Eye on Iran: Trump Faces Battle to Undo Iran Nuclear Deal

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Trump Faces Battle to Undo Iran Nuclear Deal | The Wall Street Journal

Donald Trump as president will be positioned to swiftly pull the U.S. out of the Obama administration’s landmark nuclear agreement with Iran, as he suggested during his campaign. A much harder task for Mr. Trump, however, is to convince other global powers to join him and dismantle a deal that President Barack Obama says has diminished the threat of another war in the Mideast and opened a path for reduced tensions in the region. During his campaign, Mr. Trump said the Obama administration negotiated badly. He alternately said he would scrap the deal and that he would renegotiate its terms. “My number one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran,” he told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee in March. Tehran has been found to have briefly violated its pledges twice since the deal was reached in mid-2015, according to U.S. and European officials. Yet international commitment to the agreement remains strong, and the parties who negotiated it—China, Russia, France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S.—have pledged to promote it.

A pen and a phone: How Trump will erase Obama’s foreign policy | New York Post

‘I’ve got a pen and I’ve got a phone” was President Obama’s favored path to a foreign-policy legacy. Oops. President-elect Donald Trump may now use his own pen and phone to erase it... “The water that John Kerry has been carrying for Iran is enough to fill many oceans,” says David Ibsen, president of the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran. Trump, he added, will likely be less forgiving... The Obama administration has been encouraging American companies to enter Iranian markets to assure the deal’s viability. Ibsen’s organization, however, works to deter them from doing so. Friday, Veterans Day, UANI plans to mobilize veterans to remind some of America’s largest corporations that Iran is responsible for the deaths of 1,000 American soldiers, and that it’s a risky place to do business. Trump can follow suit, bleeding the Iran deal to death with cut after cut to its participation in the global economy.

Iran deal endangered if Trump seeks to renegotiate its terms | AP

Donald Trump isn't going to rip up the Iran nuclear deal on day one as president, but his vows to renegotiate the terms and increase enforcement could imperil an agreement that has put off the threat of Tehran developing atomic weapons. Emboldened Republican lawmakers are already considering ways to test Iran's resolve to live up to the deal. As a candidate, Trump issued a variety of statements about last year's pact. He called it "stupid," a "lopsided disgrace" and the "worst deal ever negotiated," railing against its time-limited restrictions on Iran's enrichment of uranium and other nuclear activity, and exaggerating the scale of U.S. concessions. Trump said that he doesn't want to simply tear up the agreement. Instead, he spoke of reopening the diplomacy and declared that unlike President Barack Obama's diplomats, he would have been prepared to walk away from talks. Trump's exact plans are vague, however, and a renegotiation would be difficult. Iran has little incentive to open talks over a deal it is satisfied with. And none of the other countries in the seven-nation accord has expressed interest in picking apart an understanding that took more than a decade of stop-and-go diplomacy and almost two full years of negotiation to complete. 

NUCLEAR & BALLISTIC MISSILE PROGRAM 

No legal reason US could not walk away from Iran deal: official | AFP

The Iran nuclear deal would fall apart if a US administration walked away from it, as President-elect Donald Trump has vowed to do, the State Department said Thursday... "Any party -- and I'm speaking very hypothetically here, because I don't want in any way to attempt to hypothesize about what the incoming administration's going to do -- I'm just talking purely about an agreement that any party can walk away from," State Department spokesman Mark Toner said. "And that will have profound consequences on the integrity of the agreement." Toner said that the Iran deal was not a legally binding treaty, but that the current US administration believes it is in Washington's interest to continue it. 

