Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Douglas Murray at his best - Israel & Nuclear Iran

Now that President Trump has decertified the Iran deal, I was reminded of the Cambridge Union debate on nuclear Iran from Feb 2012 in which Douglas Murray was brilliant.

Transcript from 7:13 on

But I will not leave this debate tonight without mentioning the people it matters to most, which is the people of the country that successive leaders in Iran have said they will erase from the page of time. Leaders who deny the last Holocaust while saying they want the next.

I was speaking to a friend of mine just yesterday, whose father was a Holocaust survivor and he said his father said one thing before he died, one lesson would you take from the Holocaust, and I take this lesson: When someone says they want to annihilate you – believe them! Don’t think they are joking. Don’t think they don’t mean it.

Israeli people have reason not to want or need you or your opinions on their future.  
In 1973 when Israel — six years after the previous attempt to annihilate it as a state by its neighbors — once again saw its neighbors’ armies amassing on the borders the Israeli government wanted preemptively to stop that war. They didn’t. They did not among other things because they knew that if they did strike preemptively America would not provide them with any munitions. Kissinger said that himself afterwards. So they waited and they were attacked as they knew they would be, and they lost many good people, but they were then able to retaliate.

“They were then able to push those armies out of Israel, but — and this is a crucial thing to remember — the American planes were not allowed to land and refuel (as they were) bringing supplies to that country when it was on the brink of being ended. They were not allowed to land in any European country, even to refuel. When Israel was about to be ended, you couldn’t even stop a plane for a couple of hours on European soil, because the Europeans cared more about the oil deals they were doing with Arabs than they did about the future of that state.

Since October 1973 not a single Israeli has thought seriously that when they were about to be annihilated, you or any Europeans would lift a finger, and they knew you wouldn’t, and they were right to know you wouldn’t, and you wouldn’t.

When Israel is pushed to the situation  it will be pushed to, of having to believe they mean it, and when every bit of  jiggery-pokery  behind the scenes runs out, when the UN and distinguished figures have run out of time and Iran is about to produce its first bomb, Israel will strike.

Every single country, including this one, people from our elegant diplomatic service, people from America, everyone will condemn Israel. Everyone in the Middle East will condemn Israel. And they will go back to their homes and they will say in private thank God for Israel.  The Saudis, the Bahrainis, the Egyptians, the Libyans, the Lebanese, everybody will say thank God they did it. Because nobody else would.  

The proposition being put before you tonight is that you have a choice between war and an Iran with the bomb.  You have a choice as has been said before, between war and dishonor – you will choose dishonor this evening and you will get war.  You have a choice between a war with a nuclear Iran, or a war at some point, with an Iran that is not nuclear which you stop from ever being nuclear, and hope that in stopping that regime  in embedding itself, you will give the Iranian people the best chance of overthrowing that regime. But as I say, thank God this does not rely on you or any Europeans. Because you’ve made the same mistake before and nobody should trust you to get it right this time.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Bret Stephens: Donald Trump Takes a Hostage

 The New York Times


Bret Stephens
Negotiators warn never to take a hostage you can’t shoot. By announcing Friday that the administration would not certify that the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran was in the national interest, Donald Trump has taken a hostage.

The hostage is the deal itself. Contrary to belief, decertification neither violates nor cancels the agreement. It does not betray our commitments to our allies and it does not abrogate our obligations to the Iranians. It’s an act of domestic politics between two branches of the United States government.

But it’s also a psychological step, a brash signal that Trump is prepared to see the deal fail and accept the consequences, including war, if he can’t negotiate a better one. Since Iran insists it won’t budge, it sets Washington and Tehran on a path of confrontation that can be averted only if one side or the other blinks. Decertification is Trump saying: We won’t blink.

On Thursday, a well-placed source who advises the administration on Iran policy and supports decertification listed for me all the ways things could go wrong.

There’s personnel risk, starting with the volatility of the man at the top.

