October 17, 2017
President Trump decertifies the Iran Deal: What does it mean and what's our next step?
Dear Friend of FLAME:
Before we jump into the Iran Deal—certainly the biggest news of the last
week—we should note two other momentous developments:
1) Hamas (Gaza) and Fatah (West Bank) signed their third reconciliation deal in the last six years—this one perhaps
more credible (and desperate) than the last two. However, the agreement has
tons of problems, which we'll address next week.
2) The U.S. and Israel both decided to leave UNESCO, whose initials
stand for United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural
Organization—though the organization has nothing to do with any of those
things. Rather it's dedicated to Israel bashing—such as declaring
millennia-old Jewish sites to be Arab. Kudos to Ambassador Nikki Haley (and
PM Netanyahu) for washing their hands of this tainted organization.
Now to the week's major event: President Trump decertified the JCPOA, the formal agreement behind the Iran Deal. While this move does not kill the Deal, it throws further decisions back into Congress's
Let's quickly review why the Iran Deal badly needs fixing, if not nixing.
First, despite all the reports in your friendly mainstream media that Iran
is in compliance with the JCPOA, the head of the U.N.'s international
atomic energy agency—the IAEA—admitted last week that its inspectors have
been unable to verify Iran's compliance with Section T of the JCPOA,
which prohibits the Islamic Republic from activities that could contribute
to the development of nuclear weapons. You read that right: Unable to verify.
Indeed, in all the IAEA reports since 2015 pursuant to the JCPOA, none states that Iran has complied with the Deal's provisions. None. Among many reasons, that's in large part because inspectors
are unable to visit Iranian military installations—a restriction
unfortunately supported by Russia in the U.N. Rather, certification is left
to the JCPOA signatories, who must make a "judgment" on whether or not Iran
is in compliance.
What's more, several weeks ago, three German intelligence reports revealed
that Iran in 2016 alone attempted 32 times to obtain illicit technology that could be used for
military and ballistic missile programs, a virtually certain violation of
Finally, of course, the terms of the JCPOA were flawed from the beginning,
and the Deal was based on the hope that if Iran were welcomed into the
international community, it would cease its belligerence and other destabilizing activities in the
Middle East and beyond.
Instead, Iran has continued headlong to develop intercontinental ballistic missiles and has increased its
support of Shiite Houti rebels in Yemen and Hizbollah and Hamas terror
groups in Lebanon and Gaza respectively. It also helped rogue Syrian
dictator Assad slaughter millions of his citizens. And let's not forget
Iran's regular threats to destroy Israel, the United States' most
steadfast and valuable ally in the Middle East.
The problem with Mr. Trump's action to decertify is that for it to
have serious effect, two specific actions will need to be taken to repair the Deal, slow down Iran's bellicose activities, and
prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear technology and the bomb in the long
First, the U.S. Congress must now take control and create new inspection rules, sanctions and other punishments to
level against Iran in case of its continued bad behavior, both related to
the JCPOA and beyond it. Given Congress's legislative track record in 2017
so far, this seems unlikely.
Second, the U.S. must rally co-signers of the JCPOA—the EU, Germany,
France, and the U.K., as well as Russia and China—to support such new measures to tighten restrictions on Iran. Given President Trump's lack of rapport with these countries' leaders and
virtually no notable success in international diplomacy so far, this
possibility seems far-fetched.
To put the President's decertification move in sharper perspective—since it
is clearly a huge advance in the right direction—I commend you to this
week's Hotline (below), a concise, masterful article by Robert
Satloff, executive director of the Washington Institute for Near East
Satloff explains specifically what steps the U.S. will need to take to
capitalize on this welcome new direction in our foreign policy. If you
review only one article on the President's decertification, please make it
this one. Satloff prepares us to explain this critical issue to our friends
and family—as well as to any hold-out supporters of the original, tragically flawed Iran Deal.
