Trump’s Iran Policy Is More about Rollback than Nukes
by Joshua Landis The renewed US offensive against Iran is not so much about its...
Published on September 6th, 2017 | by Peter Jenkins12
by Peter Jenkins
Nikki Haley’s address at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) on September 5 is so full of misrepresentations and distortions that the current prime minister of Israel would surely have been proud to deliver it during one of his annual appearances before the UN General Assembly.
Either Haley has found it hard to absorb her briefs since taking up her appointment as US ambassador to the United Nations, or she is devoid of intellectual integrity. Either way, the thought that she may be in line to succeed Rex Tillerson as secretary of state is terrifying.
She bases her diatribe on the assertion that judgements about the nature of the Iranian “regime” (and its behavior outside the nuclear sphere) are crucially relevant to assessing whether Iran is complying with the 2015 JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, aka the nuclear deal). One might as well argue that in a court of law a man should be found guilty of murder, although there is no evidence of his having committed that crime, because there is evidence that he beats his wife.
She goes on to rehearse all the U.S. reasons to distrust and detest Iran’s post-1979 governing establishment. Needless to say, this account of historic grievances is 100% one-sided. She omits any mention of the Iranian side of this coin. If her analysis were submitted by a sophomore student of international relations, she’d receive a failing grade.
She continues: “For decades the Iranian military conducted a covert nuclear weapons program undeclared and hidden from the International Atomic Energy Agency.” In 2003 the IAEA’s director general found that Iran had “pursued a policy of concealment for 18 years.” He did not ascribe responsibility for this policy to the Iranian military. He did not characterize Iran’s numerous safeguards failures (non-declarations of material and activities) as a “nuclear weapons program.” Subsequent IAEA investigations brought to light a few research activities that may well have been of military intent, but that was never proven.
“The regime went on to break multiple promises to abide by international inspections and limits.” Essentially, there was just one promise, in October 2003: to suspend enrichment and reprocessing, and apply an Additional Protocol (inspection-related). The suspension promise was broken in August 2005 and never renewed. The IAEA Board provoked the breaking of the inspection promise by breaking a promise to deal with Iran’s safeguards non-compliance in Vienna.
“In 2009, American, British, and French intelligence revealed the existence of a secret uranium enrichment plant deep inside a mountain.” Yes, but there is no evidence that Iran was intending not to declare this facility (at Fordow) prior to introducing nuclear material. In the event, it did just that (declare), and the IAEA never issued a non-compliance finding in this connection. It is quite possible that Iran’s intention was to scare the United States and Europe into negotiating without pre-conditions (which eventually happened in April 2012).
“President Obama believed that Iran was willing to negotiate an end to its nuclear program.” There is no evidence for this. President Obama is a very smart man and reads his briefs. He knew full well that Iran had made clear on many occasions that it was ready to accept confidence-building restrictions and transparency measures, but not to close down its nuclear program.
“Iran has been caught in multiple violations [of the JCPOA] over the past year and a half.” Haley goes on to list just two such “violations.” Both concerned heavy water stocks. Nuclear non-proliferation experts consider these violations to have been unintentional and trivial in nature.
She then complains that the re-imposition of sanctions would be an inadequate penalty for Iranian non-compliance with the JCPOA. Presumably she hankers after a standing authority from the UN Security Council to launch a military attack on Tehran, a penalty worthy of Iranian “misbehavior.”
“Iranian leaders are counting on the world brushing off… a major infraction [of the JCPOA].” This is pure speculation. “Iran’s leaders want to use the deal to hold the world hostage to its bad behavior.” Ditto.
Among the instances of Iran’s “bad behavior” outside the nuclear sphere, which in Haley’s view, justify terminating the JCPOA, she lists “support for murderous regimes.” This is a bit rich coming from the UN ambassador of a state that since 1945 leads the world in support for murderous regimes.
“Iran’s military continues its march towards the missile technology to deliver a nuclear warhead.” Well before the conclusion of the JCPOA, Iran mastered medium-range missile technology that could be used to deliver nuclear warheads to Israel or Saudi Arabia (both of whom possess similar missile technology). This decade there has been little or no evidence of Iranian work to master long-range (ICBM) missile technology. At this point, ICBMs are not a priority, it seems. An intelligent US government would seek to perpetuate that, through negotiation, instead of pretending that Iran’s post-2015 missile work puts Iran in breach of international legal obligations (it does not).
Haley is cross with many of her diplomatic colleagues at the United Nations. They choose to “ignore” Iran’s “blatant violations” of the UN resolution (2231) that endorses the JCPOA. Perhaps they are simply better able than she to distinguish between resolution provisions that are legally binding and provisions that are mere exhortations.
This address is unworthy of a US ambassador to the United Nations. It advances reasons for terminating the JCPOA that are spurious, contrived, and dishonest. It paints a picture of Iranian behavior that is so monochrome as to lack all credibility as a representation of reality.
Please, America, cleanse your political arena of such scoundrels before it is too late! They have it in them to destroy the human race.
Photo: Nikki Haley (Wikimedia Commons)