There’s escalatory risk, as the United States, its forces thinly stretched in the Middle East, become vulnerable to attack by Iran’s terrorist proxies. Think of the Marine barracks bombing in Beirut in 1983 and the humiliating American withdrawal in its wake.

There’s diplomatic risk, as Iran traps Western diplomats in a process of never-ending negotiations designed to go nowhere — all the while turning the Islamic Republic into a reputable member of the international community and the United States into the global pariah.

Above all, there’s the risk that Iran will call Trump’s bluff, much as Bashar al-Assad called President Obama’s when he failed to enforce his chemical red line in 2013. A superpower repeatedly exposed as a paper tiger by lesser, if more willful, adversaries will not maintain its pre-eminence for long.
So what’s the case for supporting decertification?

The architects of the nuclear deal make three dubious claims on its behalf. They say it concerns Iran’s nuclear dossier alone, and does not prevent us from thwarting Tehran’s regional bids in Syria, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen, Gaza or the Gulf. They claim the deal is working because Iran is abiding by its terms, as certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

And they add that since the agreement permanently enjoins the Iranians from acquiring nuclear weapons, the United States maintains the military option to stop them from doing so.

Yet Iran’s regional behavior has become worse since the nuclear deal came into effect, not least because it provided the regime with a huge new income stream — $10 billion in cash and gold in 2016 alone, plus more than $100 billion in additional sanctions relief — to fund its work. Tehran also operates on the assumption, well justified during the Obama years, that the United States would not risk the nuclear deal for the sake of rolling back Iranian gains in Syria and elsewhere.

As for the point that the Iranians are generally (if not quite entirely) honoring their end of the bargain — why shouldn’t they? “Iran doesn’t want a bomb today,” one senior Israeli official told me. “It wants a bomb tomorrow.” That is, it wants a robust nuclear base that puts it within a screw’s twist of a sizable nuclear arsenal without the economic and security risks of actual possession.

And if it does choose to go for a bomb once the agreement has run its course, our military options will be slight. If we couldn’t prevent Pakistan or North Korea from going nuclear in the 1990s, why should we think we’ll be able to stop Iran in the nick of time?

My critics will claim that a distant prospect of a nuclear Iran is still vastly preferable to an exit from the deal that allows Iran to bring its centrifuges out of storage and start spinning its way to a bomb once again, this time without the monitoring of United Nations inspectors.

Maybe. But Iran still wants the economic benefits of the deal — benefits Washington alone can bestow through waivers, permits, relief from secondary sanctions and control over dollar transactions. The American Goliath needn’t be helpless against a Middle Eastern state with a gross domestic product only slightly larger than that of metropolitan Atlanta.

We are living through a nuclear nightmare on the Korean Peninsula after more than two decades of optimistic diplomacy. That’s a fate we ought to do everything possible to avoid with Iran. As Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies points out, “decertification isn’t a sufficient condition to break the paralysis of our Iran policy, but it is a necessary one.”

Even if the rest of the difficult enterprise rests in the hands of — God help us — President Trump.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Iran deal decertification and the Bernard Lewis white elephant in the middle of the room

President Trump has just decertified the Iran deal.  The media reaction from the left is negative, the one from the right supportive. And yet both sides have one thing in common which is that for some weird reason nobody seems to care what Bernard Lewis says. And what he has been saying for many years is that “For people with this mindset, MAD is not a constraint; it is an inducement....”

One would have thought that a statement of this importance which states that the main doctrine that kept the USSR and the US from blowing each other up (and the whole world along with them) during the Cold War does not apply to Iran would be discussed and checked for accuracy. Not at all, it is being completely ignored. In the last 5 years only Netanyahu at the UNGA and Michael Oren in the LA Times quoted it.  

How can we explain this?  Five years ago I gave this explanation “And yet, the reviewers do not know what to do with MAD.  On the one hand, here is a most erudite, respected scholar and on the other, he is saying such, to them, off the wall things no one else dares to mention.  What to do? The best thing is to ignore it.  Perhaps if someone else in the media would volunteer and bring up the topic, they would pitch in. No one in the main stream media does”. 

