Trump’s Iran Deal Trap: ‘Renegotiation’ vs. ‘Enforcement’

Mark Dubowitz
20th December 2016 - Quoted by Lee Smith - Tablet Magazine

Forget China and underwater drones, forget Russian hacks and leaks, because it’s all a sideshow: America’s big-ticket foreign-policy issue is still the Iran deal. Donald Trump has promised to rip it up on day one of his presidency, but that’s not going to happen because it means the freshly minted commander-in-chief may have America poised for conflict with the leading state sponsor of terror before the band even starts to warm up for the inaugural ball next month at the newly opened Trump International Hotel.

Prospective policymakers and analysts are busy proposing options for the new president. Recently, a debate has started to unfold with one side pushing to enforce the provisions of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and impose sanctions. Others argue the best way forward is to renegotiate a bad deal. Richard Nephew, the lead sanctions expert for the Obama administration team that negotiated the deal with Iran, argues that renegotiating the JCPOA is nearly impossible because you can’t create the same conditions that got the Iranians to the table in the first place. Others see “enforcement” as a way to re-create the leverage that America lost when it signed the deal.


While the temptation to use the president-elect’s own language to lead him down a more confrontational path with Iran must be tempting to those with significant experience and expertise, it carries with it the danger of missing the forest for the trees—and of creating a new lobby for renewed and practically endless negotiations with Iran, this time on the Republican side of the aisle. Still, there are many in the expert community who favor this strategy.  “I think the right strategy is parallel paths,” said Mark Dubowitz, executive director of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a leading expert on the JCPOA who helped lead the fight against what he believes was a weak agreement. “The first track,” said Dubowitz, “is to enforce the provisions of the existing deal and show zero tolerance for violations.”

Dubowitz agrees with Landau that the Obama administration habitually excused Iranian violations. “The Iranians don’t cheat egregiously,” he told me over the phone. “But the sum total of their incremental cheating is egregious. If we tolerate it, Iran will keep pushing the envelope, and in anywhere from 6 months to a year we’ll see how far they’ve pushed.”

Enforcing the deal, according to Dubowitz, also includes hitting Iran with non-nuclear-related sanctions, which the Obama administration has been blocking to keep the Iranians from walking away from the deal. These sanctions might include issues like human rights, ballistic missiles, support for Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad, and the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

“The centerpiece of the sanctions campaign should be the IRGC,” Dubowitz said of the Iranian institution that not only manages the nuclear file but is at the center of Iranian industry. “Right now there are 25 IRGC-related companies, and that list should be increased by the hundreds, if not thousands. FDD has a list 575 IRGC companies that should be designated.”

It’s not hard to discern that the intent behind the enforce-and-sanction strategy that Dubowitz described—to make it so difficult for Iran to continue to pursue a nuclear weapon that it either has to give up its program or, much more likely, walk away from the deal. The purpose of renegotiation, then, is to underline the fact that it’s the Iranians who are the bad guys, not the new president. Politically speaking, the question is how to do that without making house and senate Democrats feel like they’ve sold out Obama’s signature foreign-policy initiative, or Europeans fearful that they’re being led to the brink of World War III.

But why, I asked, would deal opponents want to risk repeating the Obama administration’s errors? Because the Trump White House would handle negotiations differently, says Dubowitz. “The Obama administration decreased pressure during negotiations, but now we increase it. Obama gave them $700 million a month to stay in negotiations, so the Iranians dragged out talks as their economy recovered. The longer they negotiated, the more their economy recovered and they avoided a crisis. So, we do the opposite and escalate pressure so they know that the longer they drag it out, the more severe the pain is. The incentive is for them to do a deal as quickly as possible.” Covert pressure mechanisms could also be applied. The possibilities are endless when applied by the tough-minded Trump cabinet officials like Rep. Mike Pompeo, Gen. James Mattis, and Gen. Michael Flynn, who will be in charge of national-security policy under President Trump.


Read the full aricle here


iran, irgc, jcpoa