NYT Editorial Board: A Devious threat to a nuclear deal
President Trump promised during his campaign to kill the deal,
despite its clear benefits to American security
Nikki Haley laid the Trump administration's cards on the table this week with a new proposal aimed at sabotaging one of the Obama administration's most important diplomatic initiatives — the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran. President Trump promised during his campaign to kill the deal, despite its clear benefits to American security. Ms. Haley, the United States ambassador to the United Nations, has set forth a scheme that could not only allow Mr. Trump to carry out his threat, but also shift final responsibility to Congress.
The whole idea makes no sense to anyone but Mr. Trump's hard-line advisers, who see Iran as the root of evil in the Persian Gulf. Instead of making sure the agreement works, the president would give Iran an excuse to revive what had been a rapidly advancing nuclear capability and confront the world with another intractable nuclear challenge in addition to North Korea.
The deal, negotiated with Tehran by the United States and other major powers, imposed strict limits on Iran's nuclear activities for 10 years in return for a lifting of international and American sanctions. As an added check, Congress requires the administration to certify every 90 days that Iran is abiding by the deal, in order to continue qualifying for relief from American sanctions.
The administration has twice reluctantly certified Iran's compliance and is required to revisit the issue again next month. Ms. Haley said she doesn't know what Mr. Trump's decision will be. The International Atomic Energy Agency, which put unprecedented strong procedures in place for monitoring Iran's activities, has repeatedly judged that Iran is fulfilling its obligations. In July, Gen. Paul Selva of the Air Force, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told Congress that based on evidence submitted to intelligence agencies, “it appears that Iran is in compliance.”
Mr. Trump, however, has reportedly kept pushing his advisers to find a way out, and Ms. Haley appears to have answered the call. The essence of her case, presented Tuesday to the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank, is that technical compliance with the nuclear-related commitments is not sufficient and that the president “has grounds” to declare that Iran is not fulfilling the agreement because of other destabilizing or objectionable behavior, like its ballistic missile tests, support for Hezbollah and hostility toward the United States.
“We must consider the whole jigsaw puzzle,” she said , “not just one of its pieces.”
She's wrong. While Iran indeed is engaging in some very worrisome pursuits, the deal is confined to the nuclear program. As long as Tehran is staying within those limits, Mr. Trump has no reason not to certify compliance. The United States and its partners need to find other ways, including sanctions already in place and dialogue, to mitigate Iran's other behavior. In the national interest, Washington has often held its nose and dealt with aggressive or unsavory governments, among them the Soviet Union, Russia, Pakistan and Egypt.
Ms. Haley misleads further when she argues that it would not constitute an American withdrawal from the deal if Mr. Trump didn't certify Iranian compliance. That kind of spin will convince no one, and it won't protect Mr. Trump for being blamed for whatever follows, including outrage from France, Britain, Germany, Russia and China, which are also parties to the agreement.
Ms. Haley's scheme would also allow Mr. Trump to punt the deal's fate to Congress, further distancing himself from responsibility. Under American law, failure to issue the certification would open the door for Congress to reimpose sanctions on Iran. Would it be so irresponsible? Congress overwhelmingly opposed the deal when it was negotiated, but many critics now see its value. In any case, lawmakers must demand concrete evidence of Iranian noncompliance, if there is any, before reimposing sanctions.
If Mr. Trump blows up the nuclear deal, then what? None of the original opponents of the deal, in or out of Congress, including Mr. Trump, have offered any plausible alternative for restraining Iran's nuclear ambitions. Without such an alternative, a reckless decision to honor a reckless campaign promise invites Iran to pursue an unfettered path to a bomb. And if deals with the United States cannot be trusted, North Korea will have one more reason to keep pursuing its nuclear program
The Editorial Board of The New York Times (NYT), an American daily newspaper, founded and continuously published in New York City since September 18, 1851, The New York Times has won 117 Pulitzer Prizes, more than any other news organization, its weekday circulation has fallen to fewer than one million daily since 1990 . Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.
This commentary was originally published by The New York Times , 09/07/2017.
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Petroleumworld News 09/11/2017
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