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Annulling the Iran deal: a dangerous strategic mistake

By Alon Ben-Meir - posted Friday, 6 October 2017


Finally, the cancellation of the deal will dramatically change the balance of power in the Middle East between the Arab states and Iran. It will also have this effect between Israel and Tehran, as it will neutralize Israel's nuclear shield and leave the country dependent on a precarious nuclear deterrence rather than maintaining its strategic advantage.

Trump should listen to his Secretary of Defense James Mattis, who recently testified before Congress that remaining party to the deal with Iran is in the US' national security interest. Instead of cancelling the deal, which could lead to the above dire consequences, Trump (with the support of the other signatories of the deal) must ensure that Iran continues to fully comply with all the provisions of the deal while putting Tehran on notice that the international community will not tolerate the slightest violation of the agreement.

The US ought to focus on strengthening the deal and ascertain that once it expires, Iran continues to adhere to the rules and requirements of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), of which Tehran is a signatory, to prevent it from clandestinely pursuing its nuclear program.

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The US must also insist that the most intrusive, unfettered, and unannounced monitoring and verification by the IAEA continues, and that Tehran clearly understands the dire consequences should it be caught red-handed in violation of the deal.

Furthermore, the US should fully bolster its intelligence cooperation with its allies by sharing relevant intelligence to prevent Iran or any of its surrogates from planning and executing any act of terror, or the shipment or manufacturing of weapons to any of its clients, such as Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Tehran must be convinced that continuing to support terrorist organizations by providing them with money and materials that would destabilize the region is not acceptable, and that Iran would pay the price not only by the imposition of crippling sanctions, but also by risking military confrontation with the US.

It should be emphasized that Iran's potential of acquiring nuclear weapons must be examined in the context of what is happening throughout the region. To that end, the US should address the conflicts that involve Iran – including the wars in Yemen, Syria, and Iraq – once ISIS is completely defeated. Indeed, as long as these violent struggles persist, the greater is the likelihood that Iran will pursue nuclear weapons to enhance its regional stature and influence.

This requires the US to engage Iran in solving the civil war in Syria and the war in Yemen, as well as the future stability of Iraq. The US needs to also recognize the Iraqi Kurds' right to independence, which could mitigate rather than escalate tensions between the Iraqi Kurds and Turkey, Iraq, and Iran. In addition, the US ought to provide financial aid to Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen to lessen Iran's influence and reach.

Finally, the US should bolster the defense of Gulf countries to deter any Iranian conventional assaults while providing them and other Middle Eastern allies with a nuclear umbrella that will make the pursuit of nuclear weapons by Iran increasingly less attractive. The US should leave no doubt in the minds of Iranian clergy that the US will stand by its commitment to protect its allies should they be threatened directly or indirectly by Iran.

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Conversely, Iran should expect the normalization of relations with the West and gradual lifting of all sanctions consistent with and parallel to its performance by demonstrating its willingness to end its support of terrorist organizations and violent extremists, contain its long-range missile program, and allow continued and unfettered inspections of its nuclear facilities.

Anything short of certifying Iran's compliance with the deal will be counterproductive, as it will throw the deal into confusion and disarray, putting it entirely in jeopardy. Sadly, Trump has yet to show diplomatic savvy or the ability to solve any crisis but only engages in reckless and dangerous polemics that do nothing but further poison the relationship between the US' foes and friends alike.

Rendering the Iran deal null and void will cap Trump's misguided and treacherous approach to the Iran deal, and irreparably undermine America's global, moral, and political leadership. Trump's generals know this best, and they should stop him before it's too late.

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About the Author

Dr. Alon Ben-Meir is a professor of international relations at the Center for Global Affairs at NYU. He teaches courses on international negotiation and Middle Eastern studies.

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