President Donald J. Trump and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel at the United Nations General Assembly in October. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)
Paul Pillar comments on Netanyahu’s performance yesterday:
Netanyahu, Trump, and the other American players inside and outside his administration who are intent on killing the JCPOA, while dispensing with logic, are relying on emotion and confusion to try to achieve their objective. Netanyahu’s theme of Iran lying serves partly as innuendo that will lead some people to believe that Iran somehow is violating the JCPOA, even though it isn’t. The IAEA has repeatedly certified that Iran is living up to its obligations under the JCPOA [bold mine-DL]. (Holding files is not a violation of the agreement.) The violations so far are all on the U.S. side. The emotion part involves getting people angry in general about Iran and relies on a popular misconception that the JCPOA is some kind of reward or act of generosity to Iran rather than a restriction on, and evidence of mistrust of, Iran.
Netanyahu’s announcement was a useful reminder that the criticisms of the nuclear deal with Iran have always been made in bad faith. If the critics of the deal truly wanted to prevent Iran from having the ability to build a nuclear weapon, they would not have opposed it in the first place and they certainly wouldn’t be trying to blow it up today. The nuclear deal already does what they say they want it to do, but that is actually why they are against it. They hate the deal because it eliminates the nuclear issue as an excuse for ratcheting up tensions with Iran. Before the deal was made, Iran hawks were constantly using the nuclear issue as a pretext for conflict, and as long as the deal remains in place they have a much harder time doing that. If the deal is blown apart, it will give them a new issue to demagogue and it will let them agitate more freely for preventive war. A nonproliferation agreement that resolves the nuclear issue with Iran and makes war less likely is obviously good for international peace and security, but it is terrible for people that want more aggressive measures against Iran. That is why Iran hawks are so eager to wreck a deal that succeeded in limiting Iran’s nuclear program.