Iran: Rejoin JCPOA and maaaaaaybe we'll chat

Call this precondition. The mullahs in Tehran didn’t take Donald Trump up on his sudden and surprising offer to meet them “anytime” with “no preconditions,” and used the opportunity to scold him over the withdrawal from the Iran deal. If Trump wants to start cutting deals, Iranian officials told their media, he can start with sticking to the one arranged with American allies:


Iranian officials reacted skeptically on Tuesday to President Donald Trump’s comments that he’s willing to negotiate with his Iranian counterpart, saying instead that if Trump wants talks, he needs to rejoin the international nuclear deal he unilaterally pulled out of earlier this year. …

Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency quoted political adviser Hamid Aboutalebi as saying that for talks to happen, the U.S. needs to rejoin the deal.

“Those who believe in dialogue as a method of resolving disputes in civilized societies should be committed to the means,” he said.

Reuters picked up more of the same from people within the government:

Ali Motahari, the deputy speaker of Iran’s parliament who is seen as part of Iran’s moderate camp, said that to negotiate with Trump now “would be a humiliation”.

“If Trump had not withdrawn from the nuclear deal and not imposed (new) sanctions on Iran, there would be no problem with negotiations with America,” he told state news agency IRNA.

Iran’s interior minister chimed in that Tehran did not trust Washington as a negotiating partner. “The United States is not trustworthy. How can we trust this country when it withdraws unilaterally from the nuclear deal?” Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.

On this last point, the Iranians should know better. They negotiated an executive agreement with Barack Obama and John Kerry, not a treaty to be ratified, and then left it unsigned:

The Iran deal was no sacred American commitment. This was the action of one administration, working with allies and other nations who were fully aware of American domestic skepticism and fully aware of the nature of the “political commitment” they were making.

As our Joel Gehrke reported in 2015, “President Obama didn’t require Iranian leaders to sign the nuclear deal.” In short, there was nothing truly binding about this deal. From its inception it existed only so long it was politically or strategically expedient for the relevant parties. The only thing truly concrete that came out of the JCPOA was the substantial financial benefit to the world’s most dangerous jihadist state.


What did the mullahs think that meant? That’s why the Iranians demanded almost all of the concessions up front in the deal, a demand which Obama and Kerry inexplicably met. Even if the Iranians didn’t understand the nuances of American law in this context, our European allies certainly did. The entire deal was an untrustworthy and unworthy mess that only remained in effect as long as succeeding presidents said it should, and that would happen only to the extent that Iran made it worth their while to do so. Instead, Iran ramped up their terrorism and proxy wars in the region and increased its threats to Israel, to the point of using their Syrian expedition as a cover to take up threatening positions against our ally. Israel had to take care of that business on its own.

In that sense, it would behoove the Iranians to talk with Trump and convince him of the need to return to the JCPOA — in other words, make it worth his while. Of course, they’re not really interested in doing so, for two reasons. One, as mentioned above, they’ve already gotten most of the benefits of the deal up front. And two, they’re not interested in better relations with the US anyway. They want to destroy Israel, and they want to supplant the Saudis as the masters of Islam its two most holy sites, Mecca and Medina. To do either or both means the mullahs also have to destroy the US. That’s their mission, their raison d’être, and all other interests are subordinate to those long-term goals.

That’s what makes Trump’s offer so bizarre. It’s not just that the Right ripped Obama for making the same offer, although that’s part of it. Both men had the same naïveté about the Iranians that both had about Vladimir Putin, which is that the biggest problem was their perception of America. They both see themselves as the solution to that problem. Both missed the point so badly that it’s almost comical.


In Obama’s case, his JCPOA experiment undid decades of work in putting global economic pressure on Tehran, which appeared to finally be working to foment a popular uprising against the mullahcracy. And he did it without ever addressing Iran’s ballistic missile program or the Americans held by the regime as hostages. It was a disgrace on top of a surrender. That’s why Trump cancelled the deal, but that left him with reduced leverage, too. He has tried to restore that somewhat with tough sanctions against anyone dealing with the Iranians, which might be a good start on rebuilding the pressure, but our allies are not going to go along willingly on a new confrontation with the Iranians.

The point is that until Iran changes its goals, there’s not much point in holding meetings “without preconditions” anyway. Before we sit down with the Iranians again, we should have concrete evidence that they have stopped funding terrorism and proxy armies that attack and undermine our allies in the area at the very least. Otherwise we’ll end up with another useless piece of paper and will have boosted the mullahs and their regime yet again, through funding and other concessions, leaving the anti-regime grassroots in Iran to wither once more.

Besides, the head of the Revolutionary Guards put the likelihood at absolute zero, and not just for Trump:

“Mr Trump! Iran is not North Korea to accept your offer for a meeting,” Guards commander Major General Mohammad Ali Jafari was quoted as saying by Fars News agency. “Even U.S. presidents after you will not see that day.”


Thanks for the clarification, Sparky.

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