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.