Political pressure and public debate on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action negotiated with Iran is intense. The latter, at least, is healthy, indeed essential. It is vital that the American people and their elected representatives see this Iran deal with a clear, unprejudiced, nonpartisan eye.
In recent days, several respected political figures have announced their support of the Iran deal – including some from Indiana. I respect the deliberate approach taken by many who are supporting the Iran deal. At the same time, the importance of this public debate requires I point out where their analysis may be faulty.
There are two main arguments used by these supporters of the agreement that deserve scrutiny and rebuttal.
The first is that the deal blocks Iran’s path to a bomb. Some that it does so permanently. This is not the case. Even if Iran follows all the requirements of the deal, nearly all constraints placed on Iran will disappear in 15 years, with many ending sooner.
Nearly every objective analyst concedes this “sunset clause” is the agreement’s key weakness. Even President Barack Obama has said that Iran’s “breakout time” – the time required to acquire a nuclear weapon – would be “essentially zero” near the end of this 15-year period stipulated by the agreement. This is not blocking Iran’s pathway to the bomb.
The agreement’s supporters argue that arms control agreements of the past were never perfect achievements, but rather represented progress toward goals and that the JCPOA should be seen in such a light. Left out of that analysis is that those Soviet-era arms control agreements did not have sunset clauses.
Our obligation is to see that grim vision of the future now, and act accordingly.
The second error committed by this deal’s supporters is to fall for the Obama Administration’s deeply cynical and simply false premise that our only options are this deal or war.
I agreed with Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry when they said repeatedly over the past year that “no deal is better than a bad deal.” They never argued that any deal is better than no deal, yet that is what they ended up conceding. We were the desperate party at the table, willing to abandon any standard, including some of our most urgent requirements going in.
Now we are presented with a deeply flawed deal – the sunset clause is enough by itself to make it unacceptable – and told that rejecting it will result in war. This fear-mongering should never be accepted.
Yes, to improve this deal would be very difficult, requiring complicated management of our allies as well as adversaries. The administration may be distressed to contemplate the challenges this would pose on Obama’s watch. But we should never shirk from America’s leadership responsibilities and rejecting this fatally-flawed JCPOA will remind the international community of our country’s historic role.
Obama went from demanding that Iran end its nuclear program to accepting a deal that expands Iran’s program over time. No deal truly is better than this bad deal.