According to a report by the German government, Iranian agents made 32 illegal attempts in 2016 to purchase materials necessary for the country’s ballistic-missile and nuclear-weapons programs; meanwhile, Tehran has not allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to carry out the inspections mandated by the 2015 nuclear deal (JCPOA). Thus, argues Abe Greenwald, there is little reason for the president to certify Iran’s compliance with the agreement by the October 15 deadline:
If Trump were not to decertify the deal, he would be lying about one of the gravest matters of American national security. He’d be declaring, against the testimony of the IAEA, that Iran is allowing for certain crucial inspections when, in fact, it’s not. The United States would become Iran’s duplicitous representative to international bodies.
Why do that? Well, the thinking goes, Iran has already received tens of billions of dollars as a result of the deal. Killing the deal wouldn’t help us recoup those losses; it would only further limit our ability to keep tabs on Iran. This is a compelling argument but only because there are always compelling reasons to let bad actors have their way. Those reasons boil down to the idea that confronting dangerous parties is riskier than appeasing them.
It is this very thinking that has for decades guided our mistaken policy on Iran and North Korea. While institutional inertia ensures no change in bad American policy, the countries we try to deter strengthen their hands and become effectively undeterrable. That’s how the world’s worst problems—North Korea’s nuclear program, for example—become unsolvable. . . .
Is there a better deal to be had? I doubt it, but it could be worth trying. . . . [And] what if the JCPOA is dismantled and there’s no better deal to be had? . . . Iran wants to dictate to or destroy the United States or its allies by possessing a deliverable nuclear weapon. If that doesn’t warrant consideration of a bombing run, nothing does.
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