Has anything changed since 2012?  The Iran deal was covered extensively in the press in 2015 and it its decertification is being analyzed yet again now, still with no mention of Bernard Lewis.

So it is time to ask the journalists explicitly:  Why do you, Charles Krauthammer, Bret Stephens, Yaakov Katz, Caroline Glick never, ever quote “For people with this mindset, MAD is not a constraint; it is an inducement....”?  What do you think about what Bernard Lewis has been saying?  

President Trump announces he will not recertify the Iran deal


Thank you very much. My fellow Americans: As President of the United States, my highest obligation is to ensure the safety and security of the American people.

History has shown that the longer we ignore a threat, the more dangerous that threat becomes. For this reason, upon taking office, I've ordered a complete strategic review of our policy toward the rogue regime in Iran. That review is now complete.

Today, I am announcing our strategy, along with several major steps we are taking to confront the Iranian regime's hostile actions and to ensure that Iran never, and I mean never, acquires a nuclear weapon.

Our policy is based on a clear-eyed assessment of the Iranian dictatorship, its sponsorship of terrorism, and its continuing aggression in the Middle East and all around the world.

Iran is under the control of a fanatical regime that seized power in 1979 and forced a proud people to submit to its extremist rule. This radical regime has raided the wealth of one of the world's oldest and most vibrant nations, and spread death, destruction, and chaos all around the globe.

Beginning in 1979, agents of the Iranian regime illegally seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran and held more than 60 Americans hostage during the 444 days of the crisis. The Iranian-backed terrorist group Hezbollah twice bombed our embassy in Lebanon — once in 1983 and again in 1984. Another Iranian-supported bombing killed 241 Americans — service members they were, in their barracks in Beirut in 1983.

In 1996, the regime directed another bombing of American military housing in Saudi Arabia, murdering 19 Americans in cold blood.

Iranian proxies provided training to operatives who were later involved in al Qaeda's bombing of the American embassies in Kenya, Tanzania, and two years later, killing 224 people, and wounding more than 4,000 others.

The regime harbored high-level terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden's son. In Iraq and Afghanistan, groups supported by Iran have killed hundreds of American military personnel.

The Iranian dictatorship's aggression continues to this day. The regime remains the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism, and provides assistance to al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hezbollah, Hamas, and other terrorist networks. It develops, deploys, and proliferates missiles that threaten American troops and our allies. It harasses American ships and threatens freedom of navigation in the Arabian Gulf and in the Red Sea. It imprisons Americans on false charges. And it launches cyberattacks against our critical infrastructure, financial system, and military.

The United States is far from the only target of the Iranian dictatorship's long campaign of bloodshed. The regime violently suppresses its own citizens; it shot unarmed student protestors in the street during the Green Revolution.

This regime has fueled sectarian violence in Iraq, and vicious civil wars in Yemen and Syria. In Syria, the Iranian regime has supported the atrocities of Bashar al-Assad's regime and condoned Assad's use of chemical weapons against helpless civilians, including many, many children.

Given the regime's murderous past and present, we should not take lightly its sinister vision for the future. The regime's two favorite chants are "Death to America" and "Death to Israel."
Realizing the gravity of the situation, the United States and the United Nations Security Council sought, over many years, to stop Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons with a wide array of strong economic sanctions.

But the previous administration lifted these sanctions, just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime, through the deeply controversial 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. This deal is known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.

As I have said many times, the Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. The same mindset that produced this deal is responsible for years of terrible trade deals that have sacrificed so many millions of jobs in our country to the benefit of other countries. We need negotiators who will much more strongly represent America's interest.

The nuclear deal threw Iran's dictatorship a political and economic lifeline, providing urgently needed relief from the intense domestic pressure the sanctions had created. It also gave the regime an immediate financial boost and over $100 billion dollars its government could use to fund terrorism.

The regime also received a massive cash settlement of $1.7 billion from the United States, a large portion of which was physically loaded onto an airplane and flown into Iran. Just imagine the sight of those huge piles of money being hauled off by the Iranians waiting at the airport for the cash. I wonder where all that money went.

