TIPP Insights: An Iran nuclear deal at any price?

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By tippinsights Editorial Board, TIPP Insights

Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, will not work with the U.S. on the International Space Station (ISS). It demanded that the West lift economic sanctions against Russia to resume. Yet, the U.S. trusts Russia and uses it as its primary negotiator in the nuclear talks with Iran.

“So, we have Russia negotiating the deal – with China as a backup – how stupid is this country,” Trump lamented at his Save America rally in Washington Township, Michigan, Saturday.

The Obama administration signed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the nuclear deal between Iran and world powers, in 2015. It limited Iran’s nuclear ambitions in exchange for its ability to take part in global trade. In 2018, the Trump administration unilaterally withdrew the United States from the agreement and resorted to its “maximum pressure” campaign of sanctions against Tehran. Iran started to expand its nuclear activities, triggering an alarm in Western capitals.

A TIPP poll taken in early March showed that 39 percent of Americans consider the 2015 U.S.-Iran joint agreement a “bad deal,” while 28 percent consider it a “good deal.” One-third (33 percent) are not sure. By ideology, 57 percent of conservatives, 26 percent of liberals, and 37 percent of moderates believe the 2015 deal was bad.

Perception of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal

The Biden administration wants to rejoin the JCPOA, and talks have been ongoing in Vienna for the past 11 months. The administration promised a longermore robust agreement.

The hardline Iranian regime has refused to negotiate directly with the United States. Britain, France, Germany, China, and Russia negotiate the agreement with U.S. consultation.

The talks are nearing completion. The final sticking point is the designation of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a “Foreign Terrorist Organization” (FTO).

Both parties believe the other side wants the agreement more.

The IRGC supports regional militant groups such as Hezbollah in Lebanon, Houthi rebels in Yemen, and Shia militias in Iraq. The IRGC is also in charge of Iran’s missile program. The organization is believed to be responsible for the deaths of 600 Americans in the Middle East. In January 2020, a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad killed IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani.

The Trump administration added the IRGC to the FTO in 2019. It was the first time that Washington had used that label on a foreign state institution.

The inclusion in the list is not related to the nuclear deal. Yet, Iran demands that the U.S remove the IRGC from the FTO list.

The Biden administration has not stated its position on the designation issue. But, it has stated that it does not intend to lift the IRGC-related sanctions.

What are the drawbacks of delisting the IRGC from the FTO? The Republican Study Committee (RSC), Congress’s largest Republican caucus, opposes the new deal. It shared a memo with 160 congressional offices outlining the implications of delisting the organization. The Washington Free Beaconhad access to the memo and ran a story on Saturday. The note stated that the delisting would make it easy for terrorists to enter and stay in the United States. Further, law enforcement would find it harder to pursue those who back the IRGC.

The U.S. spends $2 million per month on security for Mike Pompeo, the former Secretary of State and a former top aide. Iran is threatening them with “serious and credible” threats.

Removing the IRGC designation as an FTO is too high a price to pay for a nuclear deal with Iran, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said last week. “Unfortunately, there is determination to sign a nuclear agreement with Iran at almost any price, including saying that the world’s largest terrorist organization is not a terrorist organization,” he said. “That is too high a price.”

Aside from the IRGC issue, there are other concerns about the new deal. Russia would build a $10 billion nuclear facility for Iran. The project is outside the gambit of sanctions imposed on  Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Forty-nine of the 50 Republicans in the U.S. Senate recently said they would not back a new nuclear deal. “And the deal is a disaster. It’s turning out to be. Nobody can even believe it. But we’re giving everything away – all the things that we fought for with Iran,” Trump said on Saturday.

Americans have mixed sentiments, with one in two (47 percent) not confident that the U.S. will be able to stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. Thirty-eight percent are confident.

More are not confident that the U.S. can stop Iran from getting a nuclear weapon.

The original JCPOA prohibited Iran from enriching uranium above 3.67% till 2030. Re-entering JCPOA will be a band-aid for nine years. But, Iran will gain access to $90 billion in frozen funds. The money will probably fund terrorist activities against the United States and Israel. In a TIPP Poll conducted earlier this month, 61 percent of Americans believed it was a bad idea. It included 58 percent of Democrats, 77 percent of Republicans, and 54 percent of independents.

Most believe that giving Iran money will fund terrorism against America and Israel.

The Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015 (INARA) requires the president to submit the final deal to Congress for review. But, the administration is not likely to follow it. The argument is that the reentry to JCPOA is not a new deal and that Congress authorized it earlier in 2015.

President Biden’s credentials aren’t the best, despite his 40 years of foreign policy experience. He botched the Afghanistan withdrawal. We hope he will take a step back, assess the situation, and negotiate a long-term agreement with bipartisan support.

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