Fact Check: Withdrawing from the JCPOA is Still a Bad Idea

Former International Atomic Energy Agency head Yukiya Amano

by Diplomacy Works

Editor’s Note: The below fact check is excerpted from the April 20, 2018 Diplomacy Works Digest. Mr. Carafano is hardly the first to make these arguments–in fact these are the same tired lines that Iran hawks have been pushing from the beginning–but they’re still wrong.  

Right-wing longtime JCPOA opponent James Carafano writes this week that President Trump should blow up the Iran Deal in May – and he brings a set of alternative facts to make his case. He has a future in fiction-writing.

Let’s go through his claims one by one.

Assertion One: “The deal has failed to live up to the original goal of the international community when talks with Tehran started: to stop Iran from ever getting nuclear weapons. Instead, at best, the current deal only delays it by 10-15 years.”


  • Iran hasn’t violated the JCPOA. Don’t take our word for it – read the facts.
  • The JCPOA stopped Iran’s nuclear race towards a bomb for the first time since the centrifuges started spinning in the early 2000’s.
  • Read the latest warnings from International Atomic Energy Agency chief Yukiya Amano: “The JCPOA represents a significant gain for verification,” Amano said, according to a text of his speech published by his agency. “If the JCPOA were to fail, it would be a great loss for nuclear verification and for multilateralism.” Amano has certified now in 9 reports that Iran is implementing its commitments under the deal. Read Reuters’ analysis in its entirety here.
  • Germany’s Foreign Minister argues the “deal had prevented an “unrestricted nuclear arms race” in the Gulf region and described his country’s support for it as unwavering.”

Assertion Two: “Iran publicly refuses to allow inspections of its military bases in violation of the terms of the deal.”


  • The IAEA says they’ve received access to every site they wanted to inspect.
  • The IAEA Director General said flatly: “The nuclear-related commitments undertaken by Iran under the JCPOA are being implemented.”
  • How do we know the IAEA is getting what they need? Well, one way to measure it is whether the IAEA is getting the “snap inspections” they’ve deemed important to investigate Iranian sites on the fly. Here’s what was reported: “One of the agency’s most powerful tools is “Complementary Access,” or so-called snap inspections, which provide short-notice access to nuclear sites and other facilities and weren’t an option for the IAEA before the nuclear deal. The 25 conducted in Iran last year was the most for any country in at least five years, agency data show.”
  • Read this letter from seven Senators reminding the Administration that evidence will be required if they choose to assert that Iran is out of compliance with the JCPOA. These Senators have heard crickets from the White House since they sent this letter.
  • The U.S. intelligence community monitors dozens if not hundreds of non-nuclear sites in an attempt to detect any potential covert Iranian nuclear activities. Yet the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva, stated in July that “Based on the evidence that’s been presented by the intelligence community, it appears that Iran is in compliance with the rules that were laid out in the JCPOA.”
  • The U.S. can always present any evidence of suspicions to the IAEA and press them to investigate. Haley declined to do so at her meeting with the IAEA.  According to a U.S. official“Ambassador Haley did not ask the IAEA to inspect any specific sites, nor did she provide the IAEA with any new intelligence.” 
  • Despite it being a hot button issue for Iranian hardliners, Iran allowed IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano access to the Parchin military base in 2015 and allowed the IAEA to collect samples at the site later that year.

Assertion Three: “Contrary to the promises of the Obama administration, the nuclear deal has not moderated Iran’s foreign policy.”


  • The Obama Administration NEVER made this case, period.
  • The Administration argued that because Iran was not a responsible state, it was essential to find a way to prevent them from having a nuclear weapons program. The Obama Administration’s argument was that, just as Reagan addressed nuclear non-proliferation with the Soviet Union even while they butchered thousands in Afghanistan, it was because Iran was a threat that the nuclear issue was so untenable. Don’t take our word for it. Look at what was argued at the time, absent the revisionist lens:
    • What did Under Secretary Wendy Sherman say shortly after the agreement was finalized?: “There’s a lot to be fixed, whether it’s human rights in Iran, Iran’s destabilizing actions in the region, state sponsorship of terrorism. All of that is quite real. But the nuclear deal was about the nuclear deal, because if Iran had a nuclear weapon, as I’ve said to you all before, the ability to project power would be even greater and the deterrence effect would have been horrific.”
    • And Republican statesman Brent Scowcroft, President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Advisor argued the same points: “It is what President Reagan did with the Soviet Union on arms control; it is what President Nixon did with China. And as was the case with specific agreements with the Soviet Union and China, we will continue to have significant differences with Iran on important issues.”

