Lessons from the End of the Iran Deal

Dismissing those who see President Trump’s decision to abrogate the nuclear agreement with Iran as an invitation to catastrophe, Ray Takeyh argues that the deal “contained the seeds of its own destruction” and urges policymakers to learn from its failure:

In contravention of decades of bipartisan arms-control policy, the JCPOA [Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action] conceded an indigenous enrichment capacity to an adversarial nation; Iran was allowed to continue enriching uranium while modernizing its atomic infrastructure. This original sin was the most consequential one. . . .

Another of the Iran deal’s fatal flaws was the notion that it’s possible to segregate arms control from all other areas of concern with Iran. . . . The events since the Iran deal’s conclusion in 2015 demonstrate the folly of this approach. There is always an implicit connection between an adversary’s regional behavior and the durability of a nuclear accord. . . . In the end, the Islamic Republic could not implant its flag across the Middle East and aggravate Arab civil wars and sustain the JCPOA. Thus, in any future talks, the U.S. can’t allow Iran’s regional behavior to be excluded from consideration.

Yet another lesson here for future diplomats is that any restrictions negotiated on Iran’s nuclear program must be permanent ones—no more sunset clauses. This is hardly a provocative posture, as it was the Obama administration’s own stance prior to 2013. . . . Given the contentious history of U.S.-Iran relations, any future accord [also] has to be submitted to the Senate as a treaty. John Kerry [believed] that so long as the United Nations and the Europeans affirmed his agreement, it would be protected from its American detractors. He was dead wrong; Congress rejected the JCPOA and every Republican presidential candidate denounced it. . . . This was hardly the necessary foundation for sustaining an agreement that was bound to be controversial. . . .

All this is a high bar for an agreement. And it may come to pass that arms control should not define America’s priorities as it once more contemplates the post-JCPOA environment. The Islamic Republic is a crippled revolutionary state on an inexorable path to extinction. It is ideologically exhausted, financially depleted, and suffering from imperial overstretch. As Washington turns a page from the JCPOA, it may consider ways of empowering Iranians to reclaim their country and make all the arms-control discussions superfluous. That is now the Trump administration’s charge, and its most important challenge.

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More about: Donald Trump, Iran, Iran nuclear program, Politics & Current Affairs, U.S. Foreign policy

Yasir Arafat’s Decades-Long Alliance with Iran and Its Consequences for Both Palestinians and Iranians

Jan. 18 2019

In 2002—at the height of the second intifada—the Israeli navy intercepted the Karina A, a Lebanese vessel carrying 50 tons of Iranian arms to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). But Yasir Arafat’s relationship with the Islamic Republic goes much farther back, to before its founding in 1979. The terrorist leader had forged ties with followers of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini that grew especially strong in the years when Lebanon became a base of operations both for Iranian opponents of the shah and for the PLO itself. Tony Badran writes:

The relationship between the Iranian revolutionary factions and the Palestinians began in the late 1960s, in parallel with Arafat’s own rise in preeminence within the PLO. . . . [D]uring the 1970s, Lebanon became the site where the major part of the Iranian revolutionaries’ encounter with the Palestinians played out. . . .

The number of guerrillas that trained in Lebanon with the Palestinians was not particularly large. But the Iranian cadres in Lebanon learned useful skills and procured weapons and equipment, which they smuggled back into Iran. . . . The PLO established close working ties with the Khomeinist faction. . . . [W]orking [especially] closely with the PLO [was] Mohammad Montazeri, son of the senior cleric Ayatollah Hossein-Ali Montazeri and a militant who had a leading role in developing the idea of establishing the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) once the revolution was won.

The Lebanese terrorist and PLO operative Anis Naccache, who coordinated with [the] Iranian revolutionaries, . . . takes personal credit for the idea. Naccache claims that Jalaleddin Farsi, [a leading Iranian revolutionary], approached him specifically and asked him directly to draft the plan to form the main pillar of the Khomeinist regime. The formation of the IRGC may well be the greatest single contribution that the PLO made to the Iranian revolution. . . .

Arafat’s fantasy of pulling the strings and balancing the Iranians and the Arabs in a grand anti-Israel camp of regional states never stood much of a chance. However, his wish to see Iran back the Palestinian armed struggle is now a fact, as Tehran has effectively become the principal, if not the only, sponsor of the Palestinian military option though its direct sponsorship of Islamic Jihad and its sustaining strategic and organizational ties with Hamas. By forging ties with the Khomeinists, Arafat unwittingly helped to achieve the very opposite of his dream. Iran has turned [two] Palestinian factions into its proxies, and the PLO has been relegated to the regional sidelines.

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More about: Hamas, History & Ideas, Iran, Lebanon, PLO, Yasir Arafat