Withdrawal from the Nuclear Deal with Iran Has Paid Off

Feb. 12 2019

More than six months ago, Donald Trump declared that the U.S. would no longer abide by the terms of the 2015 agreement in light of Tehran’s violations of it. As Fred Fleitz explains, events have vindicated the U.S. decision:

Trump’s withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), [as the deal is formally known], did not lead to war with Iran, as many critics predicted. Instead, Iran is far more isolated than it was when President Trump assumed office. The United States has worked to unite its Middle East allies, especially Israel and Saudi Arabia, against Iran and, in Warsaw this month, will co-chair an international conference with Poland on the threat from Iran. Iran’s economy is under unprecedented pressure thanks to re-imposed U.S. sanctions, especially oil sanctions, with negative 1.5-percent growth in 2018 and an expected negative 3.6-percent growth in 2019. Iran’s current year-on-year inflation rate through last month was 40 percent.

Some Trump critics predicted that any effort by the president to reimpose U.S. sanctions lifted by the JCPOA would have little effect, since other parties to the agreement—in particular the EU, Germany, France, and the UK—would not follow suit. But numerous European companies have resisted pressure from their governments to defy the re-imposed U.S. sanctions. On January 31, European leaders announced a special finance facility to help European firms skirt U.S. sanctions on Iran, but that initiative is months behind schedule, and few experts believe it will work. . . .

Before the U.S. withdrawal, JCPOA critics made strong arguments about the accord’s weaknesses, especially Iran’s refusal to allow International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors access to military sites. The lone exception is the Parchin military base, [where] the IAEA obtained evidence of covert nuclear-weapons work. . . . JCPOA supporters rejected those criticisms, noting that the IAEA repeatedly declared Iran to be in compliance with the nuclear agreement. However, they refused to admit that the IAEA reached its compliance findings by claiming that Iranian violations were not “material breaches” and by not asking to inspect Iranian military facilities that Tehran has declared off-limits, even though they are the likely locations of covert nuclear-weapons work.

As for last week’s report to the Senate by U.S. intelligence officials, according to which the Islamic Republic has been technically complying with the deal, it ignored, among other things, evidence to the contrary released by the Mossad. Fleitz argues that deep-seated institutional bias is at play in the report.

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At the UN, Nikki Haley Told the Truth about Israel—and the World Didn’t Burn Down

April 22 2019

Although Nikki Haley had never been to Israel when she took the position of American ambassador to the UN, and had no prior foreign-policy experience, she distinguished herself as one of the most capable and vigorous defenders of the Jewish state ever to hold the position. Jon Lerner, who served as Haley’s deputy during her ambassadorship, sees the key to her success—regarding both Israel and many other matters—in her refusal to abide by the polite fictions that the institution holds sacred:

Myths are sometimes assets in international relations. The fiction that Taiwan is not an independent country, for example, allows [the U.S.] to sustain [its] relationship with China. In other cases, however, myths can create serious problems. On Israel–Palestinian issues, the Trump administration was determined to test some mythical propositions that many had come to take for granted, and, in some cases, to refute them. Haley’s prominence at the UN arose in large part from a conscious choice to reject myths that had pervaded diplomacy on Israel–Palestinian issues for decades. . . .

[For instance], U.S. presidents were intimidated by the argument that recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital would trigger violent explosions throughout the Muslim world. President Trump and key colleagues doubted this, and they turned out to be right. Violent reaction in the Palestinian territories was limited, and there was virtually none elsewhere in Arab and Islamic countries. . . .

It turns out that the United States can support Israel strongly and still work closely with Arab states to promote common interests like opposing Iranian threats. The Arab street is not narrowly Israel-minded and is not as volatile as long believed. The sky won’t fall if the U.S. stops funding UN sacred cows like the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine (UNRWA). Even if future U.S. administrations revert to the policies of the past, these old assumptions will remain disproved. That is a valuable accomplishment that will last long after Nikki Haley’s UN tenure.

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More about: Donald Trump, Nikki Haley, United Nations, US-Israel relations