Assertion Four: “Tehran has cashed in on the sanctions relief, invested heavily in terrorist proxies, and stepped up its hostile activities in the region. Today we see the evidence of this in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq.”


  • Iran’s behavior in the region hasn’t changed as a result of the JCPOA with one mighty exception: they’ve rolled back their nuclear program and given the IAEA unprecedented access to hold them to their word.
  • Iran was all-in to support Assad in Syria before the JCPOA. Iran upped its engagement in Yemen after Saudi Arabia upped its military involvement. We don’t have any illusions about Iran’s destabilizing actions in these areas. But they’re not new. Iran was taking these actions before the JCPOA, even under the crushing weight of sanctions – because they consider them existential for their role in the region.
  • As Dr. Jim Walsh of the MIT Security Studies Program testified last year, “First, terror attacks by the three most active groups are all generally down from the historic highs compared with previous years. Second, and perhaps more telling, attacks are all down beginning around 2013-2014, i.e. coinciding with the JPOA [the precursor agreement that allowed the nuclear deal to be negotiated] and JCPOA. One will have to keep an eye on this to see if this changes over time, but to date the data is pretty clear. The rise in terror attacks by Iranian backed groups predicted by JCPOA critics simply did not happen.”

Assertion Five: “Like many Americans, many Iranians are unhappy with the deal, too.”


  • Umm, yeah Mr Carafano, some Iranians don’t like the JCPOA. They’re called hardliners. The guy who resisted the JCPOA and warned his negotiators not to ever trust the United States was the Supreme Leader. Don’t take our word for it. Iran expert Ariane Tabatabai took a fascinating deep-dive inside Iranian hard-liner social media and found they still hate the Iran Nuclear Agreement.  [A must read: What are Iranian hardliners saying on social media?]
  • By the way, it was the JCPOA that denied hardliners of their favorite rhetorical punching bag – “The Great Satan” – and fixed the attention squarely on their mismanagement of the country.
  • The Washington Post’s Jackson Diehl wrote, “This new season of unrest in the Persian heartland ought to change some calculations in Washington about how best to push back against Tehran’s aggressions across the Middle East — and what to think about the nuclear deal that President Trump is threatening to tear up. .. Iran’s senior leaders have grounds to conclude that they, and not Trump, are stuck with “the worst deal ever… it has helped to open a rift between the regime and its public and created a potent new source of pressure on Tehran’s foreign adventures. If Trump kills it, expect some quiet celebrations in Tehran.”  

Bottom line: Mr. Carafano’s pants are definitely en fuego today. He’s entitled to his own opinions, not his own facts.

Republished, with permission, from Diplomacy Works.

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  1. Bravo. Wrecking the Iranian nuclear deal would be virtually insane. Let us remember the idiotic and illegal US invasion of Iraq in 2003.

  2. Most people including the opponents of the JCPOA know that the deal is working and has prevented or significantly delayed Iran from going nuclear. What would be more interesting to find out would be why the voices against the deal really want. Could it be that in their view Iran does not have a right to exist as a sovereign state? Do they want to be able to start a war like in Syria where Syrian cities have been reduced to rubble and millions of its people made refugees?

  3. @ “The JCPOA stopped Iran’s nuclear race towards a bomb for the first time since the centrifuges started spinning in the early 2000’s.”

    Fact check: It has been the consensus position of all U.S. intelligence agencies since 2007, renewed in 2012, that Iran has not had a nuclear weapons program since 2003. Mossad and European intelligence agencies have concurred.

    The Iranian Nukes Myth has been propagated by the right-wing leadership of Israel and their fellow travelers in the U.S. as the spearpoint of a propaganda campaign to persuade the U.S. to go to war against Iran. That propaganda has been so effective that a public opinion poll of 800 likely voters, conducted by polling firm Public Opinion Strategies on July 18-19, 2012 showed that 80 per cent of American voters believed that Iran had a nuclear weapons program and posed a major threat.

    So it is no surprise that President Obama decided not to wade against that public opinion and defanged the Israeli drive for the U.S. to war against Iran by negotiating the JCPOA rather than confronting the Israeli lies.

    Reality-based decision-making should not be based on the notion that the “JCPOA stopped Iran’s nuclear race towards a [nuclear] bomb.” That is false Israeli propaganda that should not be perpetuated.

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