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Iran’s Most Dangerous “Waiver” Game

Iran’s Most Dangerous “Waiver” Game

There’s a method to their madness.

In recent weeks, Iran has escalated its confrontation with the United States as well as its malign activities in the Middle East.

Earlier this month Iranian operatives attacked two tankers in the Gulf Oman.

Last week Iran shot down an American drone, apparently flying in international airspace, leading to an aborted strike on Iranian targets by the United States.

But though he called back the air strikes, President Donald Trump and his administration have been ramping up the pressure on Iran.

Yesterday Trump announced new sanctions to be imposed on Iran and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called for a global coalition to confront Iran.

The question is why Iran escalating its hostility toward the United States and why is it doing it now?

Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote a long essay at Mosaic Magazine outlining the likely parameters of Iran’s strategy. (Ray Takeyh, the Hasib J. Sabbagh Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations, wrote a parallel analysis, though not quite as detailed, for Politico.)

Doran explains that Iran’s actions all go back to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the 2015 nuclear deal between six world powers and Iran is known.

Why was and is the JCPOA so important to Iran?

The answer Doran gives is: waivers.

There are seven waivers that accompanied the JCPOA allowing other nations to continue activities with Iran outlined in the JCPOA. While Trump has shortened the timeline for renewing the waivers from 180 days to 90 days, he has still maintained most of them.

On May 3, Pompeo announced the revocation of waivers allowing Iran to ship heavy water to Oman and low enriched uranium to Russia. When Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran would stop observing the JCPOA limits on uranium and heavy water a few days later, it was in response to those actions.

However, other waivers, including allowing international cooperation at Iran’s underground Fordow enrichment facility are still being renewed.

The reason that five waivers remain in place is that they are subject to a debate within the administration. The waivers that remain in place, all are activities that the Europeans are invested in.

Doran writes:

Khamenei understands that the Europeans are fighting hard to save the nuclear deal, that their support is an asset to Iran, and that the debate over the waivers has been creating in the transatlantic alliance a fissure that benefits Iran. He also understands that the fight is by no means over.

But he also points out that the nuclear archive that Israel captured from a Tehran warehouse shows that Iran has not abandoned its nuclear weapons program. The JCPOA, generally, and the waivers serve to ensure that the program can remain intact.

For Khamenei, then, the waivers constitute the cornerstones of the JCPOA, the structure that provides international cover for Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. Historically, Khamenei has always valued the preservation of this program over any practical economic considerations.

The goal of Khamenei then is to paint the Trump administration — or at least National Security Adviser John Bolton — as the real threats to peace. Furthermore, he knows he can count on numerous past political figures and media experts to explain that Iran’s belligerence is the result of the American withdrawal from the nuclear deal and reimposition of sanctions.

As Doran put it:

Blow holes in a few tankers, threaten American soldiers, and legions of influential personalities in Europe and America come forward of their own free will to demand that Trump sack whomever Iran has identified as a threat. Sometimes it seems there’s nothing easier than mobilizing a coalition of open minds.

Doran pointed out that when Rouhani announced that Iran would cease complying with the terms of the JCPOA, he gave the world 60 days before Iran would enter the second stage of its non-compliance.

Doran believes that this will ensure that preserving the JCPOA will be on the agenda of the G20 summit scheduled to start in Osaka, Japan later this week. And that there will be pressure from most of the participants on the United States to at least soften its pressure on Iran.

There is a lot more to Doran’s essay, but this is the central thread of his article. Iran is escalating carefully to bring the United States back into compliance with the deal, and to ensure that Iran’s nuclear weapons program remains protected.

At the beginning of the article, Doran cited a statement made by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif in response to a question whether any future administration would be bound by the nuclear deal.

“I believe,” Zarif answered, “the United States will risk isolating itself in the world if there is an agreement and it decides to break it.”

I’ve long felt that this was a primary reason for the deal. The goal of the deal was to tie future administrations hands, hamstringing their ability to act unilaterally against Iran.

What does the future hold?

Doran sketches out a number of possible scenarios.

One would be if Trump would revoke all the waivers, effectively ending the JCPOA and announce the imposition of “snapback” sanctions. In such a case Doran predicts, “The Iranians would likely dash to produce weapons-grade uranium at the fastest rate possible, while carrying out greater acts of violence—targeting more tankers and oil facilities in the Gulf, conducting terrorist attacks around the globe, and setting their proxies in Gaza, the West Bank, and Lebanon against Israel.”

Even then, he believes that Iran might be constrained by fear of alienating their European (and American) allies and provoking a devastating American military response.

Another possibility is that looking forward to reelection and not wanting to get invovled in a war in the Middle East that Trump engages in negotiations with Iran. Even then he doesn’t expect any sort of permanent negotiated accommodation.

Regardless, Doran insists that the only way to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon is “if the United States wrests it from the talons of the regime.” This doesn’t necessarily mean war but it does mean “it will require a prolonged coercive strategy, one element of which, but only one, is the threat of war.”