U.S.-IRAN RELATIONS

Visit Iran? US tour company says yes, despite recent arrests | AP

It is home to beautiful mountains, breathtaking historical buildings and priceless artwork — but it's also the subject of strongly worded U.S. State Department warnings. For Americans, Iran may not be the first place that comes to mind when planning a vacation, even decades after the 1979 U.S. Embassy takeover following the country's Islamic Revolution. "Death to America!" can still be heard at hard-line mosques and protests, and Iranians with Western ties can face arbitrary arrest. However, one luxury tour company in the U.S. is promoting a new trip to the country for those willing to take the risk, describing it as the first opportunity to see an Iran opening up to the West after last year's nuclear deal. "We feel that Iran is one of the most exciting places that someone can travel to at this point in time, given the current climate in the country and what sort of changes have been taking place recently," said Stefanie Schmudde, product manager of Americas and Middle East for the Downers Grove, Illinois-based tour company Abercrombie & Kent... Abercrombie & Kent has planned its first Iran trip in early May, leaving just ahead of the country's presidential election. They say that interchange between American tourists and the Iranian people will help bridge the gap between the two nations. "I would not hesitate to send anybody," Schmudde said. "It's a very exciting destination that's really and truly on the cusp of change." 

CONGRESSIONAL ACTION

‘Never Trump’ GOP preparing to work with Trump to squeeze Iran | The Washington Post

Republicans in Congress who vigorously opposed Donald Trump’s run for president are now preparing to work with the incoming Trump administration on a number of foreign policy and national security issues where their policies overlap. First on their agenda is drastically increasing sanctions on Iran. “There are several issues that I can work with the new president on, the Iran deal being number one,” Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.), who voted for independent candidate Evan McMullin, told me. “Trump has been right about the Iran deal, it needs to be renegotiated. I’m going to create leverage for him.” On the first day Congress is back in session, Graham said he and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (R-Ariz.) will reintroduce the Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act, which was first introduced by outgoing Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.). The legislation would expand the non-nuclear related sanctions on Iran to include entire sectors of the Iranian economy that aid in Iran’s ballistic missile program. It would also sanction any Iranian companies or organizations that support the missile program. 

SANCTIONS ENFORCEMENT

U.S. charges Turkish, Iranian nationals with evading Iran sanctions | Reuters

Four Turkish and Iranian nationals from the same family have been indicted on charges they violated U.S. sanctions against Iran by conducting hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions for Iran's government and Iranian metals companies. According to an indictment made public on Thursday in the U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Habibollah Zarei, Nesteren Zarei Deniz, Bora Deniz and Abdullah Evren Erdem conspired to evade U.S. sanctions from 2014 until at least January 2016. The defendants were accused of helping three Iranian companies import and export large quantities of copper and steel to and from Iran, and arranging for U.S. banks to transfer at least $100 million to further the scheme. "These defendants conspired and schemed to hide millions of dollars' of financial transactions specifically to evade U.S. sanctions laws," and deserve to face "strong legal action," U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara in Manhattan said in a statement. All of the defendants are at large. 

SANCTIONS RELIEF

Iran Tells OPEC It Raised Supply by Most Since Sanctions | Bloomberg News

Iran, which has said it’s exempt from OPEC’s accord to cut production, told the group it raised output by the most since international sanctions were lifted. Iraq, unwilling to curb its supplies, reported a higher level than OPEC’s estimates. Freed from curbs on its oil trade in January, Iran said it increased output by 210,000 barrels a day to 3.92 million a day in October from the previous month, according to a report from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Iran's FM in Prague to discuss business, nuclear cooperation | AP

ran's foreign minister visited the Czech capital of Prague to talk business Friday, including the development of a nuclear program after the sanctions against his country were lifted. Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif's visit comes just six months after the head of Iran's nuclear program met Czech leaders in May to discuss developing bilateral nuclear cooperation. Iran is seeking help from European nations to improve its civilian nuclear program. The Czechs heavily rely on nuclear energy and plan to build more reactors... Accompanied by a delegation of Iranian business leaders, Zarif was also to meet Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka and the speaker of Parliament's lower house, Jan Hamacek.

SYRIA CONFLICT 

Iran holds funeral for 10 soldiers killed in Syria | AP

Iran's official IRNA news agency is reporting that a funeral ceremony has been held for 10 soldiers who were killed in Syria. The Thursday report said the families and relatives of the deceased soldiers, as well as authorities and local citizens, attended the funeral in holy city of Qom, some 80 miles (130 kilometers) south of the capital Tehran. It called the soldiers "defenders of shrine," but did not identify them or provide additional details on their deaths. In August, Iran said that the families of at least 400 fighters killed fighting in Iranian brigades in Syria had been referred to the Martyr Foundation to receive financial support.

