Israel and its American supporters continue to press President Trump to repudiate the nuclear agreement with Iran, often using disingenuous arguments that ex-CIA analyst Paul R. Pillar dissects.
By Paul R. Pillar
Opposition to the Iran nuclear agreement, known formally as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), always has been filled with disingenuous arguments. This reflects the fundamental illogic of the opponents’ position: if the agreement were to be junked, this would mean removing a panoply of restrictions on Iran and re-opening now-closed avenues to a nuclear weapon for the very country that the opponents constantly contend is a serious threat.
The principal sources of opposition have had little to do with terms of the agreement itself or with nuclear matters, even though the specter of an Iranian nuclear weapon was the focus of rhetoric from those same opponents before the JCPOA was negotiated. The sources instead involve governments in the Middle East that have other reasons to try to keep Iran a pariah forever, and elements in the United States that want to fulfill campaign rhetoric and to trash any accomplishments of the previous administration.
Nonetheless, enough people of goodwill are vulnerable to being swayed by some of those arguments that the arguments need to be addressed. One of the most frequently mentioned concerns the so-called sunset provisions, under which time limits (of varying lengths, such as 10 or 15 years) apply to some of the restrictions in the JCPOA.
The first thing to point out is that this argument is just as disingenuous as others in that if the JCPOA were killed, or if it had never been negotiated in the first place, the resulting alternative would be worse than the JCPOA according to the very criteria on which the opponents’ argument is based. If there were no JCPOA, then instead of Iran being free of some restrictions on its nuclear activity 10 or 15 years from now, it would be free from those same restrictions right now.
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