Last Tuesday, President Donald Trump announced that the United States was pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, dismantling one of the most effective foreign-policy initiatives in 30 years, and kicking sand in the eyes of our closest allies.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani immediately announced that they would stick with the deal for now, if most of the rest of Europe, China, Russia and the world supports it. But he also warned that Iran would restart its nuclear program if America’s actions really hurt the country or if the rest of the world did not support them. That seems likely considering America’s economic clout and threats with our allies.
Saudi Arabia has already said that if Iran acquires nuclear weapons, then Saudi Arabia will as well. The Kingdom is looking to acquire nuclear technology for a civilian nuclear power program and really wants to enrich uranium.
The bizarre thing is Iran is actually meeting the terms of the Nuclear Deal, hammered out in Switzerland by the United States-led P5+1 Group in 2015. According to the United Nations’ nuclear watch dog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, Iran shipped nearly its entire fissionable stockpile to Russia last year, over 12 tons of enriched uranium that could have been used to make uranium atomic bombs.
Iran then mothballed thousands of centrifuges necessary to enrich uranium for this type of atomic weapon. Iran also removed the core of its heavy water reactor at Arak, and filled it with concrete. That reactor could have produced plutonium for the other type of atomic bomb, one that is more easily mounted on missiles, like North Korea has done.
This deal was only ever about nukes, not anything else. Not terrorism, not religion, not Israel, not ISIS, not Syria, not Yemen, although it should have helped Israel by removing what might be the most serious threat to Israel’s survival — a single nuke dropped on a very small country.
America violating this deal has made the Iranian hardliners quite happy. It’s just what they warned their people America would do. The Nuclear Deal was a major factor in the last two Iranian elections giving the Iranian moderates real power and standing against the theocrats.
Administration officials said the Iran sanctions suspended under the agreement will immediately snap back on, meaning any new contracts and financial deals with the country are banned. Businesses and banks have up to 180 days to cut existing ties with Iran. Boeing is canceling a $20 billion contract with Iran.
Trump referred to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent announcement of new evidence that Iran maintained a secret plan to build nuclear weapons. “We have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie,” Trump said.
But we already knew this. Iran’s cheating was before this new Iran Nuclear Deal and its heavy dose of monitoring and verification. It was impossible to monitor Iran from the outside prior to this deal. It’s how Iran could cheat in the past, and it’s why this deal was so good.
Pulling out of this deal has unintended consequences that go far beyond Iran. America now has little credibility when it comes to international deals of any sort. Upcoming nuclear talks with North Korea will certainly suffer. Kim Jong Un will demand a lot more from us than he might have just to show we’ll honor any deal with him.
Two-thirds of Americans feel that Trump will get us into another major war, and half of Americans think he will use nukes when he gets the chance. Neither of these is good for America. Most people forget that the Iraq war that toppled Hussein’s Baathist government took out Iran’s natural enemy, allowing Iran to ramp up its nuclear program, and made the defeated Baathists morph into ISIS.
The alternatives to diplomacy generally are bad. When they involved nuclear weapons, the effects could be truly disturbing.
Jim Conca is a longtime resident and scientist in the Tri-Cities, a trustee of the Herbert M. Parker Foundation, and a science contributor to Forbes at forbes.com/sites/jamesconca.