Worst of all, the deal allows Iran to continue developing certain elements of its nuclear program. And importantly, in just a few years, as key restrictions disappear, Iran can sprint towards a rapid nuclear weapons breakout. In other words, we got weak inspections in exchange for no more than a purely short-term and temporary delay in Iran's path to nuclear weapons.

What is the purpose of a deal that, at best, only delays Iran's nuclear capability for a short period of time? This, as President of the United States, is unacceptable. In other countries, they think in terms of 100-year intervals, not just a few years at a time.

The saddest part of the deal for the United States is that all of the money was paid up front, which is unheard of, rather than at the end of the deal when they have shown they've played by the rules. But what's done is done, and that's why we are where we are.

The Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement. For example, on two separate occasions, they have exceeded the limit of 130 metric tons of heavy water. Until recently, the Iranian regime has also failed to meet our expectations in its operation of advanced centrifuges.

The Iranian regime has also intimidated international inspectors into not using the full inspection authorities that the agreement calls for.

Iranian officials and military leaders have repeatedly claimed they will not allow inspectors onto military sites, even though the international community suspects some of those sites were part of Iran's clandestine nuclear weapons program.
There are also many people who believe that Iran is dealing with North Korea. I am going to instruct our intelligence agencies to do a thorough analysis and report back their findings beyond what they have already reviewed.

By its own terms, the Iran Deal was supposed to contribute to "regional and international peace and security." And yet, while the United States adheres to our commitment under the deal, the Iranian regime continues to fuel conflict, terror, and turmoil throughout the Middle East and beyond. Importantly, Iran is not living up to the spirit of the deal.

So today, in recognition of the increasing menace posed by Iran, and after extensive consultations with our allies, I am announcing a new strategy to address the full range of Iran's destructive actions.

First, we will work with our allies to counter the regime's destabilizing activity and support for terrorist proxies in the region.

Second, we will place additional sanctions on the regime to block their financing of terror.
Third, we will address the regime's proliferation of missiles and weapons that threaten its neighbors, global trade, and freedom of navigation.

And finally, we will deny the regime all paths to a nuclear weapon.

Today, I am also announcing several major steps my administration is taking in pursuit of this strategy.

The execution of our strategy begins with the long-overdue step of imposing tough sanctions on Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. The Revolutionary Guard is the Iranian Supreme Leader's corrupt personal terror force and militia. It has hijacked large portions of Iran's economy and seized massive religious endowments to fund war and terror abroad. This includes arming the Syrian dictator, supplying proxies and partners with missiles and weapons to attack civilians in the region, and even plotting to bomb a popular restaurant right here in Washington, D.C.

I am authorizing the Treasury Department to further sanction the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps for its support for terrorism and to apply sanctions to its officials, agents, and affiliates. I urge our allies to join us in taking strong actions to curb Iran's continued dangerous and destabilizing behavior, including thorough sanctions outside the Iran Deal that target the regime's ballistic missile program, in support for terrorism, and all of its destructive activities, of which there are many.

Finally, on the grave matter of Iran's nuclear program: Since the signing of the nuclear agreement, the regime's dangerous aggression has only escalated. At the same time, it has received massive sanctions relief while continuing to develop its missiles program. Iran has also entered into lucrative business contracts with other parties to the agreement.

When the agreement was finalized in 2015, Congress passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to ensure that Congress's voice would be heard on the deal. Among other conditions, this law requires the President, or his designee, to certify that the suspension of sanctions under the deal is "appropriate and proportionate" to measure — and other measures taken by Iran to terminate its illicit nuclear program. Based on the factual record I have put forward, I am announcing today that we cannot and will not make this certification.

We will not continue down a path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror, and the very real threat of Iran's nuclear breakout.

That is why I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal's many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons. These include the deal's sunset clauses that, in just a few years, will eliminate key restrictions on Iran's nuclear program.

