The Trump Administration’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018and its imposition of “maximum” sanctions on Iran and any nation that trades with Iran have left the United States in a stand-off with Iran and distanced America from its traditional allies in Europe, two experts say.
Speaking at a symposium at Hiram’s Garfield Center for Public Leadership on Feb. 20 were retired Ambassador Laura Kennedy, a career diplomat, and Valerie Lincy, the executive director of the Wisconsin Project on Nuclear Arms Control, a nonprofit that researches weapons of mass destruction supply networks and whose findings are used to support sanctions and counterproliferation actions.
The two said that President Trump’s decision to unilaterally pull the United States out of the agreement has yielded these results:
‒ Longstanding allies who signed the accord are looking for ways to circumvent theTrump sanctions;
‒ Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who takes a hardline toward Iran, which he terms “an existential threat”, is pleased;
Formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the more than 100-page document, which the Obama Administration took a leading role in negotiating, required Iran to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium and reduce by two thirds, the number of its gas centrifuges. Iran also agreed not to build any new heavy water facilities during the life of the accord and limit uranium enrichment activities to a single facility. It also agreed to provide access to all its nuclear facilities to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
Citing an underground nuclear enrichment facility that Iran had attempted to hide, the U.S.A. and Israel said Iran is not to be trusted. Iran’s continued support of Hezbollah, a Shia splinter group that commits terrorists acts against Israel, was also cited by the Trump Administration when it withdrew from the nuclear accord.
Both Ambassador Kennedy and the Wisconsin Project’s Lincy while at Hiram College indicated they prefer less hardline posturing. America’s current position, they said, amounts to hoping the Iranian people overthrow their government.
“That is not going to happen,” Lincy said. She said that until the U.S.A. backed out of the nuclear accord, Iran was behaving in compliance and President Trump knows this.
Ambassador Kennedy said President Trump is not telling the whole story when he says the nuclear deal unfroze assets that Iran could use to sponsor terrorist activities. The assets unfrozen, she said, were those held by the United Nations. Assets held by the United States have not yet been released, she said.
Both said remaining in the accord would have kept the U.S.A. and Iran talking and appealed to those in Iran who want better relations with America.
Kennedy said that any American invasion of Iran to topple its clerical lead government, “would make America’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 seem like a cakewalk.” She cited as impediments: the size of Iran, its military, and its population of nearly 82 million people as opposed to its smaller neighbor, Iraq, whose population is approximately 39 million. She also noted that although Iran is a theocracy in which the government is elected within the parameters set by the Islamic clergy, “it is more of a democracy than some of our allies in the region,” she said, referring to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the military dictatorship that rules Egypt.
Memories of America’s 1953 coup that overturned Iran’s democratically elected government replacing it with the Shah, a pro-American dictator, continues to fuel anti-Americanism in Iran. Former President Obama’s overture to turn that page in America’s Iran relationship was branded a craven apology by President Trump and his supporters.
Even with the hostility that exists between the two nations, they did recently cooperate to defeat ISIS, the two speakers said. Years ago, they also cooperated in the Iran Contra affair in which the Reagan Administration sold arms to Iran for cash that went to the Israelis who then secretly funneled the money to those in Nicaragua who were battling the Soviet-leaning Sandinistas.
Opportunities for Iran and the U.S.A. to partner continue to exist, both said.