There are many half-truths (or even “false truths” truths) at play in the Iran imbroglio. One of these is that those continuing to support the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) are ostensibly putting constraints on the painstakingly negotiated agreement with high-minded participants continuing their adherence to its provisions, while the United States by withdrawing from it is a wrecker of a useful albeit limited agreement.
Not hardly. As long as blind eyes are closed by the remaining participants who elect to believe in the JCPOA, they make enormous profits. Indeed, they have attempted to create “work around” mechanisms to evade sanctions (so far failed). The Trump administration, in contrast, has been highly skeptical from inception, has urged resumption of sanctions (depriving others of their profits) while seeking agreement a new agreement with stricter constraints on Tehran.
Essentially, we do not believe the IAEA, which we believe is disingenuous in crediting Tehran’s compliance. We are all to well aware of IAEA failures in detecting concealed nuclear facilities to have faith in its current ability. We don’t intend to find out the hard way that Iran has broken out and now has nuclear capability.
Which brings us to the second truth: we have engaged in lieu of the Israelis directly challenging Tehran. Most observers appear to have missed or deliberately ignored this underlying reality.
We are carrying water for Tel Aviv attempting to convince Tehran that it will be easier to deal with Washington than with a society immured in “never again” philosophy and convinced that Tehran seeks nuclear weapons to destroy it. If Israel is so convinced its only choice is a first strike—no matter the cost, especially if others appear indifferent to Israel’s fate
Tehran, for its part shows no interest in negotiation and, indeed, appears committed to confrontation with the United States and more interested in inflicting a defeat on Israel with a defeat by proxy on the United States. Hence there have been attacks, steadily more overt on tankers and missiles against Saudi facilities. So when Tehran shot down a $130 million drone and with a blithe sneer claimed that it was in Iranian territory—especially, when the United States appeared not to respond—apparently letting Tehran cross a red line with Trump explaining he didn’t want to kill innocent lives, Trump looked weak and indecisive, and the Iranians hooted in triumph as they would never let 150 casualties deter them.
Instead, however, we were more subtle and mounted a cyberattack of sufficient strength to make the point that we can inflict serious damage without bloodshed but of which senior political and military officials would have to be aware.
Unfortunately, the fact that we mounted a cyberattack quickly became public knowledge, costing us the subtle element of the attack. (We cannot seem to remain silent when we have done something clever.)
SO, WHAT NEXT?
Both the United States and Iran are pushed and pulled by tigers and pussy cats. One U.S. faction believes Iran is a vicious human rights abuser with no redeeming value and a source of persistent instability throughout the region. The other side, not to put to fine a point on it, is willing to wait and believes the Iranians can work out their problems themselves. One might say: proactive versus pro-passive. The (pro-passive position is echoed by many allies).
The Iranian optic is also factionalized. The more militant faction believes the Revolution is far from over; that it is Islamic duty to destroy Israel and to spread Islamic fundamentalism as widely as possible. In contrast are groups believing immediate action is unnecessary, and they can gain power and influence without undue risk.
Iran has further upped the ante by announcing the intention to break the cap on uranium enrichment set by the 2015 nuclear agreement, while Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, again rejected Trump’s proposal for negotiations as “an effort to deceive [Iran] into doing what the U,S, desires.”
Nothing very hopeful in this exchange. Simultaneously, Trump ordered new sanctions against several senior officials, including the foreign minister, and U.S. business owners were warned against countervailing strikes by Iranian hackers. Again, not very hopeful signals from either side.
Perhaps, the best one can hope is rationalization of the 12 demands earlier issued by Secretary Pompeo with presumably concentration on severe limits and intensive verification akin to the regime employed by the INF Treaty (“Trust But Verify”).
But never forget that the Israelis are waiting in the wings if unsatisfied.
David T. Jones is a retired U.S. State Department senior foreign service career officer who has published several hundred books, articles, columns, and reviews on U.S.–Canadian bilateral issues and general foreign policy. During a career that spanned over 30 years, he concentrated on politico-military issues, serving as adviser for two Army chiefs of staff. Among his books is “Alternative North Americas: What Canada and the United States Can Learn from Each Other.”
Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.