Finally, please take a quick minute also to review the P.S. below and click
on the link to review FLAME's latest hasbarah effort, if you
haven't done so yet. It discusses the most villainous of U.N. agencies, the UNHRC.
President, Facts and Logic About the Middle East (FLAME)
Did you know: While the U.N. discriminates against Israel in many
ways, the organization's most outrageously unjust agency is the U.N. Human
Rights Council, long a harbor for oppressive regimes to pass judgments on other nations,
and above all against Israel. The Middle East's only democracy and truly a
light unto nations in so many ways, Israel suffers more condemnations by
the UNHRC than all other nations together. In just the last year, the UNHRC
passed twice as many resolutions against Israel as against North Korea and
Syria combined. In order to make Americans—especially college and
university students—aware of this injustice, FLAME has just produced and
will soon publish a new position paper: "
Exit the U.N. Human Rights Council
." This paid editorial will appear in magazines and newspapers, including
college newspapers, with a combined readership of some 10 million people.
In addition, it is being sent to every member of the U.S. Congress and
President Trump. If you agree that this kind of public relations effort on
Israel's behalf is critical, I urge you to support us. Remember: FLAME's
powerful ability to influence public opinion—and U.S. support of
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(Remember, your donation to FLAME is tax deductible.) To donate online,
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Here's how to fix but not nix the Iran deal
After decertifying the JCPOA, President Trump now has leverage to
negotiate a better agreement.
By Robert Satloff, The Atlantic, October 13, 2017
Two years ago, I urged senators to vote "no" on the Iran nuclear deal.
My goal was not to have them scrap the accord, which had numerous positive
benefits, but to give President Barack Obama leverage to repair its serious
flaws. "No," I argued, "doesn't necessarily mean 'no, never.' It can also
mean 'not now, not this way.' It may be the best way to get to 'yes.'"
The idea of "nix to fix"—not to be confused with Israeli Prime Minister
Benjamin Netanyahu's "nix or fix" slogan—didn't win a lot of support in
2015 but it's back, thanks to President Trump's decision not to certify the
deal under the terms of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act and to seek
INARA's revision by Congress. Now, his administration may have the standing
to win from other signatories, especially the Europeans, support for
correcting many of its faults. Such improvements would give the president a
strong rationale to recertify the agreement down the road.
Achieving this outcome won't be easy but it's doable. Here are three core
problems of the original Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and
how President Trump could correct them, without requiring Iran to
renegotiate any terms of the deal.
The JCPOA was sold, in part, as a way for Iran to recoup billions of
dollars in lost sanctions revenue and win billions more in new commercial
investments to improve its economy and thereby increase the standard of
living of its people. All of this would, so the theory went, tie the
Iranians to global norms and institutions and make them more moderate
From the beginning, however, there was a real fear that the Iranians would
divert large sums to their destabilizing regional ambitions and their
terrorist proxies. Over the past two years, that has certainly been the
case, with Tehran expanding its provocative ballistic-missile program and
extending its regional influence by channeling funds and weapons to
Hezbollah, the Houthis in Yemen, and thousands of Shia militiamen traveling
from as far away as Afghanistan to fight in Syria and Iraq.
The ballistic-missile program is particularly problematic.
Given that the Iranians are exploiting a loophole that the Obama
administration permitted in the relevant UN Security Council resolution to
plow ahead with developing missiles potentially capable of delivering
nuclear weapons, it is wholly false for advocates of the deal to argue that
the JCPOA has halted, frozen, or suspended Iran's nuclear-weapons program.
Such a program has three main parts—development, weaponization, and
delivery—and ballistic missiles are an integral part of that. In other
words, critical aspects of the program are moving ahead, deal or no deal.
To address these problems, the administration could seek understandings now
with European and other international partners about penalties to be
imposed on Iran for continued investment in its ballistic-missile program
and for its provocative regional activities. To be effective, these new
multilateral sanctions should impose disproportionate penalties on Iran for
every dollar spent on ballistic missiles, Hezbollah, the Houthis, or other
negative actors. Since these sanctions are outside the bounds of the JCPOA,
their implementation does not violate any promise made to Iran. Pursuing
this path would also begin to repair the Obama administration's error of
having an "Iran nuclear policy" but no broader "Iran policy."
