What “spirit” of the Iran agreement?

Iran is electing a president next month, and it’s seen partly as a referendum on its deal with the West to limit its nuclear development program. I talked about that a few minutes ago with host Bruce Sakalik on KQV Radio in Pittsburgh.

Complicating the equation is the latest statement from President Trump, denouncing the agreement on the one hand and then charging that Iran is “not living up to the spirit” of the accord on the other, noting that it’s involved in conflicts around the region as a destabilizing factor.

Yet Trump’s own secretary of state has written to Congress to say that Iran is essentially living up to the terms of the accord. How do those two statements fit together?

You can read the whole agreement here if you like, or you can leave that to me–friends, there isn’t a word in the accord about anything other than Iran’s nuclear program. The “spirit” of the agreement is to stop development of nuclear weapons.

The fact that Iran is a bad player in the Mideast is a separate issue. It’s my view that implementation of the agreement, lifting of sanctions and giving the Iranians something to lose–namely, economic relations with the West–is the best way to bring Iran around to the idea of peaceful relations. As before, you can leave it there, or you can read my detailed arguments here.

There’s a lot of “I told you so” in the wind here, but it’s a matter of dangerous self-fulfilling prophecies. If the agreement is scrapped, then nothing will stop Iran from resuming its nuclear weapons program, and the critics of the agreement will say “I told you so.” If  Trump’s blunt criticism of the accord erodes its support in Iran and the people elect an extremist as president, well, there’s another “I told you so” moment.

Of course the Iran nuclear deal is not the best possible outcome. That’s the definition of “deal”–neither side gets all it wants. Perhaps Iran could have been squeezed further, though I doubt it–here’s why–but whatever the case,  the deal is the deal, and the choice now is to implement it–which the secretary of state acknowledges that Iran is doing–or scrapping it to please the “I told you so” crowd.

That’s an easy call.

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