OPINION & ANALYSIS

Just say no… to doing business in Iran | UANI Veterans Advisory Council Member Staff Sgt. Robert Bartlett

The improvised explosive device (IED) cut my skull in half, from the left corner of my temple down through my jaw, and killed my partner Staff Sgt. William Brooks. The Iranian-made roadside bomb that destroyed my Humvee while on patrol in Iraq in 2005 was part of Iran’s mission to exploit American interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan by targeting U.S. servicemen.  Deploying IEDs through its agents and proxies, Iran sought to kill and maim as many of us as possible. And their mission succeeded, as the regime was responsible for a quarter of American casualties during the operation in Iraq.  If this is news to those of you reading this, that is because Iran escaped nearly all accountability for their deadly actions.  Now, twelve years later, Iran remains an international outlaw and force for instability as the leading state sponsor of terrorism. Over the course of the last several years, Iran has also managed to effectively position itself as a worthy global partner, a dangerous misconception that was bolstered by the signing of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in July 2015.  The nuclear deal signaled to the world that Iran is open for business. Now, American-affiliated companies like General Electric, Shell, and Fiat-Chrysler, as well as dozens of other companies around the world with significant business interests in the United States, see Iran as the next great economic frontier, a bastion of opportunity. What these companies fail to see, or worse, ignore, is Iran’s continued support for terrorist groups worldwide. Iran is aligned with the same enemies that thousands of U.S. servicemen risk their lives every single day to stop—the same enemies that maim and kill our men and women in uniform... American companies that do business in Iran are choosing profit over responsibility.  And on this Veterans Day, when American lives are still the bottom line, there should be no executive, board of directors, or shareholder who aligns themselves against the safety and wellbeing of our citizens. The severity of the risks make this choice crystal clear: Iran is no ally, nor partner for American business.

Trump Can Make Iran Policy Great Again | UANI Advisory Board Member Ray Takeyh in Foreign Policy

During his campaign for the presidency, Donald Trump often dismissed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear agreement signed between the United States and Iran. His critique, while vague, was sensible. The JCPOA did concede too much residual enrichment capacity, its sunset clauses were too short, and it offered sanctions relief that was too generous. On top of that, the White House indulged in its own cash-and-carry program, trading hostages for money. It is hard to see how a prudent Iran policy can coexist with the JCPOA as it stands today. An actual Iran policy needs to move beyond arms control and emphasize ways of putting stress on the country’s theocratic regime and pushing back on its ambitions in the Middle East. The future Trump administration now has the opportunity to develop just such a comprehensive Iran policy. Because the JCPOA is not a treaty ratified by the Senate, it is not binding on any administration. It’s important to note that the House of Representatives actually rejected the accord while 56 U.S. senators similarly went on the record with their opposition. The Trump administration can thus render JCPOA null and void simply by declaring it so. But repealing the accord will also imply a willingness to negotiate a more robust agreement. That’s why the new administration would be prudent to first articulate its own arms control precepts. In the process of transacting its flawed accord, President Barack Obama’s team abandoned many of its own standards, and it is time to restore worthy principles as the basis of any new agreement. This means that the scope of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program has to be defined by national needs. Given that an oil-rich Iran really does not require nuclear energy, this would mean at best a modest and symbolic program.

The Role of Missiles in Iran's Military Strategy | Michael Eisenstadt in The Washington Institute for Near East Policy

Iran has the largest missile force in the Middle East, consisting of more than a thousand short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, and possibly land-attack cruise missiles. Although its missiles are conventionally armed, many could deliver a nuclear weapon if Iran were to acquire such a capability. While the recent nuclear accord with Iran -- the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action -- will likely defer such an eventuality, it did not impose new constraints on Iran's missile program. On the contrary, it loosened them -- and included provisions for their lifting in eight years, if not sooner. Iran's missile force could double or triple in size by the time the major limits imposed by the nuclear deal are supposed to be lifted, fifteen years from now. By then, Iran's growing missile and cyber capabilities will pose major challenges to regional missile defenses, military and critical infrastructure targets, and civilian population centers. For this reason, any attempts to improve on the nuclear deal with Iran should address Iran's missile program as well.