The flaws in the deal also include insufficient enforcement and near total silence on Iran's missile programs. Congress has already begun the work to address these problems. Key House and Senate leaders are drafting legislation that would amend the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act to strengthen enforcement, prevent Iran from developing an inter- — this is so totally important — an intercontinental ballistic missile, and make all restrictions on Iran's nuclear activity permanent under U.S. law. So important. I support these initiatives.

However, in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated. It is under continuous review, and our participation can be cancelled by me, as President, at any time.

As we have seen in North Korea, the longer we ignore a threat, the worse that threat becomes. It is why we are determined that the world's leading sponsor of terrorism will never obtain nuclear weapons.

In this effort, we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime's longest-suffering victims: its own people. The citizens of Iran have paid a heavy price for the violence and extremism of their leaders. The Iranian people long to — and they just are longing, to reclaim their country's proud history, its culture, its civilization, its cooperation with its neighbors.

We hope that these new measures directed at the Iranian dictatorship will compel the government to reevaluate its pursuit of terror at the expense of its people.

We hope that our actions today will help bring about a future of peace, stability, and prosperity in the Middle East –- a future where sovereign nations respect each other and their own citizens.
We pray for a future where young children — American and Iranian, Muslim, Christian, and Jewish — can grow up in a world free from violence, hatred, and terror.

And, until that blessed day comes, we will do what we must to keep America safe.

Thank you, God bless you, and God bless America. Thank you.

PM Netanyahu's statement

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

How Trump Can Improve the Iran Deal

The Wall Street Journal

He can decertify the accord as too dangerous to continue while renegotiating its worst aspects

By  Mark Dubowitz and David Albright

Powerful voices at home and abroad are pressuring President Trump to give his blessing to his predecessor’s nuclear agreement with Iran. Mr. Trump has repeatedly pledged to renegotiate the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or scrap it altogether. There is a way for him to highlight the agreement’s egregious deficiencies while showing his determination to improve the deal or leave it. We call this strategy “decertify, waive, slap and fix.”

The president should follow through on his commitments by refusing to certify the JCPOA under the 2015 Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act. That law requires Mr. Trump to certify every 90 days that Iran is fully implementing the nuclear deal and hasn’t significantly advanced its nuclear-weapons program. Additionally he must certify whether the suspension of sanctions remains vital to U.S. national-security interests and proportionate to Iran’s efforts to terminate its illicit nuclear programs. The next 90-day deadline is Oct. 15.

If the president continues to certify the JCPOA, inertia and the status quo will probably capture him the way a policy of “strategic patience” on North Korea got Mr. Obama. This will effectively guarantee the clerical regime pathways to missile-delivered nuclear weapons.

The JCPOA is a prelude to a Middle Eastern version of the North Korean mess. It gives the clerical regime sunset-expiring restrictions, advanced centrifuges, intercontinental ballistic missiles, the ability to frustrate U.N. inspectors’ access to military sites where Tehran has conducted secret nuclear-weapons and uranium-enrichment work in the past, and tens of billions of dollars in sanctions relief, with hundreds of billions to follow. The Iranians will continue to run amok in the Middle East, using foreign cash to pay for their imperialism.

The president should refuse to certify for another reason: The nuclear deal’s fundamentally flawed architecture—not just how it is enforced—makes it too dangerous to continue. By patiently following the deal the Islamic Republic can gain nuclear weapons, as well as a nuclear-capable arsenal of missiles giving it regional hegemony and the ability to threaten the United States. It also will have a powerful economy immunized against sanctions pressure by the time the JCPOA restrictions expire. Allowing this is not in the “vital national security interests of the United States.”

Decertifying doesn’t mean breaking the deal. That happens only if the U.S. reimposes sanctions that have been lifted or suspended under the JCPOA. On Sept. 14, as required by the JCPOA, the president again waived nuclear-related sanctions, this time on Iran’s central bank and oil exports. He accompanied this “waive” with a “slap” imposing new sanctions on companies and individuals connected to Iran’s ballistic missile program and recent cyberattacks. An engineering company working with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was also targeted.

