So what’s the big deal with the Iranian nuclear deal? ICYMI

So what’s the big deal with the Iranian nuclear deal? ICYMI

Nashville – February 19 — Candidate Donald Trump spoke to a pro-Israel lobby on March 21, 2016 and proclaimed, “My number-one priority is to dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” He said he was not pandering to garner votes but sought to kill a deal that he said was “catastrophic for America, for Israel and for the whole of the Middle East.” Candidate Trump claimed to have “studied the issue in great detail .. actually greater by far than anybody else.”

The deal he was talking about was the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, the agreement signed by Iran and the P5+1, a collective of the “Perm 5” United Nations Security Council members – the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia and China – plus Germany along with the European Union special representative. It aimed to forestall the ability of Tehran to enrich fissile materials meant for nuclear weapons in exchange for relaxation of some of the sanctions that had been levied on Iran and the return of frozen assets.

In the days since taking office the new Administration has kept the pressure on Iran with recently sacked National Security Advisor Michael Flynn taking to the White House briefing room February 1, 2017 to warn Tehran that it has been “put on notice” following a test firing of a surface to surface missile. However, there was no “Day One” move to abrogate the JCPOA. Instead there have been signals that Mr. Trump would fulfill America’s obligations under the agreement and hold Iran accountable for theirs.

Defense Secretary James Mattis told the Senate in his nomination hearing on January 12, 2017, that the agreement is an “imperfect arms control agreement — it’s not a friendship treaty .. But when America gives her word, we have to live up to it and work with our allies.” At his Senate hearing Secretary of State nominee Rex Tillerson called for a full review of the JCPOA but did not voice a total rejection of the agreement. This week he quashed the notion the Administration would kill the deal, refuting comments from the French Foreign Minister that he opposed fulfilling the agreement.


Click on image for video.

On February 10, 2017 the EU foreign affairs chief who was party to JCPOA negotiations said, “I was reassured by what I heard in my meetings on the intention to stick to the full and strict implementation of the agreement in all its part,” after two days of meetings with U.S. officials in Washington.

Meanwhile, the terms of the JCPOA, now in its second year since activation continue to satisfy the expectations of both Iran and the P5+1 despite continued frictions between the parties. The International Atomic Energy Agency, the UN watchdog charged with monitoring Iran’s compliance, has said Iran is keeping to its commitment. The IAEA has said Iran rendered inoperable a nuclear reactor – filling its core with cement – that was capable of producing weapons-grade plutonium, dismantled two-thirds of its centrifuges used to enrich uranium and eliminated 97% of its low enriched uranium.

While never conceding the JCPOA was in America’s interests we’re left with the fact that the Administration is grudgingly complying with the deal.

So what is “the deal?” How did it come about? What does it mean for American interests? Will it keep Iran from developing a nuclear weapon? If so, for how long? What does it mean for our relationship with regional and global allies?

To answer these questions the World Affairs Council invited Ambassador Thomas Pickering to Nashville for programs in the community including a global affairs town hall meeting at Belmont University on September 19, 2016.

Ambassador Pickering – former Undersecretary of State, U.S. Ambassador to the UN and six other countries, career diplomat for five decades and grand master of American diplomacy – talked with David Plazas, Opinion Engagement Editor at “The Tennessean” and fielded questions from the audience for about 80 minutes. An advocate for the agreement, he covered the background and context for the JCPOA, the minutiae of the nuclear weapon fuel cycle, the consequences of killing the deal, as well as excursions into great power relationships, challenges facing U.S. foreign policymakers and the strategy and tactics of diplomacy.

In case you missed this invaluable deep dive into the Iran deal and American diplomacy we are sharing the video recording of the Amb. Pickering town hall here.  We believe it is the best 80 minutes you can invest in improving your global literacy today.

As always we welcome your feedback and welcome you as a new member of the World Affairs Council and to support it with your financial gift.


The Tennessee World Affairs Council is a nonprofit (501c3), nonpartisan educational charity based in Nashville that works to build understanding of global issues in our communities. Learn more about the Council and find how you can join, donate and volunteer at: www.TNWAC.org  — 

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