The JCPOA has no agreed-upon penalties for Iranian violations of the deal's
terms, short of the last-resort punishment of a "snapback" of UN sanctions.
This is akin to having a legal code with only one punishment—the death
penalty—for every crime; the result is that virtually all crimes will go
Again, as the record of the past two years shows, this has been the case.
Contrary to press reports, there have been numerous violations of the terms
of the deal, but on each occasion, Iran has been given the opportunity to
correct its error. That's a logical outcome of a situation in which there
are no agreed-upon penalties for violations other than the threat to scrap
the deal altogether.
The solution is for the Trump administration to reach understandings now
with America's European partners, the core elements of which should be made
public, on the appropriate penalties to be imposed for a broad spectrum of
Iranian violations. The Iran deal gives the UN Security Council wide berth
to define such penalties at a later date, but the penalties have no value
in deterring Iran from violating the accord unless they are clarified now.
One of the biggest flaws in the JCPOA was the expiration of all
restrictions on Iran's enrichment of nuclear material 15 years into the
agreement. To be sure, Iran argues that it remains forever bound by its
commitment not to produce a nuclear weapon under the Nuclear
Nonproliferation Treaty. But if anyone believed that promise, there would
have been little reason to negotiate the JCPOA in the first place.
As the leader who negotiated the Iran nuclear deal, President Obama would
have helped correct this problem if he had issued a declaration making it
the policy of the United States, then and in the future, to use all means
necessary to prevent Iran's accumulation of fissile material (highly
enriched uranium), given that its sole useful purpose is for a nuclear
weapon. Such a statement, to be endorsed by a congressional resolution,
would have gone beyond the "all options are on the table" formulation that,
regrettably, has lost so much of its credibility in the Middle East.
Two years into the agreement, Iran's relentless pursuit
of more effective ballistic missiles —one leg of a nuclear-weapons
program-underscores its strategic decision to pursue the weapons option.
Repairing the sunset clause is, therefore, more urgent than ever. President
Trump could achieve this by reaching an agreement with the five other JCPOA
signatories—or, if Russia and China balked, at least the three European
countries who negotiated the deal, Britain, France, and Germany—on a joint
declaration binding themselves to a promise to take whatever action is
necessary to prevent Iran's accumulation of fissile material. To give that
declaration real weight, signatories could begin a joint-planning process
for executing their commitment, if necessary. America's allies may even
welcome this declaratory approach, since it might assuage private concerns
some of them have about Iran's rapidly expanding nuclear program down the
road. And President Trump could repair a major drawback in the original
JCPOA negotiations by bringing into those consultations the parties most
directly threatened by Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons: Israel and the
Arab states of the Gulf, especially Saudi Arabia.
None of this will be easy. Even in the hands of an agile, well-oiled
administration, one that had invested in partnerships with U.S. allies and
had a track record of adroit, creative diplomacy, winning agreement to this
lengthy "fix Iran deal" agenda would be heavy-lifting, especially with the
North Korea crisis looming. And whatever one's view of the Trump team's
achievements, it's fair to say that it has been far from an agile,
But if the president does go down this path, working in his favor is the
simple argument that "the alternative is worse"—namely, the immediate
collapse of the Iran nuclear deal and with it all constraints on Iran's
nuclear program. While I don't believe this alternative leads to war, as
the Obama administration argued when it made the case for the JCPOA, many
in Berlin, Paris, and London may think so, which the administration can use
to its advantage.
It is not often that governments get a second chance to do the right
If handled properly—with purposeful leadership and adroit diplomacy,
admittedly very big "ifs"—the Trump administration has the opportunity to
correct its predecessor's flawed deal. In my view, better late than never.
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