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December 12, 2016 3:31 pm

Former Top Israeli Official: Trump Should Demand Renegotiation of Iran Nuclear Deal

avatar by Barney Breen-Portnoy

President-elect Donald Trump. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

President-elect Donald Trump. Photo: Gage Skidmore via Wikimedia Commons.

US President-elect Donald Trump should “demand a renegotiation” of the Iran nuclear agreement, a former director-general of Israel’s Ministry of International Affairs and Strategy wrote on Monday.

“Such a choice would probably dovetail with other aspects of his approach to foreign policy in general and to the Middle East in particular,” IDF Brig. Gen. (res.) Yosef Kuperwasser — currently a senior project manager at the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs think tank — noted in an article published on the JCPA website. “Trump, in contrast to [outgoing President Barack] Obama, is looking to strengthen ties with the United States’ natural allies, namely, Israel and the pragmatic Arab states — particularly Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. He indeed wants to avoid unnecessary frictions with Russia. He is prepared, however, to defend vital U.S. interests (preventing Iran’s nuclearization and constraining its actions in the region) and thereby demonstrate that the United States is, in fact, a superpower (which is what the slogan ‘make America great again’ means in this context).”

Furthermore, Kuperwasser said, appointments made by Trump thus far “bolster the impression that he will choose” the renegotiation option over stricter enforcement of the deal or the imposition of additional sanctions related to non-nuclear issues.

“Legally,” he wrote, “there is no problem here because the US commitment to the JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action) was based on a presidential decree. From the US standpoint, the plan did not become an international treaty (incidentally, none of the sides signed it). The new president could announce that if Iran refuses to reopen it for discussion, Washington will renounce it and reapply the secondary sanctions (some of which were never canceled in the first place but only suspended, with Congress recently voting to extend them for 10 years). That means the United States would freeze economic ties with any entities doing business with Iran; European companies and banks would react by putting an end to such commerce.”

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“This approach,” Kuperwasser continued, “views the agreement as so dangerous to international security that the previous proposals entail a very high, unacceptable risk that Iran would in fact strictly adhere to the plan despite the pressures since it promises Iran the ability to produce a large nuclear-weapons arsenal in another 9-14 years. Such a step could prompt a dispute with the Europeans and with Russia and China, and stoke tensions and even an escalation toward Iran, which may renounce the agreement and even try to break out toward nuclear weapons. A firm stance by the new administration, however, would certainly deter the Iranians. At present their point of departure for a nuclear breakout is clearly less favorable than it was before the agreement was reached (on that point the agreement’s supporters and opponents agree).”

Kuperwasser also pointed out that Iran “has been working hard to make the most of the last days of Obama’s tenure.”

“It is quickly closing international deals aimed at rehabilitating its oil industry,” he wrote. “It is also boosting its aid for the takeover of Aleppo by [Syrian President Bashar] Assad’s supporters and, apparently, stepping up arms shipments to Hezbollah, meaning Israel must act to thwart them.”

Kuperwasser told The Algemeiner last week that Iran was stepping up the speed at which it has been arming its proxies in the region due to fear that after Trump assumes the presidency in January, its room to maneuver in Syria will be greatly hampered.

Last month, Iran expert Ilan Berman — vice president of the Washington, DC-based think tank the American Foreign Policy Council — told The Algemeiner the Islamic Republic was worried it could be the “big loser” from Trump’s election victory over Hillary Clinton.

Behnam Ben Taleblu — senior Iran analyst at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) think tank in Washington, DC — recently said in an interview with The Algemeiner that the Trump administration “should look to recent history and course-correct some of the issues in the [nuclear] deal that the current administration overlooked.”

“For instance,” Taleblu stated, “it should not excuse Iran’s excess production of heavy water, which has happened twice now. More broadly it should work to change a key dynamic in the JCPOA’s implementation, namely the asymmetry. Iranian officials often tout that America needs the deal more than they do. They regularly transgress the deal’s spirit and occasionally its letter. To change this, the Trump administration should aim for, borrowing from the noted academic Thomas Schelling, ‘the manipulation of risk,’ and make it known that Iran needs the accord more than the US.”

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