President Trump indicated in a Wall Street Journal interview he’s willing to overrule the State Department and not certify Iran’s compliance. This is Part 2 of an interview that aired July 26, 2017, when John Yang from PBS NewsHour spoke to Robert Malley, a former White House negotiator for the Iran nuclear talks, and Mark Dubowitz of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
John Yang: Mark Dubowitz, what about that? The idea that it’s better to know what’s going on. To work within this agreement and know what Iran’s doing?
Mark Dubowitz: Look, I’m glad Rob brought up the fatally flawed North Korea nuclear agreement, because the Iran nuclear agreement is similarly fatally flawed. It contains within it sunset provisions where the restriction on Iran’s nuclear program actually go away over time and Iran can emerge by actually faithfully complying with the deal with an industrial sized nuclear program, with near zero nuclear break-out capability, with a much easier, covert sneak-out capability, with an ICBM, with a powerful economy fortified against our ability to use sanctions and with increased regional hedge money.
So Rob is right. The deal temporarily pushed the Iranians further in terms of break-out, but over the medium term, Iran is going to emerge with everything at once by faithfully complying with the deal. So, we don’t want another fatally flawed nuclear agreement like we had with North Korea. What we need to start dealing with is this flawed agreement and I think the president has already made it very clear that he thinks this is a terrible deal, he thinks it’s a fatally flawed deal, and I think my advice to him is don’t certify compliance, and begin to lay the predicate for a massive pressure campaign and get the Iranians back to the table to negotiate a nuclear deal number two that addresses some of these fatally flawed elements of the deal and, by the way, gives us inspection rights into military sites, which right now we have in theory, but in practice the Iranians are not letting us into their military sites where they’re likely to engage in nuclear weaponization activities like they have in the past. So, we got to rectify this fatally flawed deal or the Iranians are going to get a new ICBMs and they’re going to have the ability to dominate the region like nothing we’ve seen before.
John Yang: Rob Malley, what would be the consequences. What’s at stake here? What would be the consequences if the president did say Iran is not living up to this deal?
Rob Malley: But first I have to say, I’m a little bit confused about the argument that Mark was making. Is the argument that the deal was fatally flawed, and therefore we shouldn’t accept it, we should walk away, we should renegotiate it, which would be one path. Very dangerous and I won’t get into that. Or, is his view, the deal is okay for now, but is it over in 12, 13, 14, 15 years as some provisions are going to expire and so we should think of whether we can negotiate what happens afterwards, but in which case we’re going to have to give something to Iranians in return. The Iranians are not going to accept and negotiate more restrictions in exchange for nothing. So, I think we need to clarify, right now we’re in a much better position than we were at the time President Obama took office, because we have these restrictions and according to every inspection that has been done, every report by the IAEA, Iran’s in compliance.
Now, if tomorrow the president were to decide to announce that Iran is not in compliance. First of all, I think we would have a little bit of a deja vu in terms of Iraq. I think most people in the international community would believe that we’re just fabricating evidence, because we haven’t shared it. Because right now, we’re the only ones who are claiming that Iran is not … we would be the only ones claiming that. That would not put us in a strong position.
If you were to do that and that’s it and continue to honor the deal, it would be a hiccup, it would, once again, signal to the world that we have a rather erratic administration. If you were then to impose sanctions, to reimpose the sanctions that were lifted, reimpose sanctions on Iran’s nuclear program, then we would be in breach. Either Iran would itself say, “We’re no longer bound by our own commitments.” And we would have a possibility of Iran trying to acquire a nuclear bomb. Or, we’d be isolated in the international community, because the Europeans, the Russians, the Chinese, everyone would say, “It’s on you. It’s not on Iran.” Why would we want that?
John Yang: Mark Dubowitz, I want you to respond. What would happen … practically would happen if the president said they weren’t complying and then what should the next step be?
Mark Dubowitz: Well, practically speaking, what Rob’s not telling you is that, if the president says they’re not complying, but he doesn’t say that they’re in material breach, then actually nothing happens. Then we don’t go to the Joint Commission. We don’t snap back UN and U.S. sanctions. We merely say Iran is engaging in incremental violations and we know that the Iranians violate incrementally, not egregiously, even though over time, the sum total of the incremental violations is always egregious. What Rob’s not telling you is that he knows, and we know, that the Iranians have been incrementally violating this deal. They’ve exceeded heavy water caps. Heavy water is the essential ingredients you need for a plutonium bomb. They’re testing more advanced centrifuges than they are permitted under the nuclear agreement. They’ve been illicitly procuring nuclear and ballistic missile technology in Germany, according to German intelligence services, and they’ve exceeded they’re enrichment caps. So, the fact of the matter is, there are violations. They’re not material breaches, they’re incremental violations. The president should state that, certify that and say Iran is not in full compliance.
Now, the second step is to say whether it’s a material breach, and it’s not. It’s not a material breach and he should move ahead with a maximum pressure campaign.
John Yang: Mark Dubowitz, I’m sorry, we’re out of time. Mark Dubowitz, Rob Malley, we’re going to have to leave it there. Thank you, gentlemen.
Rob Malley: Thank you.
Mark Dubowitz: Thanks a lot.