These sanctions, which are fully compliant with the JCPOA, are a decent start. But Mr. Trump must do more. He should designate the Revolutionary Guards a terrorist organization, as Congress has required he do by Oct. 31. He should also instruct the Treasury to blacklist companies with Revolutionary Guard and military ownership, which represent about 20% of the total market capitalization of the Tehran Stock Exchange. He should redesignate Iran Air (which is buying planes from Boeing and Airbus) as a terrorist entity for airlifting weapons and fighters to Syria. All these measures are consistent with the JCPOA.

We propose the president “fix” U.S. policy by making it clear he does not accept the Iran deal’s dangerous flaws. He should insist on conditions making permanent the current restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program and the testing of advanced centrifuges and nuclear-capable ballistic missiles, as well as the buying and transferring of conventional weaponry. He must insist on unfettered access for U.N. weapons inspectors to Iranian military sites.

Congress should do its part to help fix the deal. Reinstating the JCPOA sanctions after decertification would ruin the “decertify, waive, slap and fix” approach. To persuade Republicans, who are the most likely to vote to reinstate JCPOA sanctions that have been waived or lifted, the administration needs to demonstrate a comprehensive strategy to fix the deal and use all instruments of American power to neutralize and roll back Iranian aggression. Democrats should help fix the deal or explain to Americans why a brutally repressive and aggressive Iranian regime should have a North Korean-style glide path to dozens of nuclear weapons and ICBMs.

The Europeans are already responding to Mr. Trump’s threats to walk away from the deal. French President Emmanuel Macron has said he’s willing to consider supplementing the agreement to address the sunset provisions and missiles. European leaders who want to preserve the accord are now working on a U.S.-EU consensus on ways to fix it. They should outline conditions under which trans-Atlantic sanctions would be reinstated if Iran doesn’t play ball. Otherwise, they can watch Mr. Trump exit the deal and use the considerable financial power of the U.S. to force European banks and companies to choose between America’s $19 trillion market and Iran’s $400 billion one.

Decertification is the critical first step of a strategy to prevent the Islamic Republic of Iran from becoming a nuclear state. The famously blunt Mr. Trump must send an unambiguous message to Tehran’s clerics: His administration will not tolerate a nuclear Iran, nor can it abide by the agreement as it stands. But the strategy doesn’t depend on Iranian acquiescence. It gives the Europeans a chance to come on board to fix the deal in order to save it.

If they don’t, the consequences could be severe.

Mr. Dubowitz is chief executive of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Mr. Albright is president of the Institute for Science and International Security.

John Bolton: Mr. Trump: Withdraw From the Iran Nuclear Deal

the algemeiner

President Donald Trump will address US policy toward Iran on Thursday, doubtless focusing on his decision regarding Barack Obama’s badly-flawed nuclear deal. Key officials are now briefing Congress, the press and foreign governments about the speech, cautioning that the final product is, in fact, not yet final. The preponderant media speculation is that Trump’s senior advisers are positioning him to make a serious mistake, based on their flawed advice. Wishful thinking about Iran’s mullahs, near-religious faith in the power of pieces of paper and a retreat from executive authority are hallmarks of the impending crash.

In short, Obama’s Iran nuclear deal is poised to become the Trump-Obama deal. The media report that the president will not withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), but instead, under the misbegotten Corker-Cardin legislation, will “decertify” that it is in America’s national interest. Congress may then reimpose sanctions, or try somehow to “fix” the deal. Curiously, most of the suggested “fixes” involve repairing Corker-Cardin rather than the JCPOA directly.

Sure, give Congress the lead on Iran. What could go wrong? Whatever the problem with Iran, Congress is not the answer. No president should surrender what the Constitution vests uniquely in him: dominant power to set America’s foreign policy. In the iconic “Federalist Number 70” essay, Alexander Hamilton wrote insightfully that “decision, activity, secrecy and dispatch” characterize unitary executive power, and most certainly not the legislative branch. President Trump risks not only forfeiting his leading national security role, but paralysis, or worse, in the House and Senate.

