Where the Iran Nuclear Deal is Headed

This article was last updated on April 16, 2022

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While the world is distracted with the “penis measuring contest” between Donald Trump and Kim Jong-un, Iran seems to have taken the back seat when it comes to attention from the mainstream media.  That said, with Donald Trump’s repeated criticism of the Iran nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA) as shown here (a launch that, as it turns out did not take place):

Iran just test-fired a Ballistic Missile capable of reaching Israel.They are also working with North Korea.Not much of an agreement we have!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 23, 2017

…a recent document circulating in Washington sheds interesting light on where the Iranian situation will end up.

The memorandum was written by Richard Goldberg, a former Republican House and Senate policy advisor, Deputy Chief of Staff to former Republican Senator Mark Kirk (IL) and a member of the Israeli lobby that works Washington to its advantage and a former Republican House and Senate policy advisor.  In looking through Mr. Goldberg’s Twitter account, you can clearly see his anti-Iran stance, a stance that is shared with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu who has long had a “bug up his butt” about Iran’s continued existence.

Before we take a detailed look at Mr. Goldberg’s musings and as background, let’s look at the key parts of the JCPOA:

where the iran nuclear deal is headed


where the iran nuclear deal is headed


where the iran nuclear deal is headed

Nowhere in the document does it mention that Iran must limit further testing related to its ballistic missile program.  Remember that the key part of the JCPOA was the lifting of international sanctions that were imposed on Iran for the ongoing development of its nuclear program.

Let’s now look at how the United States added to the conditions imposed on Iran by the JCPOA.  Here is a key excerpt from the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA) (H.R. 1191), a separate law which was passed by Congress in 2015 and became law on May 22, 2015:

The President shall, at least every 90 days, determine whether the President is able to certify that: 

1.) Iran is fully implementing the agreement,

2.) Iran has not committed a material breach of the agreement,

3.) Iran has not taken any action that could significantly advance its nuclear weapons program, and

4.) suspension of sanctions against Iran is appropriate and proportionate to measures taken by Iran with respect to terminating its illicit nuclear program and vital to U.S. national security interests.

The only time that ballistic missiles are mentioned in the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act are as follows:

It is the sense of Congress that: 

1.) U.S. sanctions on Iran for terrorism, human rights abuses, and ballistic missiles will remain in place under an agreement; 

2.) issues not addressed by an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program, including compensation for Americans held in captivity after the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, in 1979, the freedom of Americans held in Iran, the human rights abuses of the government of Iran against its own people, and the continued support of terrorism by the government of Iran, are matters critical to ensure justice and U.S. national security, and should be addressed; 

3.) the President should determine the agreement in no way compromises the U.S. commitment to Israel’s security, nor its support for Israel’s right to exist; and 

4.) in order to implement any long-term agreement reached between the P5+1 countries and Iran, it is critically important that Congress have the opportunity to review any agreement and take action to modify the statutory sanctions regime imposed by Congress.

Notice that INARA technically gives Washington an “out” when it comes to Iran’s ballistic missile program and the reimposition of sanctions that were relieved under the JCPOA.  That’s a bit on the sneaky side, isn’t it?

Now, let’s look at the Goldberg document in its entirety, released thanks to Foreign Policy:

where the iran nuclear deal is headed


where the iran nuclear deal is headed


where the iran nuclear deal is headed


where the iran nuclear deal is headed

Here are the key sections:

Iran’s refusal to allow inspections at key military sites makes it impossible to fully verify Iranian compliance with the JCPOA. The regime’s accelerating ballistic missile program violates the JCPOA’s related agreements and, given the proliferation nexus between Iran and North Korea, poses a clear and present danger to U.S. national security. Meanwhile, Iran’s exploitation of sanctions relief to build up its military presence in Syria and Lebanon undermines U.S. security interests and puts our closest Middle East ally in grave danger….

