Trump’s threat to the nuclear deal

Pantelis Ikonomou, former IAEA nuclear inspector, offers this reflection on President Trump’s continuing threat to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal: 

Last Friday, the US president said he is extending the sanctions waver for Iran one last time, for another 120 days, so Europe and the US can fix the nuclear deal’s “terrible flaws”.

Should we be relieved? Rather disappointed for the continuation of an ambiguous policy with unclear scope and dangerous consequences.

What are the “terrible flaws” of the Joint Comprehensive Plan Of Action (JCPOA)?

Crown points of concern for the US president are the nuclear agreement’s “sunset clauses” and  “suspicious sites” in Iran, which are not monitored.

How can these be fixed in the upcoming 120 days?

The agreement’s deadlines regarding specified actions and defined sanctions have been thoroughly discussed and agreed upon by all signatories, including the United States.

As for “suspicious sites”, the IAEA has the agreed right and obligation to request access to any site it might consider necessary under the scope of the agreement. Such a request would be based on an IAEA assessment of credible open-source or other information provided by an IAEA member state, including the US.

Antilogos to Trump’s stance:

The IAEA confirmed in a succession of reports that Iran is fully complying with the commitments made under the JCPOA, the world’s “most robust nuclear verification regime”.

The European High Representative Federica Mogherini, one day before Trump’s decision Friday, following a meeting in Brussels with the Foreign Ministers of France, Germany, the UK and Iran, stated that “the continued successful implementation of JCPOA ensures that Iran’s nuclear programme remains exclusively peaceful.” Europe considers that the agreement “is crucial for its security (and)…is determined to preserve it.”

Neither Russia nor China are backing president Trump’s stance on the Iran agreement. To the contrary, they both defend JCPOA, which they have both shaped and signed. It is in fact a multilateral agreement endorsed by the UN Security Council.

Trump’s position on the deal keeps Iran in closer ties to Russia, its foremost geopolitical ally; it could also push Tehran closer to Beijing.

Moreover, hardliners in Iran might assume full control of power in Tehran, triggering this time a non-safeguarded nuclear program, thus “pushing” other candidates in the region to follow Iran’s nuclear breakout.

At a time of acute nuclear threat, in particular the open-ended North Korean crisis, jeopardizing the integrity of the non-proliferation architecture, along with breaking solid bridges with historical friends and steadfast allies, could create a paramount threat to global security.


Pantelis Ikonomou

Former IAEA nuclear inspector

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3 thoughts on “Trump’s threat to the nuclear deal”

  1. Elsewhere, I’m far away from this, but having it contemplated in my mind. To say it plain, it might sound too much. It’s not the votes the Democrats could get having Trump in the office. Trump is just a smallpox of a more troublesome fact going on for a while. Some Trump, was on his way, one way or another. It’s not just that I’m looking for a silver lining, I thought it about, while boarding a bus in Las Vegas, wanting to get to know the public transport, and giving my driver days off. At the time it was swirling in my head. Better to be Trump, because, otherwise, the pendulum would go swinging back in a disastrous way (primaries between Hilary and Sanders). It must be clear, and clearly understood, you, middle class of white people of the US, you must not do this again. The mistake must be clear, clean, and well understood. It’s not “Fire and Fury”, that’s tabloid, it’s “Devil’s Bargain”. And those who are well versed in politics, diplomacy, serving a fellow man, might know more and be capable of doing better than simple snake oil called MAGA. We are (were) on the road, we had voices from the highest echelons of Iran politics, that they want to become US like, not a corrupted state, we were hearing voices praising George Washington. It’s a form of flattery, as much as can be, given the circumstances. And the sunset, would be trade, exchange of technology, goods, people. Why risk this great achievement for far less than it could be. Why shouldn’t SA, Iran, … fight for their place on the market in a way we all do in this world.

  2. A bit off-topic, but Oliver Ivanovic was gunned down in Mitrovica (north) and Rada Trajkovic is saying it reminds her of the assassinations of Stambolić and Đinđić. The Balkans could use some steadying right about now, but if the current resident of the White House doesn’t let the warning of an attack on the United States interfere with his golf game, it seems unlikely they’ll get it from here.

  3. Pete’s note is spot on! The JCPOA is an excellent agreement, far better than I expected. If followed by all parties, it blocks all possible avenues for Iran to fabricate nuclear weapons. Iran was one of the early signers of the Treaty on Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons; it has been inspected for decades by the IAEA. Contrast this with Israel, the most vocal critic of the JCPOA; Israel has the third largest nuclear weapons arsenal in the world, over 400 nukes of all types; it has the ability to deliver them anywhere in the world. Israel has never signed the NPT and has never allowed IAEA inspection.
    I’m a physicist, retired after 38 years from Los Alamos National Laboratory, JRC-EURATON, DOE, and the IAEA. My field is nuclear safeguards and nonproliferation.

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