While “will they or will they not” speculation surrounding a potential return of the United States to the JCPOA– colloquially known as the Iran deal – is coming to a head, it’s impossible not to be thrown back in time to 2015. As then, supporters and opponents of the deal are stepping up their doomsday rhetoric absolutist on what will happen if the JCPOA is or is not joined. As then, a steady stream of Israeli government and security officials travels from Jerusalem to Washington, trying to sway the administration through a mixture of public warnings, private lobbying and a host of reminders that Israel does not will consider itself bound by any agreement, JCPOA or otherwise, between Iran and world powers.
As then, American Jewish organizations are frantically trying to figure out what their positions on the JCPOA will be and how they will help or hinder the administration’s efforts to return to the accord, as if that were the most pressing issue for life. Jewry in the United States and The Future Existence of Israel. And most reminiscent of 2015, the JCPOA is being treated as a black-and-white issue, where the only point of agreement on both sides of the divide is that there is only one right answer.
Unfortunately, for the sake of simplicity, there isn’t just one right answer, no matter how much people believe it. There are good arguments for rejoining the JCPOA and good arguments for staying away, and most people who portray this as an easy problem with an easy answer aren’t worth the attention you give them. As complicated as the JCPOA issue was in 2015, it is exponentially so following former President Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement and the resulting cascade of effects, new regional developments , leadership changes in the United States, Iran and Israel. , and the passage of time which has changed the way the sunset clauses of the agreement should be viewed. In other words, the ironclad certainty with which JCPOA supporters defend it and opponents oppose it is misplaced in both cases, as is the apocalyptic level of hysteria about the consequences of President Biden’s next steps. .
Here are some reasons why rejoining the JCPOA might be a good idea. Thanks to Iran’s multiple violations of the JCPOA that began a year after Trump pulled out and the reimposition of all US sanctions that the Iran deal had lifted, Iran’s enrichment and uranium stockpiles Iran increased, and its research and development and installation of advanced centrifuges got ahead of the limits imposed by the JCPOA. This means that Iran’s escape time should it decide to run for a bomb is now likely to be a few weeks, without meaningful checks or early warning to prevent an escape.
If the logic of the JCPOA was to prevent a nuclear Iran, then it’s worth re-entering the deal to push back that breakout time, even if it only takes a few months. As things stand, there wouldn’t be enough opportunity to mount sanctions or a military response if Iran decided tomorrow to build a bomb, when two months is still an uncomfortably small window but better than the one that the United States, Israel or others are currently facing.
The lifting of sanctions and the green light from international companies to operate in Iran will give the regime access to billions of dollars that will fund all sorts of nefarious activities in the Middle East. But as nearly every Israeli official not named Benjamin Netanyahu has admitted at this point, pulling out of the JCPOA was a mistake because some restrictions are better than no restrictions if your primary goal is to lock down Iran’s nuclear program. Staying out of the deal guarantees that Iran will build even more advanced centrifuges, bolster its existing nuclear facilities and build more impregnable ones, and become a de facto nuclear state.
Re-entering the deal is the only way to put some restrictions back in place and not only to stop the clock on Iranian nuclearization but also to stop the clock on regional nuclear proliferation which is an early response to a nuclear Iran . While acknowledging the drawbacks of providing Iran with a huge influx of money, some limits on Iran are better than no limits on Iran, especially after seeing the progress they have made over the past few years. three years of violation that Trump provided them.
Here are some reasons why rejoining the JCPOA might be a bad idea. Treating the JCPOA as if it were in suspended animation requires assuming that the world was also in suspended animation, which it was not. The benefits of the JCPOA are not as strong as they were seven years ago given the progress Iran has made in the meantime, leading to a change in the cost-benefit analysis on the issue of lifting of sanctions. It was one thing to end Iran’s economic isolation in exchange for a one-year breakout period, it’s quite another to do so in exchange for a breakout period that will probably be less than a quarter of that. Iran has made great strides in nuclear technology in particular, which also makes limiting things like uranium enrichment less important, because the hardest part is getting the know-how and being able to test those knowledge.
The terms of the JCPOA also make less sense today, leaving aside the question of how much further Iran is than it was in 2015. The JCPOA provided immediate sanctions relief in exchange restrictions and verification measures which were at least eight years in some cases, but most often were 15 years. If the US re-enters the deal, Iran still receives immediate sanctions relief once restrictions and verification measures are reimposed, but the sunset clauses are not reset; their end dates remain the same as if the United States had never left the agreement and as if Iran had not violated the restrictions of the agreement once the United States withdrew. If the benefits enjoyed by Iran are what the original agreement fully contemplated, it makes sense that the benefits enjoyed by the rest of the world are similarly fully contemplated by the original agreement.
Finally, it is impossible to ignore that Iran’s malign activities and presence throughout the region have only intensified. Since the JCPOA was initially negotiated and signed, Iran and its proxies have had a greater presence in Syria and western Iraq, attempted to attack Israel with ballistic missiles and UAVs, struck successfully Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and harassed shipping in Persia. Gulf with even more vigor and frequency. Although joining the JCPOA will temporarily deal with Iran’s nuclear program in a limited way, it will allow for greater projection of Iranian power throughout the Middle East, putting US partners at risk and imposing greater conventional security burdens on the United States. United and other states. It risks destabilizing the region to gain a few months on the nuclear front.
Obviously, one set of these arguments will be more convincing than the other depending on your worldview and politics. But the point here is that it’s not that hard to make a compelling case on both sides of the equation, which should indicate that the all-or-nothing nature of the Iran deal debate to states States is much more a matter of political positioning than of political wisdom. The mistake both sides are making is that the JCPOA cannot be seen as the solution or exacerbator of all regional problems.
If the United States reenters the deal, it will not solve Iran’s problem, bring Iran back into the American orbit, or let the United States walk away from the region. If the United States stays on the sidelines, it will not lead to the inevitable collapse of the Iranian regime, force Iran to come back to the table and negotiate a new deal on far less favorable terms, or pave the way for a joint US-Israeli agreement. campaign to strike Iranian nuclear sites. The high hopes each side has hinge on an array of developments that range from the improbable to the impossible. What happens next will be disappointing for anyone who wants Iran to remain a non-nuclear power and wants to see fewer regional tensions, regardless of how the JCPOA situation is resolved.
At the risk of being a broken record, the JCPOA was and remains a bet on time. This means that the consequences of the JCPOA, whether reinstated or not, will have as much impact, if not more, than the agreement itself. Whether the United States and/or Israel will establish a credible military threat; how Middle Eastern states will limit Iran’s conventional military capabilities, including making progress in air defense coordination; whether the United States does the work necessary to build domestic political will and diplomatic support for a coalition to confront Iran militarily and economically if it violates its demands or is about to break out; and what is done with the time that is bought by re-entering the deal or the time that elapses by killing the deal for good, all will determine what the region will look like a decade from now.
All this to say that the JCPOA debate is important, but that other aspects of Iranian policy are also important and should be able to garner near-unanimous agreement. Rather than treating the JCPOA alone as if it will determine the fate of the United States, Israel, Iran, and Western civilization itself, everyone should take a deep breath, realize that ‘there is no monopoly on wisdom here, and just relax a little bit.
This article was originally published in Ottomans and Zionists.
If you would like to write for International Policy Digest, please email us via [email protected]