the agreement with Iran, “We would open Pandora’s box. There could be war.”
I call on Congress to commit to legislation limiting Trump’s authority to attack Iran without Congressional approval. Our hope is that the world will react to Trump’s decision with more insight and wisdom than displayed by the current U. S. President and that the Congress will take appropriate action to limit Trump’s next potentially destructive moves.