The JCPOA One Year after U.S. Withdrawal

by Coalition to Prevent an Iranian Nuclear Weapon

The agreement to prevent an Iranian nuclear weapon (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) is an essential building block for restoring vital U.S. national security interests and commitments to allies. An American president should put in place this building block expeditiously. The U.S. unilateral withdrawal from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018 significantly undermines America’s national security and is fueling momentum for a possible new conflict in the Middle East. If Iran also withdraws from the JCPOA, or from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), the Trans-Atlantic alliance will be dealt a severe blow and a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race could ensue.

Withdrawal from the JCPOA damaged U.S. national security.

The U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA undermines America’s leadership and stature around the world. It raises the question whether the U.S. can be counted on to comply with international agreements. It signifies abandonment of U.S. participation in a groundbreaking international step toward the nonproliferation of nuclear weapons. Aggressive use of sanctions raises the specter of longer term damage to the power of the U.S. dollar and Treasury.

Rejection of the JCPOA and heavy new sanctions on Iran, further weakens U.S. relations with its allies, which have remained committed to the agreement to assure that Iran will not get a nuclear weapon. 

Will the JCPOA survive another year?

Iran’s leaders are seeking ways, short of withdrawing from the JCPOA, to respond to U.S. sanctions against European and world trade and investment with Iran. Iran’s alternatives, however, are limited. Despite strong European government support for the JCPOA, private corporations have chosen not to confront the U.S. on sanctions, thereby depriving Iran of the economic benefits that had been crucial to the agreement to severely limit its nuclear program. Iran has been trying to outlast the current U.S. administration, despite the mounting threats of violence and ever tighter economic restrictions, particularly on Iran’s exports of oil.

The U.S. administration, supported by Israel, Saudi Arabia, and a few Gulf states, have set a goal of destabilizing Iran’s government, which in turn may have the effect of driving Iran into even more radical and hostile acts before the U.S. 2020 elections. Increasingly, the administration’s public comments point in this direction. U.S. “maximum pressure” and threats against Iran make clear the objective of the administration’s policy is to bring down the regime in Tehran by provoking national unrest and destabilizing internal disorder in the country. Heightened U.S. actions against Iran could lead to the collapse of the JCPOA and provide the administration with a ready excuse for military conflict with Iran.

Iran’s withdrawal from the JCPOA would be a perilous game changer for U.S. national security. In addition to setting the stage for war, it could spark a proliferation of nuclear weapons and, according to many Europeans, deal a severe blow to the Trans-Atlantic Alliance and would also further erode U.S. relations with Russia and China. Iran’s leaders are aware they have the power to further isolate the U.S. but so far have not considered it in their own security interests to use it.

U.S. re-entry to the JCPOA will require diplomacy and resolve.

For the U.S. to re-enter the JCPOA all the original parties – (except the U.S.) China, France, Iran, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom – will have to agree on the means to accomplish it. There is no provision in the agreement for an exit from the JCPOA by any party nor any provision for re-entry.

For re-entry, the original JCPOA members will want to know whether the U.S. will accept all of its obligations under the agreement: does the U.S. intend to lift all U.S. secondary sanctions; will the U.S. cease stringent sanctions on oil exports; and will the U.S. comply with all of the JCPOA provisions.

Continue to counter severe non-nuclear threats from Iran.

Re-entry will not eliminate or reduce the mounting non-nuclear challenges and threats from Iran. The JCPOA was never designed to address these other actions from Iran. The JCPOA was negotiated by seven nations to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon, with the realization that an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be far more dangerous than Iran without one.

Re-entry will provide the opportunity to rebuild the strong alliance of states that pressured Iran to the negotiating table over its nuclear program. Outside of the JCPOA, the U.S. is now deprived of allies to pursue diplomatic and coercive measures to confront Iran’s growing ballistic missiles program, its support for Hezbollah and Houthi proxy forces, its threats against Israel, and its troubling interference in Syria and elsewhere in the region.

