Institute for Contemporary Affairs
Founded jointly with the Wechsler Family Foundation
On October 13th, President Donald Trump gave a very important speech on the future of the Iran deal that was cut back in 2015. In that address he spoke about the need to deal with the flaws in the Iran agreement – remove them, change them.
The question that immediately arises: Is that a realistic policy? I believe it is, and the fact is, there’s precedent for it.
People might forget this, but back in 1979 the Carter Administration negotiated something that was called the SALT-2 treaty. Now, whereas the Iran agreement was never a formal treaty, SALT-2 was a treaty negotiated and concluded between the Carter Administration and the Soviet Union.
The SALT-2 treaty was so flawed that the Carter Administration understood that they didn’t have a chance to send it over to the U.S. Senate for ratification, and ultimately they didn’t do that. You see, SALT did not adequately address the arms race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union. It put a limit on the growth of the nuclear forces of the two superpowers, but it didn’t reduce them.
Subsequently, however, a new administration came into power under President Ronald Reagan and he decided a different approach was necessary. It was called START – strategic arms reduction talks. Rather than limiting the growth of nuclear weapons, it reduced them and this became the preferred approach.
But what is interesting and useful for us to remember is that START replaced SALT, that it was possible to come with a different approach that would replace the previous approach, even if it was in a signed agreement. Therefore, President Trump’s strategy has real precedent in the arms control arena.
During the last few weeks a number of flaws in the Iran agreement have come out, but the one that received the most focus lately in professional circles was something which sounds a little bit like “inside baseball.” It’s called “Section T” of the JCPOA. What section T tries to do is define activities in the area of weaponization that are prohibited, that Iran shouldn’t be engaging in.
At the infamous Parchin military base, weaponization was exactly what the Iranians were doing. Israel disclosed in 2014 that Tehran was conducting tests, investigating how neutrons might be used to ignite the nuclear chain reaction in nuclear weapons.
But, of course, Iran has not allowed the International Atomic Energy Agency or anyone to do proper verification to see that Section T in the Iran agreement has been addressed by them.
This is a huge flaw. One has to remember that in the reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency, like the report of May 2011, there are frightening details about the Iranian nuclear program that include weaponization activities. For example, it says that the Iranians had been working on missile re-entry vehicle redesign for a new payload assessed as being nuclear in nature. It says that the Iranians were conducting design work and modeling studies involving the removal of the conventional explosive payload from the warhead of a Shahab-3 missile and replacing it with a spherical nuclear payload.
You know, the Shahab-3 missile is significant, for that is the weapon system of the Iranians that can reach Israeli territory and, by the way, was based on North Korean missile designs, particularly the Nodong. If that was in 2011, it would make sense that if you’re negotiating a new nuclear agreement with Iran in 2015, that you try and find out some details about this activity.
The point to remember is this – that it is possible to renegotiate bad agreements. It’s possible to renegotiate a flawed agreement and take out the flaws. And presently, President Trump’s strategy to reopen the Iran agreement to remove the flaws and produce an agreement that will safely protect the interests of the West is the only reasonable approach.