If Congress really wants to “fix” Corker-Cardin, the best fix is total repeal. The substantive arguments for decertifying but not withdrawing are truly Jesuitical, teasing out imagined benefits from adhering to a deal Iran already treats with contempt. Some argue we should try provoking Iran to exit first, because our withdrawal would harm America’s image. This is ludicrous. The United States must act in its own self-interest, not wait around hoping Iran does us a favor. It won’t. Why should Tehran leave (or even modify) a deal advantageous beyond its wildest imagination?

This “shame” prediction was made against Washington’s 2001 unilateral withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, and proved utterly false. America’s decision to abrogate the hallowed “cornerstone of international strategic stability” produced nothing like the storm of opprobrium Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty adherents predicted. No nuclear arms race followed. Instead, withdrawal left the United States far better positioned to defend itself against exactly the threats Iran and others now pose.

Some say that trashing the deal will spur Iran to accelerate its nuclear weapons program to rush across the finish line. Of course, before the JCPOA, Iran was already party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, which barred it from seeking or possessing nuclear weapons, but which it systematically violated. JCPOA advocates are therefore arguing that although one piece of paper (a multilateral treaty, no less) failed to stop Iran’s nuclear quest, the JCPOA, a second piece of paper, will do the trick, with catastrophic consequences if we withdraw. Ironically, these same acolytes almost invariably concede the JCPOA is badly flawed and needs substantial amendment. So they actually believe a third piece of paper is required to halt Iran. Two are not enough. This argument flunks the smile test: Burying Iran in paper will not stop its nuclear program.

Iran’s ability to “rush” to have nuclear weapons existed before the deal, exists now, and would exist if America withdrew. The director of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran said recently it would take a mere five days for Iran to resume its pre-deal level of uranium enrichment. This rare case of regime honesty demonstrates how trivial and easily reversible Iran’s JCPOA concessions were. What alone deters an Iranian “rush” is the threat of preemptive US or Israeli military strikes, not pieces of paper.

Nor will US withdrawal eliminate valuable international verification procedures under the JCPOA. In fact, these measures are worse than useless for nonproliferation purposes, although they serve Iran well. By affording the appearance of effective verification, they camouflage Iran’s active, multiple violations of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231: on uranium enrichment levels, advanced centrifuge research, heavy water production and missile programs. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently admitted explicitly it has no visibility whatever into weapons and ballistic missile work underway on Iran’s military bases.

It is simple common sense that Iran would not conduct easily discoverable weapons-related work at already-known nuclear sites like Natanz and Esfahan. Warhead design and the like are far more likely at military sites like Parchin where the IAEA has never had adequate access. No wonder the IAEA is now barred from Parchin.

It is not just weapons-related work the JCPOA fails to uncover. Substantial uranium enrichment production and research are also far more likely at undeclared sites inside Iran or elsewhere, like North Korea. This is the lesson Tehran learned after Israel destroyed the nuclear reactor under construction by North Koreans in Syria in 2007.

Nor will abrogating the deal somehow induce Iran to become more threatening in the Middle East or in supporting global terrorism than it already is with the JCPOA in force. Consider Tehran’s belligerent behavior in the Persian Gulf, its nearly successful effort to create an arc of control from Iran through Iraq and Syria to Lebanon, threatening Israel, Jordan and the Arabian Peninsula, and its continued role as the world’s central banker of international terrorism. The real issue is how much worse Iran’s behavior will be once it gets deliverable nuclear weapons.

I have previously argued that only US withdrawal from the JCPOA can adequately protect America from the Iranian nuclear threat. Casuistry deployed to persuade President Trump to stay in the deal may succeed this Thursday, but it does so only at grave peril to our country. This is no time to let our guard down.

John R. Bolton (@AmbJohnBolton) served as US ambassador to the United Nations and as undersecretary for arms control and international security affairs at the US Department of State under President George W. Bush.
This article was originally published by The Hill.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

This time, Caroline B. Glick is wrong

Jerusalem Post, Letters to the Editor, October 9, 2017

This time, Caroline B. Glick is wrong (“Trump and Obama’s third term,” Column One, October 6).

