Last Friday, President Donald Trump declared that he would decline to recertify Iranian compliance with the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) – the agreement drafted by the European Union, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and Germany to regulate Iran’s nuclear program.
The decision drew criticism from other JCPOA signatories, as well as congressional Democrats, who had urged Trump to recertify Iranian compliance.
The president fell short of withdrawing from the deal, however, saying instead that the US should “fix it or nix it”, turning the matter back to Congress, which will be forced by Trump’s refusal to recertify to either reimpose sanctions on Iran – likely prompting Tehran to withdraw from the JCPOA – or provide an alternative framework.
But critics who back the existing agreement accused the president of leading the US towards an armed conflict with the Iranian regime, suggesting that little could be done to renegotiate the deal.
According to one Israeli-American foreign policy expert, however, there is indeed precedent for Trump’s proposal to “fix” the Iran deal, citing President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Arms Reeducation Treaty (START), which replaced the flawed Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty (SALT).
In a video message Monday, Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Dore Gold laid out the case for altering the existing JCPOA, specifying how the US can turn the controversial agreement into an effective means for preventing Tehran from ever acquiring nuclear weapons.
“The fact is, there’s precedent for it,” said Gold.
“Back in 1979, the Carter administration negotiated something that was called the SALT II treaty. Now, whereas the Iran agreement was never a formal treaty, SALT II was a treaty.”
“The SALT II treaty was so flawed that the Carter administration understood that they didn’t have a chance to send it over to the US Senate for ratification, and they didn’t do that. SALT did not adequately address the arms race between the US and the Soviet Union. It put a limit on the growth of the nuclear forces of the two super powers – but it didn’t reduce them.”
In 1981, however, President Reagan took office, and led US nuclear policy vis-à-vis the Soviet Union in a new direction, looking to reach an agreement to significantly reduce both country’s nuclear stockpiles.
“Rather than limiting the growth of nuclear weapons,” said, Gold, Reagan’s START talks were aimed at cutting the total number of nuclear arms. “And this became the preferred approach.”
“What is interesting and useful for us to remember, is that START replaced SALT, that it was possible to come with a different approach that would replace the previous approach, even if it was in a signed agreement. Therefore, President Trump’s strategy has real precedent in the arms control arena.”
Gold cited the JCPOA’s “Section T”, concerning limitations imposed on the Iranian program to weaponize fissile nuclear material, as a prime example of what must be changed if the agreement is to serve as an effective block on Tehran’s nuclear ambitions.
“What Section T tries to do is define activities in the area of weaponization that are prohibited, that Iran shouldn’t be engaging in. But of course, Iran has not allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency or anyone to do proper verification to see that Section T has been addressed by them. This is a huge flaw.”