The President should determine that he cannot certify Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA and/or that sanctions relief is vital to U.S. national security – and he should base this determination on a specific list of Iranian behavior that the United States will observe and reevaluate during the following 90-day period. This may include the impossibility of verifying compliance without access to certain sites, testing or development of ballistic missiles, or military activities in Syria and Lebanon.” (my bold)

Note that the entire premise of Mr. Goldberg’s argument is based on Iran’s ballistic missile program, a program that is not even mentioned in JCPOA itself and appears to be changing the basis on which the JCPOA was signed by all parties.

Here is how Mr. Goldberg feels that the Trump Administration could back Iran into a corner:

Since the act of “decertifying” under INARA is itself not a violation of the JCPOA, the moment the President makes his determination, the United States will still remain a party to the P5+1 agreement. A decision by Iran to abandon its JCPOA nuclear commitments would be unwarranted. However, this is the key moment when Iran either views “decertification” as meaningless symbolism or as a credible threat.

To influence Iranian behavior after “decertification,” Iran’s leaders must credibly believe two things: 

1) an immediate U.S.-led economic embargo is possible, and 

2) the regime would not win a race to the bomb if it chose to break away from its remaining JCPOA commitments.

The United States can remain a party to the JCPOA even though it has decertified Iran under INARA based on Iran’s ongoing willingness to expand its ballistic missile program, a program that “threatens America’s “closest Middle East ally (i.e. Israel)”. (my bold and insert)  

With the decertification in place, under its own laws (INARA), the United States would be free to reimpose sanctions.  Under Mr. Goldberg’s scenario, Iran would suffer from “regime instability and economic collapse”, putting an end to the nation’s current dictatorship as shown here:

A sudden termination of access to its foreign accounts, suspension of insurance across all industries, cutoff from SWIFT and all foreign financial institutions and a dramatic drop in expected oil exports would trigger an immediate currency crisis inside Iran. The bazaars of Iran would be overcome with chaos and fear. A period of regime instability would quickly follow, posing an existential threat to the Supreme Leader far sooner than the 7-12 month timeline needed for Iran to “break out” (based on where the Iranian nuclear program paused under the JCPOA). At the very least, the period of instability triggered by the U.S. sanctions embargo would buy valuable time to explore more creative and effective military options as a last resort.

In the end, we must keep in mind the fundamental rule of dictatorship: the regime’s top priority is staying in control. A credible threat to regime stability – a sanctions Sword of Damocles hanging over the Supreme Leader – could incentivize Iranian behavioral change.” (my bold)

Let’s close with a very recent quote about the situation in Iran from Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (2 minute 45 second mark):

…and here is an excerpt from his address on nuclear non-profliferation to the United Nations on September 21, 2017:

There are also lessons here for Iran, which was on its own pathway to develop nuclear weapons – in violation of its Non-Proliferation Treaty and nuclear safeguards obligations and multiple, legally binding UN Security Council resolutions. Iran seems keen to preserve for itself the option to resume such work in the future, even while sponsoring international terrorism, developing missile systems capabilities of delivering nuclear weapons, and destabilizing its neighbors in a dangerous quest of regional hegemony.” (my bold)

How dare another nation (other than the United States) attempt a quest for hegemony of any kind!

The writing is on the wall when it comes to Iran and the United States; it is just a matter of time before the hostilities begin.

Thanks to America’s substantial investments in both Saudi Arabia and Israel and its long-term hawkish approach to Iran, it appears to matter little whether Iran remains compliant to the terms of the JCPOA (which they appear to be based on the most recent report dated August 31, 2017 from the IAEA).  At the very least it appears that the plan is to create yet another unstable nation in the Middle East, all in the name of regime change that is favourable to Washington.  It’s no wonder that Iran’s leadership feels a need to protect itself with its ballistic missile program given that Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States have long held an anti-Iran war mindset.

And, we all know how well regime change has worked out for the United States in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, don’t we?

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