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The JCPOA Is Dead

Representatives of the nations negotiating the JCPOA, just before its announcement on July 15, 2015. State Department photo.

Presiden Biden said it, but it’s seemed to me for some time now that the JCPOA – the Iran nuclear deal – is dead, thanks to Donald Trump.

The time limits in the JCPOA are approaching. Iran is repressing its people in brutal ways. Iran has been increasing its nuclear activities toward the possibility of building a bomb. There are too many bars to reviving the agreement.

I should say up front that there is no evidence that Iran has nuclear weapons. Misinformation has led people to believe that.

When the draft agreement was announced in the spring of 2015, it was far more than any of us had expected. Close to airtight on keeping Iran from having a bomb. The actual agreement was even better. And Iran seemed happy with it too.

The JCPOA bought us time to build a better relationship with Iran and contained some of what was needed for that work: building trust that Iran didn’t intend to move toward a bomb, and removing the sanctions from iran’s economy. Now we have much more to rebuild and less time to do it in.

I followed the earlier negotiations closely, being able to read between the lines to understand which technical actions were possible and which were prohibited. On the American side, a couple hundred staff from the national laboratories helped to write the agreement. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz had been in graduate school with Iran’s atomic energy minister Ali Akbar Salehi, which helped the negotiations.

Negotiations since President Biden took office have been on procedural matters, and I haven’t followed them closely. Trump’s repudiation of the agreement gave Iran reason to doubt US good faith and emboldened Iranian hardliners. Now internal resistance against some of Iran’s draconian laws makes it impossible for negotiators to be seen as other than tough.

Iran is enriching uranium to almost-weapon levels. Inspections by the IAEA are fewer than they were. Iran is sending weapons to Russia. A stronger alliance between the two could produce more problems in the Middle East.

The JCPOA opened a path toward peace in the Middle East. An ignorant man’s ego shut it down.

Cross-posted to Nuclear Diner

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