The reckless nuclear deal has left the United States and the world with few good options.

[Photo: Screenshot ABC News News / YouTube ]


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I know what Barney Fife would say. I agree with Barney.

I was intrigued by Trump’s assertion that we are not going to protect other countries’ tankers for free. Notably China’s.

Suggesting that Iran could not hurt the US by messing with shipping.

But they might hear from China.

“Blow holes in a few tankers, threaten American soldiers, and legions of influential personalities in Europe and America come forward of their own free will to demand that Trump sack whomever Iran has identified as a threat….”

Earlier in Gerstman’s article: “The reason that five waivers remain in place is that they are subject to a debate within the administration.”

Golly. It’s almost as if there are malignant obamanite hold-overs infesting Trump’s administration attempting to appease their Euro Socialist allies.

But that’s just crazy talk!

    What are you talking about? I’m sure the people being referred to were part of prior Bush administrations.

    At any rate, there are valid reasons for doing slow on cutting off all oil to these other countries, only to do it anyway, since Iran can’t help itself from lashing out under the current regime. We’ll see what the endgame holds.

There is a reason Obama created the JCPOA and it wasn’t to prevent Iran from getting a nuke or protecting the United States and its allies from a nuclear Iran.

As with all things created by communists like Obama and his party, the stated goals are typically just the opposite of the real goal. In this case the Iranians received cash, protection, and help in their program.

It would do well to remember that the republican party (spit) knows this and does nothing, leaving it to Trump alone to fight this.

I suspect this is as Obama had envisaged things would pan out.

Also, I would be investigating the role being played by Barry’s people recently in regards to interaction with the Iranian regime. Are they receiving support from Barry’s people? Someone needs to be investigating just in case there are certain individuals working to undermine the Trump administration from the previous administration.

    David Gerstman in reply to mailman. | June 26, 2019 at 4:17 pm

    mailman, correct. The degree to which members of the previous administration are involved – what Doran refers to as “open minds” – is discussed at more length in the original article.

Interesting theory. One flaw. The United States cannot be isolated. It isolates others.

Q. Where does a 10,000 pound elephant sleep?
A. Wherever it wants to.

Trump is that 5 ton elephant.

I read that a Dem informed Iran of the details of our stoke and Iran quickly moved civilians to the targets.

I read that a Dem informed Iran of the details of our stike and Iran quickly moved civilians to the targets.

NPR had the usual round of “experts” on yesterday and they said two things that particularly bothered me. First, they said that Trump broke the agreement. Second, they said that Iran had abandoned it’s nuclear program in 2003.

As for the first, there was no U.S. agreement. There was the Obama-Kerry agreement. They didn’t take it to congress because they knew it would fail, so Obama signed an agreement that was not technically binding on the American people or any future president. Trump didn’t break it, he just chose to reverse it.

Second, the Israelis proved that Iran never abandoned its nuclear program even after the agreement was signed by Obama. I’m glad it was finally mentioned here since the mainstream media has relegated that little fact to the Liberal blackhole of narrative negating realities.

Regarding timing, for the Iranians timing is everything. They knew that Obama was desperate for a legacy victory to cap his historic presidency. Obama gave away the farm to get it done. I remember that every time they had a deal, the Iranian negotiators came back to the table with one more demand at which point Kerry rolled over and let them scratch his tummy.

Trump is in a position where only three things can keep him from another 4 years – A bad economy, a scandal or an unpopular war. The economy is roaring along and Russian collusion was a dud. That leaves only an unpopular war. I personally don’t think Trump will ever make a decision for political reasons. He never has and I don’t think he will here. If he needs to take military action, he will. Iran has been playing American politicians for decades (much like Kim in NK), but Trump is not a politician. He also understands that he is holding all the cards. By next November, there will likely be a huge uprising in Iran given the state of the economy and its trajectory.

Remember too that if Trump gives any ground to Iran in response to Iran’s provocations, it will be used as a template by North Korea in its negotiations with Trump and South Korea. Both countries are on parallel paths. If Un sees Iran’s pin pricks being successful, he’ll do the same to South Korea.

American Human | June 26, 2019 at 4:00 pm

Okay. I also believe that there are rogue agents within the U.S., not government actors, but civilians, who are meeting with the Mullahs and advising them on how to help them get rid of Trump. Yes, I’m looking at you John F-ing Kerry. I also expect that a certain Valerie Jarret (born in Iran) is involved also which means a certain Barrack Hussein Obama is involved. We know what this is called.
They are advising the Iranians on trying to provoke Trump into a big fight and drag the U.S. into yet another middle East war so they can have power back.
Think over the past 50 years or so, can’t you easily imagine John Kerry knifing his country in the back yet again. Working with the Mullahs and assuring them that once Trump loses in 2020 all will be well and they can continue becoming buddies.
Is there an evil regime anywhere in the world that John Kerry doesn’t love?

I say we give them an atomic bomb. We can air drop one to them….