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Middle East Analyst Calls Iran Deal Cover For American Inaction

May 8, 2018

President Trump today announced he will pull the U.S. out of the 2015 deal with Iran that gave the country relief from economic sanctions in exchange for restrictions on its nuclear program.

Analyst Reuel Marc Gerecht writes that the deal is “strategically and morally absurd.” Here & Now‘s Robin Young spoke with Gerecht, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, prior to Trump’s announcement.

Interview Highlights

On why the U.S. needs to leave the deal

“Because the deal’s bad. I mean, it’s as holey as Swiss cheese, as the Europeans, particularly the French, tried to point out during the negotiations. It has numerous large flaws.

“I think the Europeans were never going to hold this on their own. It was always the Americans who are going to have the decisive vote because it is the Americans in the end who bear the responsibility not the Europeans.

“The verification is very weak. The verification on the known sites is fine. Outside research, it’s non-existent. There are lots of issues that were not addressed by that deal, and the primary reason was we just wanted to punt the problem down the road.”

On wanting regime change in Iran

“I think actually almost everybody wants to see regime change in Iran. The issue is as how you go about doing it. … I think the United States has a variety of means to use, if it so chooses, to bring enormous pressure on the Islamic Republic. And as we know, there are lots of people in Iran who are in favor of regime change, too.”

On the North Koreans, and whether the U.S. pulling out of the Iran deal makes them skeptical of agreements with the U.S.

“I think it’s just the opposite of that. I think North Korea looks at the JCPOA, the nuclear deal, and says, ‘Oh, I want one of those.’ It’s very odd to bring up the North Korea issue in this context because I think, given North Korea’s love of machtpolitik, of power politics, what you do want to show them is a very harsh line. You want to demonstrate to them that the United States isn’t going to stand by a weak agreement, that it is going to demand — if it’s going to have an agreement, that agreement has to be rigorous and it has to be really verifiable.”

On if he’s satisfied with the position of the Trump administration

“Yes, though I would still say there are elements of this that aren’t clear. I mean, there is a possibility that President Trump isn’t going to bring the full force of secondary sanctions against the Europeans, which essentially would gut American economic leverage over the Islamic Republic. So we will have to see where this goes.

“We could have a surreal situation develop where the president downs the Boeing deal, which now seems inevitable, but he could allow the European Airbus deal to go through. … Why would you want to give planes to Iran that are going to expand its airlift capacity, that they are going to use to further their imperialist aims in the Middle East? It makes no sense why you would aid and abet that effort.

“The president did give a Fox interview once where he said that he would allow the French and Germans to invest in Iran in their heavy industries, even though his then-National Security Adviser Gen. H.R. McMaster had just warned the Europeans not to invest in those industries. So there is a contradiction — that’s nothing new — in President Trump’s position. So we’ll have to see how this actually plays out.”

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