The main question to ask is whether what US President Donald Trump is doing regarding the decertification of the Iran deal will help in preventing Tehran from getting nuclear weapons. I believe it will because Congress will become involved and the whole of former president Barack Obama’s failed policy will be discussed in the open.

While the doctrine of “mutually assured destruction” applies to North Korea, this is not the case with Iran. According to Middle East historian Bernard Lewis: “For people with this mindset, MAD is not a constraint; it is an inducement....”

This will without doubt be the most important step of the Trump presidency so far. If it goes through, he will have set the course to correct the disastrous Iran deal and significantly reduce the probability of Iran initiating a nuclear war.


The Iranian Difference: Bernard Lewis from ASMEA on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Trump to ‘decertify’ Iran nuclear deal next week

This will without doubt be the most important step of the Trump presidency so far. If this goes through, he will have set the course to correct the disastrous Iran deal, and significantly reduce the probability of Iran initiated nuclear war.  

We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles. And we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.

The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into. Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don't think you've heard the last of it, believe me.

If the president finds that he cannot certify Iranian compliance, it would signal one or more of the following messages to Congress. Either the administration believes Iran is in violation of the deal; or the lifting of sanctions against Iran is not appropriate and proportional to the regime’s behavior; or the lifting of sanctions is not in the U.S. national security interest. Under the law, Congress then has 60 days to consider whether to re-impose sanctions on Iran. During that time, Congress could take the opportunity to debate Iran’s support for terrorism, its past nuclear activity, and its massive human rights violations, all of which are called for in Corker-Cardin.

Congress could debate whether the nuclear deal is in fact too big to fail. We should welcome a debate over whether the JCPOA is in the U.S. national security interest. The previous administration set up the deal in a way that denied us that honest and serious debate.

If the president finds that he cannot in good faith certify Iranian compliance, he would initiate a process whereby we move beyond narrow technicalities and look at the big picture. At issue is our national security interest. It’s past time we had an Iran nuclear policy that acknowledged that.


President Trump plans to “decertify” the Iran nuclear deal next week and announce that it is not in the United States' national interest, The Washington Post reported Thursday.
Such an announcement would leave the next move up to Congress, which would have 60 days to use a fast-track process to reimpose sanctions and deliver a potentially fatal blow to the deal, which Tehran agreed to in 2015 with the U.S. and five other nations.
Trump faces an Oct. 15 deadline to tell Congress whether Iran remains in compliance with the Obama-era nuclear accord, which gave Tehran billions of dollars of sanctions relief in exchange for limits on its nuclear program.
The deadline is part of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, which also says the president must tell Congress whether suspension of sanctions remains vital to the national security interests of the United States. 
According to the Post, which cited individuals briefed on an emerging White House strategy, Trump has tentatively scheduled an Oct. 12 speech to lay out a larger strategy on Iran that would open the door to modifying the agreement but hold off on recommending Congress reimpose sanctions.
The Post’s sources cautioned that plans are not fully set and could change.
The White House would not confirm the speech or its contents, the newspaper reported.
Trump has repeatedly bashed the Iran deal, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, calling it “an embarrassment” and promising on the campaign trail to tear it up.
But the international body overseeing the deal, the International Atomic Energy Agency, has said Iran remains in compliance, as have Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Joseph Dunford.
Administration officials in favor of keeping the deal in place have been looking for a way to split the difference between saving the deal and saving face for Trump.
Mattis hinted at a congressional hearing this week at the idea of decertifying Iran's compliance while leaving sanctions relief in place.
“We have two different issues,” Mattis told the House Armed Services Committee. “One is the [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] and one is what Congress has passed, and those two are distinct but integral with each other. As you look at what the Congress has laid out at a somewhat different definition of what's in our best interest, and therein lies, I think, the need for us to look at these distinct but integral issues the way the president has directed.”

Trump said last month he had made a decision on the deal, but refused to say what it entailed. On Thursday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders reiterated that Trump has made a decision and will announce it at the “appropriate time.”