Letter: Why did we go nuclear on Iran nuclear deal?

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Editor of the Reformer:

The deal that the US and many other nations reached with Iran in 2015 — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA ) — was the culmination of 12 years of international diplomacy. It was also endorsed by the United Nations Security Council. Trump's recent decision to withdraw from it amounts to "going nuclear" in the sense of employing a destructive weapon that should have been a last resort. Unlike the joint efforts that produced the JCPOA, our withdrawal was unilateral. The other parties to the agreement are trying to keep it alive without our participation, because the UK, France, Germany, China and Russia, not to mention Iran, all continue to believe the agreement is in their own security interests. Was unilateral withdrawal wise? Not very. First, the evidence appears to be that Iran was complying with its obligations. Not only did Trump himself certify compliance up until the sudden decision to withdraw, but Secretary of State Pompeo testified to compliance just last month. Second, Trump seems to have withdrawn based on a comparison of the actual deal with some hypothetical one that would have been, in his eyes, better. The important question isn't whether this is the best possible agreement, it's whether it is better than no agreement. Third, Trump has once again damaged US credibility and global leadership. Many other nations now ask how they can trust a country that abruptly withdraws from solemn international agreements. We have even created international sympathy for Iran while doing nothing to reduce Iran's harmful activity across the Middle East. Fourth, withdrawal raises the likelihood of military confrontation with Iran, especially in light of Trump's volatile behavior and the fact that he's advised by two known "hardliners" on Iran: John Bolton and Mike Pompeo. Another war in the Middle East would be madness after all the lives and money lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. Let's hope that withdrawing doesn't lead to a literal "nuclear option." Finally, there are the sanctions reimposed on Iran. These will affect everything from Iran's importation of aircraft parts to exportation of its oil to its trade in dollars and precious metals. Sanctions also impact any other countries doing business with Iran, raising a serious possibility of international turmoil and confrontation.

Magdalena Usategui

Shaftsbury, May 30


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