SGIS faculty provide insight into what the Trump administration’s move means and what could be next.
President Donald Trump has said he will not certify the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, known better as the Iran nuclear deal, before a Sunday deadline. That sends the agreement to Congress for action, where the president expects members to craft a better deal.
The Iran nuclear deal was signed by U.S. negotiators in July 2015, during the administration of President Barack Obama, to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear bomb. Trump campaigned on scrapping the Iran deal.
Experts at the Indiana University School of Global and International Studies are available to comment on the president’s decision.
While not perfect, deal did what it was designed to do
Former U.S. Congressman Lee Hamilton, now a distinguished scholar at the Indiana University School of Global and International Studies and professor of practice in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, said the Iran nuclear deal was intended to be limited and in that regard has been successful.
During his time in the U.S. House from 1965 to 1999, Hamilton chaired the Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the Select Committee to Investigate Covert Arms Transactions with Iran. After retiring from Congress, he served as vice chairman of the 9/11 Commission and co-chairman of the Iraq Study Group.
Hamilton said the Iran accord reached agreement on what was possible and what was most pressing.
“The critics of the deal say it did not solve all the problems,” Hamilton said. “And they’re right about that. It did not solve all the problems; it solved the most urgent problem. The critics point out that there are a lot of other grievances we have with Iran, and they’re right about that as well. But in international diplomacy, you solve the problems you can solve. You can’t solve everything on the table, and that’s what we did. It’s a very targeted, limited agreement.”
Hamilton noted that Trump has indicated he would give Congress some time to work on a new deal. He added that if the deal is scrapped, it could have other diplomatic implications.
“I think the world is watching, including North Korea, which would understand that if we withdraw from this agreement, there’s no sense for them to enter into an agreement with the United States,” Hamilton said.
Hamilton can be reached at email@example.com.
Best policy toward Iran deal is enforcement
Lee Feinstein, dean of the IU School of Global and International Studies, said the Iran deal should not be scrapped and the U.S. should concentrate on compliance. Feinstein, former U.S. ambassador to Poland, served as an advisor on nonproliferation issues as principal director of policy planning to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright.
“The best way to deal with the limitations of the Iran deal is to enforce it relentlessly,” Feinstein said. “Instead, the president’s action takes the spotlight off Iran, undermines confidence in the United States and, in the meantime, further complicates efforts to constrain North Korea’s nuclear program.”
Feinstein may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. should not try to change terms of deal alone
Distinguished Professor Jamsheed Choksy, chairman of the Department of Central Eurasian Studies in the School of Global and International Studies, is a specialist on Iran who has written extensively on U.S.-Iranian relations. He said the scrutiny of Iran should go beyond just stopping nuclear weapons and should also include addressing its capacity to launch attacks.
“It is necessary to persuade Iran to curtail development of ballistic missiles irrespective of whether such missiles would carry conventional and/or nuclear or other weapons of mass destruction payloads,” Choksy said. “Without termination now of its missile program, Iran will quickly be able to combine nuclear breakout capacity with lethally efficient delivery of intercontinental WMD payloads once the JCPOA or any reworked or new accord ends.
“Likewise, Iran’s connections to and collaborations with other nations developing or seeking WMD and missile capabilities need to be monitored, severed and penalized for the sake of global stability. Such collaborations, as with North Korea, presently allow Iran the option of seeming to comply with the JCPOA while actually furthering its technological prowess and military capability though others.
“The challenge posed by the Islamic Republic is multifaceted, multilateral and long-term. So, as the Trump administration seeks to restructure the existing international accord, it is vital not to go it alone. The U.S. should work with and even through EU and U.N. partners to ensure a united front faces the government of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Iran would likely bow to global will just as it did on the JCPOA rather than to unilateral U.S. threats.”
Choksy can be reached at email@example.com, 812-855-8643 or 317-989-4178.
Change in plan an ‘unforced error’
Hussein Banai, assistant professor of international studies in the IU School of Global and International Studies, has researched Iran’s political development. Banai’s current book project examines both breakthroughs and missed opportunities in U.S.-Iran relations since the Iranian Revolution in 1979. He said the change will have unintended consequences.
“The Trump administration’s announcement that it will withdraw presidential certification of the nuclear deal until such time that Iran abides by new terms that were not part of the JCPOA is a needless, and in fact dangerous, unforced error on a landmark arms control agreement that has already significantly curbed Iran’s nuclear program,” Banai said.
“The new plan not only undermines the United States’ credibility in terms of upholding its commitments to international agreements, but it also revives the narrative that America won’t be satisfied with anything Iran does as long as the Islamic regime is in power. Furthermore, it paradoxically empowers the hardliners in Iran, who are also opposed to the deal and wish to restart Iran’s nuclear program.”
Banai may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Staying in deal for short term provides some reassurance
Asma Afsaruddin, professor of Near Eastern cultures and languages in the School of Global and International Studies, is an expert on Islamic religious and political thought and author of “Contemporary Issues in Islam.” She said the U.S. abiding by the plan in the short term is good, but additional changes by lawmakers could be problematic.
“The fact that President Trump is not withdrawing the U.S. from the agreement is somewhat reassuring,” Afsaruddin said. “At the same time, he will ask Congress to consider adding new terms. Other signatories to the nuclear deal with Iran, including our top military leaders like (Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff) Gen. Joseph Dunford, agree that Iran is fully complying with the terms of the agreement. If, however, Congress were to impose any new sanctions on Iran, that would be highly counterproductive and expose us to the risk of a possible war with Iran.
Afsaruddin may be reached at email@example.com.
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