Insider news & Analysis in Iran

 An article in The Standard by Lee Smith, published on November 15, he discusses the bad news for the Iran nuclear deal posed by the election of Donald Trump. During his campaign Trump called it, "the worst deal ever negotiated,” and has threatened to tear up the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on day one of his presidency.

Warnings that shredding the deal will only benefit Iranian hardliners, the very people it was supposed to restrain, are coming from supporters of the deal, and Obama’s allies.  

Suzanne Maloney, an Iran expert at the Brookings Institution, told Reuters, “The big winner in the aftermath of a Trump victory is Iran's Supreme Leader,” she explained, “Ali Khamenei will be able to walk away from Iran's obligations under the JCPOA while pinning the responsibility on Washington.” 

According to Smith, the agreement likely would have collapsed under a Clinton administration, as well. The problem, as the President-elect correctly noted, is the deal itself.

Last week, Iran was in violation of the JCPOA for the second time.  The deal's threshold for heavy water, a material used in the production of weapons-grade plutonium, ws once again exceede, according to a report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). 

The White House acknowledged Iran had exceeded the limit, but praised the regime for its forthrightness in "making no attempt to hide" the violation. In a Trump White House, all that needs to happen for the deal to fall apart is for the Trump administration to enforce its provisions.

Smith writes, “The history of the agreement shows a series of deceptions by the Obama administration. Just to keep the Iranians at the negotiating table, the White House bribed Tehran. Every month from January 2014 through July 2015, when the JCPOA was signed, the administration facilitated the transfer of $700 million to Iran from its frozen escrow account in the United States,” and adds, “Since the deal was signed, the administration has given Iran more money to persuade it not to walk away. Among other sums, the White House paid Iran $8.6 million for 32 tons of heavy water after it was found to have exceeded the threshold stipulated in the agreement last February. The purpose was to protect the deal—even as it gave Iran an incentive to keep overproducing heavy water as a revenue earner.” 

In a move that caused contention among officials, the Obama administration allegedly paid Iran $1.7 billion in ransom for four Americans illegally detained by the clerical regime, although the administration denies this.  However, now Iran is holding at least two more American citizens hostage and reportedly demanding money in exchange for their release.  

“To justify inking the agreement with Tehran, the Obama administration contended that the sanctions regime was about to collapse. We couldn't keep our European and Asian allies on board much longer, claimed White House officials. Iran was such a promising market and everyone around the world was in such a hurry to get back in that we had to get a deal signed before sanctions started to backfire,” Smith declares.

Not so surprisingly, European and Asian banks and corporations have proven reluctant to do business with Iran. Many CEOs realized that dealing with a state sponsor of terror, who may be developing a nuclear weapon, and who is at war throughout the Middle East was probably a risky investment. 

Now the Iranians are unhappy with the U.S., because they're not seeing the money they expected to come to them from Asian and European investment.  

Smith writes, “The Obama administration told Congress that the deal did not eliminate non-nuclear sanctions, like those related to terrorism, ballistic missiles, and human rights. After it was signed, however, and Iran was emboldened throughout the Middle East, the White House blocked congressional efforts to enforce existing non-nuclear sanctions and impose new ones. If the Trump administration doesn't block Congress from reinstating and imposing sanctions, as members have wanted to do over the last year, the regime will crash the deal”.

If the Trump administration merely stops overlooking Iranian violations of the JCPOA, the regime will very likely opt out of Obama's chief foreign policy achievement.  All the next White House has to do is enforce the strict terms of the agreement, and it is the Iranians themselves, not President Trump, who will undo the deal. 

But, what happens if Trump can't get Iran back to the table for an agreement that better suits American interests? What if the regime pushes ahead with its nuclear weapons program? Estimates suggest the Iranians are about a year from a nuclear breakout. What actions will the next White House take to stop it?

In other news, The New York Times reported on November  15 that the House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly on Tuesday for legislation to extend American sanctions on Iran for 10 years. Proponents called the move “critical economic leverage to ensure Iranian compliance with an international nuclear agreement.” 

The Iran Sanctions Extension Act needs President Obama’s signature and Senate approval before the end of the year, when American sanctions are set to expire. 

Under January’s the nuclear agreement, between Iran and six world powers including the United States, many economic sanctions were suspended or relaxed in exchange for Iran’s pledge of peaceful nuclear work. However, the deal also contains a snapback” provision that allows the reimposition of sanctions if Iran violates the terms. 

This legislation will also extend longstanding American sanctions against Iran that predate the dispute over its  nuclear activities. 

Iran has complained about these non-nuclear sanctions, particularly the prohibition on Iranian access to the American financial system and use of the dollar. They say the restrictions discourage many foreign companies from investing in Iran, undermining the economic rewards it expected from the nuclear agreement.

Republicans and many Democrats opposed the agreement, calling Iran “untrustworthy” and saying that it had gained too many concessions during the negotiations.

President-elect Donald J. Trump said during his campaign that he would renegotiate the accord or renounce it. In a March speech to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, he said his top priority was to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.”  

Seventy-six national security experts, including former officials of Republican and Democratic administrations, exhorted Mr. Trump to not only to accept the nuclear agreement, but to use it as a way to ease tensions with Iran on other longstanding problems, this past Monday.

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