Re-entry will also make possible a U.S. channel of communication with the Iranian government when necessary. No political or diplomatic solution to conflicts in the region will be possible without Iran. Iran’s pivotal role cannot be sidelined or ignored. Establishing some channel of communication with the Iranian government will be a requirement of a renewed American leadership role in the region.

Mending the distrust and repairing the damage caused by the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA is a daunting task. Reaching agreement on U.S. reinstatement as a full member of the JCPOA is the essential first step. It would send a powerful signal to the world that the U.S. is ready once again to become a trusted partner and a nation that seeks the peaceful resolution of disputes and conflicts. All Americans, whatever their politics, should give serious thought to these issues. How we handle them will have a critical impact on our nation’s future.

Ambassador (ret.) Morton Abramowitz, Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and
Research; Ambassador to Thailand and Turkey

Vice Admiral Donald Arthur (ret.), U.S. Navy and 35th Surgeon General of the Navy

Ambassador (ret.) Barbara K. Bodine, Ambassador to Yemen

General (ret.) Chuck Boyd, U.S. Air Force and Deputy Commander in Chief, U.S. European Command

John Brennan, Former Director of Central Intelligence Agency

Joseph Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund

Lieutenant General (ret.) James Clapper, U.S. Air Force and Director of National Intelligence

Ambassador (ret.) James F. Collins, Ambassador at Large for the New Independent States and
to the Russian Federation

Thomas Countryman, Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation

Ambassador (ret.) Chester A Crocker, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs

Ambassador (ret.) Walter Culter, Ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, and Congo-Zaire

Suzanne DiMaggio, Senior Fellow, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Lieutenant General Robert Gard (ret.), U.S. Army and President National Defense University

Lieutenant General Walter Gaskin (ret.), U.S. Marine Corps and Deputy Chairman,
NATO Military Committee
Leslie Gelb, Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs and Director of Policy
Planning and Arms Control at the Department of Defense
Ambassador (ret.) James Goodby, Ambassador to Finland and Deputy Chief of the U.S.
delegation to the START talks
Vice Admiral Kevin P. Green (ret.), U.S. Navy and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations
(Plans, Policy and Operations)
Lee H. Hamilton, U.S. House of Representatives, Chairman of the House Committee on
Foreign Affairs, and Vice Chair of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks
Upon the United States
Ambassador (ret.) William C. Harrop, Ambassador to Israel and Inspector General of the
Department of State

Gary Hart, U.S. Senate and Special Envoy to Northern Ireland

Stephen B. Heintz, President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund

Ambassador (ret.) Carla A. Hills, U.S. Trade Representative

James Hoge, former Editor of Foreign Affairs Magazine

Lieutenant General Arlen D. Jameson (ret.), U.S. Air Force and Deputy Commander,
U.S. Strategic Command

J. Bennett Johnston, U.S. Senator

Lieutenant General Frank Kearney (ret.), U.S. Army and Deputy Director for Strategic Operational
Planning of the National Counterterrorism Center

Lieutenant General Claudia Kennedy (ret), U.S. Army and Deputy Army Chief of Staff for  Intelligence

Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association

Ambassador (ret.) Daniel Kurtzer, Ambassador to Israel and Egypt

Ellen Laipson, Vice Chair of the National Intelligence Council and President Emeritus of
the Stimson Center

Carl Levin, U.S. Senate and Chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services

Ambassador (ret.) John Limbert, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Iran

Ambassador (ret.) Winston Lord, Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and the Pacific;
Ambassador to China, Director of Policy Planning, Department of State

Ambassador (ret.) William H. Luers, Ambassador to Czechoslovakia and Venezuela

Suzanne Maloney, Senior Fellow, Center for Middle East Policy, The Brookings Institution

Jessica T. Mathews, Director of the Office of Global Issues of the National Security Council

Ambassador (ret.) Richard W. Murphy, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South
Asian Affairs and Ambassador to Saudi Arabia

Joseph Nye, Assistant Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the National Intelligence Council

Admiral Eric Olson (ret.), U.S. Navy and Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command

