Twelve Demands for the US: An Unreasonable Proposal?

Marker Pencil Pen Check List Checked Checklist

by Gordon Adams

The myopia of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s list of demands for Iran, should it want a future deal with the US, was typical. Basically, give up and give in, with a subtle hint of regime change as part of the bargain. The list was clearly designed to provoke, not to open a discussion. And it contained the mirror image problem: how might Iran, a country surrounded by unfriendly military forces, see the world? And what might Iranians expect?

Suppose the tables had been reversed and Iran had decided to pose a list of 12 demands, asking the US to make fundamental changes in its regional and global engagement, in exchange for Iran’s decision to stay in, even extend, the JCPOA. Such a list might look like the following:

  1. The United States must declare the full extent of its nuclear military modernization program, including disclosure of and all strategic contingency planning for the actual use of low-yield nuclear weapons, and the full life-cycle cost estimates for production of next-generation nuclear systems such as the B-21 bomber.
  1. The United States must halt this nuclear modernization program, including its enrichment activities, plutonium reprocessing, and the modernization of its nuclear weapons production complex, and announce its intention and a measurable plan to denuclearize its military in an internationally verifiable way.
  1. The United States must immediately rejoin the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action between Iran, France, Germany, Russia, China, and the European Union, and live up to its commitments under that agreement.
  1. The United States must withdraw all its military forces under American command from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, allowing those countries to settle their own internal disputes and provide for their own security.
  1. The United States must withdraw its naval forces from the Persian Gulf, closing all US military installations (land, sea, air, and intelligence) in the Gulf region.
  1. The United States must cease cyber-intervention in internal Iranian affairs and the affairs of its friends and allies.
  1. The United States must end all sanctions against Iran and its citizens and promote and encourage open trade and exchanges between Iran and other countries.
  1. The United States must cease its overt and covert support for the Saudi intervention in Yemen and work toward a peaceful political settlement in Yemen.
  1. The United States must end its threatening behavior against Iran and its allies in the Middle East.
  1. The United States must end its support for authoritarian regimes—including Turkey, the Philippines, Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Hungary—that suppress the rights of their citizens and residents.
  1. The United States must cease its military interference in more than 80 countries, using its Special Operations forces.
  1. The United States must end its support of the Israeli government of Benjamin Netanyahu and demand that Israel end the expansion of settlements in Palestinian territory, cease its attacks on innocent civilians in Gaza, and engage seriously with the Palestinian Authority in negotiations leading to a two-state solution. The United States must return its embassy to Tel Aviv pending the creation of a Palestinian state and the resolution both of the status of Jerusalem and the right of return for the Palestinian people.

Equally unreasonable? Unnegotiable? Gee, the above sounds a bit like Pompeo’s list. It’s always useful, though, to try to see the world from the other person’s perspective.


Gordon Adams

Gordon Adams is Professor Emeritus at the School of International Service, American University and, since 2008, a Distinguished Fellow (non-resident) at the Stimson Center both in Washington, DC. He taught at American University and George Washington University from 1999-2015. From 1993-97 he was Associate Director for National Security Programs at the Office of Management and Budget, the senior Clinton White House official for national security and foreign policy budgets. He is the co-editor of Mission Creep: The Militarization of US Foreign Policy (Georgetown, 2014), co-author of Buying National Security: How America Plans and Pays for Its Global Role and Safety at Home (Routledge, 2010), and author of The Iron Triangle: The Politics of Defense Contracting (Transaction Press 1981). He was founder and Director of the Defense Budget Project from 1983-93. He has a Ph.D from Columbia University. He writes frequently on foreign policy and national security issues for a wide variety of publications. He is also a working professional actor.



  1. It is really surprising to find, that a well respected academic, not mention human rights atrocities, when talking about Iran. How many innocent Iranians do you think were killed in Iran today by Ayatollahs? Does the Ayatollah nuke deal matter to you Mr Gordon Adams, when human being are suffering so much in Iran right now?

  2. This US administration has been spoiled by the Republicans’ silence and subservience! They think the other countries like Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, Syria, Venezuela will shit in their pants if this administration keeps threatening them! Conversely, the US keeps relinquishing its leadership in the world! Position of Leadership can not and will not be established by the arm forces. In fact the latter can only cause destructions and not constructions!
    It’s too bad that Ayatollahs, as Mostofi fixated on them, do have to wash their ass after doing their job on the toilet as their faith demands it of them! Otherwise they’d use to clean themselves with the Pompeo’s piece of paper on which his 12 commandments are written!

  3. @ Gordon Adams

    Thank you Dr Adams! This is the most sensible article I have seen so far.

    Millions of Iranians would wish to add to the above list at least 2 more demands:

    13. ‘Prosecution’ of the US at the I.C.C, and

    14. ‘Reparation’, for War Crimes committed by the US against the Iranian People in 1980s: that is the US government and CIA and Pentagon’s direct participation in Saddam’s chemical attacks on Iranian soldiers leading to the Murder of 1000s of Iranian soldiers, including countless civilians during the Iran-Iraq war.

    Let alone the CIA-MI6 military coup and the crimes committed in August 1953 that installed the Shah and the suffering the US inflicted on our people by supporting the Shah’s murderous evil secret police Savak that lasted until his fall in 1979.

  4. How Hungary is drawn into this topic? Have you been in that country? Have you walked on the streets there to see if there is the atmosphere of freedom or fear? Have you seen demonstrators after recent elections shouting into the face of policemen freely, with no consequnces to their freedom? Can anything like that happen in the US? This your opinion unfortunately discredits your other statements.

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