Jonathan Silver: President Trump campaigned against the nuclear deal with Iran. It has been central to his presentation of a new vision and America first foreign policy to the American people. I wonder if we can just begin by thinking about where the administration stands vis-a-vis its Iran policy. How do you think it is doing, how does he think about it a little bit differently from the Obama administration?
Mark Dubowitz: So, this administration certainly came into office dedicated to rectifying the mistakes of the past, with respect to Iran, and first and foremost was the nuclear deal, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA. This administration saw that deal as fatally flawed. It was a deal that, in their view, did not rest Iran’s nuclear development. If anything, it facilitated it over time. It gave Iran, what I called, patient pathways to nuclear weapons because of some fundamental problems of the deal itself, which I’m sure we’ll discuss. But in broader terms, they thought that the Obama administration was myopically focused on the nuclear deal at the expense of the broader Iranian threat and came into office committed to rolling out a broader Iran strategy. They would use all instruments of American power to neutralize and roll back the Iranian threat in the Middle East and globally, and they saw the nuclear deal as a deal that needed to be fixed or nixed, as expression went, but an Iranian threat that needed to be countered and neutralized. So that was very much the Iran strategy that the President rolled out on October 13 and we’ve seen, since then, much effort to identifying the most malign elements of that threat and devising strategies to counter that threat as well as figuring out a strategy with respect to the nuclear deal.
Jonathan Silver: Defenders of the deal, advocates of the deal, have pointed to the unprecedented ability for the IAEA to come in and review the process of nuclear development. Don’t they have a point?
Mark Dubowitz: Well, I don’t think they do. First of all, it’s not unprecedented. The IAEA has had better visibility to the nuclear programs of other countries, certainly countries like Japan, which are American allies, we don’t worry about the Japanese nuclear program. We have better visibility into South Africa’s nuclear program before they gave up that program, so there’s nothing unprecedented about these inspection rights. The fundamental problem with these inspection rights is the Iranians have said over and over again, “you’re never getting into our military sites.” That’s from the Supreme Leader to President Rouhani to foreign minister Zarif to the head of Iran’s nuclear program Salehi. So they’ve said over and over again, “you’re never getting into our military sites” and, of course, that presents a major problem because it is in exactly those military sites where Iran has conducted illegal military nuclear activities in the past. So, the fact that we have access to the declared sites to Natan or Fordow, which are these declared enrichment facilities, which by the way they were not actually declared by the Iranians. They were declared clandestine sites that the Iranians built in secret that were then revealed to the world by Iranian opposition groups and, we think, the support of foreign intelligence agencies. So, they were declared, they were now declared, the IAEA is in there, the inspectors are in there 24/7, but that’s not where Iran is gonna build nuclear weapons. It’s gonna build them in clandestine sites, and it’s gonna build them in military sites. The fact that we can’t get into military sites, according to Iranians, presents a significant problem and it’s one of the fatal flaws of the deal. We must have unfettered, anytime, anywhere access to those military sites, and so far it’s not clear that we do.
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