Iran: Is there an Alternative to the Iran Deal?

25 May 2018

  President Trump should not have killed the Iran deal. He will not be able to get a better one


TEHRAN-Last week the United States withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. President Donald Trump’s decision risks war with Iran, escalation of military engagement between Iran and Israel, and heightened proxy activities of a renegade regime throughout the Middle East.


The US dumped a viable solution to a particular problem in favor of no solution to an extensive problem.


The P5+1 negotiated the deal for almost ten years. The risks were clear but the result was credible enough for President Barack Obama to put his name on the accomplishment.


The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) should not be judged for failing to eliminate Iran’s regional, conventional, strategic aspirations.


The objective was simple: prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons. Criticizing the deal for the concessions that were necessary to achieve this goal—concessions that spared Teheran economic space for its regional endeavors—misses the essence of international negotiations. 


U.S. withdrawal will cause Iranian noncompliance, it will isolate the US from its European allies, reduce its credibility as an international negotiating partner, and potentially jeopardize denuclearization talks with North Korea.


But the real problem is that President Trump thinks he can do better. If there had been any way for JCPOA negotiators to create a more favorable, more durable, more secure deal, they would have done it.



But in international politics, not everything is possible. There is no magic formula for perfect deals only real estate tycoons can access. 


There are instead strategic limits, political and positional barriers, need for compromises and matching commitments. The art of international politics—Mr. Trump is yet to learn—is give-and-get not winner-takes-it-all.


Though the moral impetus to always strive for the better is strong, criticising working solutions for being ‘bad’ fails to stand analytically and functionally.


Mr. Trump is wrong to believe he is in a better position to secure a deal. President Obama’s negotiating team was open-minded and cherished personal ties with the Iranian government to foment success.


A hardliner, rejectionist, and mistrustful President have little chance to reach anywhere close. It is alarming to hear commentators, politicians, analysts, and the President himself call for a fix, a better deal that serves our interests more.


After all, they are outsiders lacking the insight of the painstaking rounds of talks, painful compromises, and victorious concessions.Since the campaign trail, Mr. Trump has called the deal horrible, disastrous, laughable, and very bad, airing the prospect of a “new deal with solid foundation” at a press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on April 24.


The suppressed smile in the corner of the lips of Mr. Macron says it all: it is clear for the global leaders who have been in the business for long enough that Mr. Trump has little idea how to devise details of a ‘better deal’.


President Trump is indeed following through on an early campaign promise, proving, according to his aide, that a “promise made is a promise kept”. This was the case with the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel-Aviv to Jerusalem and abandoning the Paris climate accords and the Trans-Pacific Partnership last year.


All of these moves were supposed to redesign ill-constructed arrangements for the US—the American people now wonder where those ‘better deals’ are.


Scrapping the deal shows little strategic vision for U.S. foreign policy in the face of regional advancement of Iran and its proxies, especially in Syria, and little understanding of the U.S. negotiating position moving on. In a quest to fight for the better, the President destroys the good enough and leaves nothing in its place. 

Bogi Bozsogi is a Fulbright Scholar, holds a MA in International Relations from the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom and is a candidate for a MS in Foreign Service at Georgetown University. She is a regular contributor to The Intelligence Brief and serves as editor of Georgetown's Journal of International Affairs. 


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