William Perry, U.S. Secretary of Defense

Ambassador (ret.) Thomas Pickering, Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs and
Ambassador to Israel, Russia, India, El Salvador, Nigeria, Jordan and the United Nations

Paul R. Pillar, National Intelligence Officer for the Near East and South Asia

Chuck Robb, U.S. Senate and Governor of Virginia

Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior and U.S. Senate

Rear Admiral Joe Sestak (ret.), U.S. Navy and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare
Requirements and Programs

Gary Sick, Director for Iran and the Persian Gulf of the National Security Council

Rear Admiral Michael Smith (ret.), U.S. Navy and President, American College of
National Security Leaders

Ambassador (ret.) Edward S. Walker, Jr., Ambassador to Israel, Egypt, and United Arab Emirates

James Walsh, Research Associate at MIT’s Security Studies Program

Colonel (ret.) Lawrence Wilkerson, U.S. Army and Chief of Staff to the Secretary of State

General Johnnie Wilson (ret), U.S. Army and Commanding General, United States Army
Materiel Command

Timothy E. Wirth, U.S. Senator

Ambassador (ret.) Frank Wisner, Under Secretary of State for International Security Affairs and
Ambassador to India, Egypt, the Philippines, and Zambia

The signers of this statement were either former senior officials of the U.S. government or prominent national security leaders who have not held senior government positions. The positions listed after the names of the former government officials are senior posts held while in office. The positions listed after the names of those who were not from the government are listed with their current position. Institutions are listed for identification purposes only.

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6 Comments

  1. Doing a deal with an alien force in Iran is illegal. No one in Iran accepts the Ayatollahs are legit.

  2. An impressive list of signatories, indeed!
    “An American president should…,”, rejoin JCPOA and fulfill U.SA. obligations under UNSC/RES/2231. Would anyone bet a penny that Donald Trump would do that? Is this message aimed at the next US President to be? Or what is the intention of this call to action at this moment? IMHO what is needed now from these influential personalities is to state a firm, clear NO WAY to the “momentum for a possible new conflict in the Middle East.”

  3. James Larrimore

    Americans have started a new war of choice and they are not going to change course.

    They did not so for years in Vietnam. They did not do so in Iraq decades later. And they quite clearly are loath to do so in Afghanistan.

    Since they have paid the political costs and dishonored themselves to boot, they have nothing to lose by persisting in their economic war against Iran; who knows, may be they cab prevail.

    For similar reasons, they will not re-enter JCPOA, now or at anytime in the future, regardless of party in power in the executive branch. One must keep in mind that the 2025 milestone of JCPOA removes UNSC Sanctions threat from Iran. Americans will likely get France or UK to reactivate the sanctions before then, under various contrived pretexts.

    EU is with America against Iran and the Shia.

    Of course, US already has lost this war too at the highest level that war is fought, which is the moral one.

    The next US President, in 2024, can decide if he wants to bomb Iran or continue the economic war. The next US President after him, will begin to terminate this war; around 2032.

    Many of us will be dead by that time.

  4. “The JCPOA was negotiated by seven nations to prevent Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon” – FALSE
    The “Iranian nuclear threat” was always just a pretext for regime-change, nothing more.

    There was never any evidence Iran even sought nukes; Iran suspended enrichment of Uranium twice for years as a good faith gesture during negotiations, and had repeatedly made better compromise offers than the JCPOA that the US ignored or undermined in order to maintain the pretext for regime change.

    The deal however would have undermined the pretext which is why countries supposedly so “threatened” by no-existent Iranian nukes, were yet so opposed to a deal that placed far more restrictions on the nuclear program. “They weren’t interested in a compromise with the government in Tehran, but regime change – by any means necessary,” reported IAEA head ElBaradei.

  5. Also, it was the Iranians who forced the US to the negotiation table, not vice-versa. The deal happened only after the US gave up on the “Zero Enrichment” precondition that had been imposed by the US as a deliberate deal-killer for any negotiations. It is not the case that Iran was running to make nukes but was stopped by sanctions etc.

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