If the U.S. is going to develop an effective response to this combination of strategic threats, our political leaders will have to move beyond finger pointing and blame games over the fate of the JCPOA. Republicans can say justly that Mr. Obama’s decision to sign something as consequential and controversial as the Iran nuclear deal without the bipartisan support needed to get a treaty ratified in the Senate was a historic mistake. Democrats can reasonably riposte that Mr. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal made everything worse. Such matters can be left to the historians. The question before us now is not who was right in 2015 or 2018. It is what we do next.
It is a ridiculous dodge to shrug your shoulders and say that the answers can be “left to the historians,” as if policy analysts and scholars do not have ample information to reach their own judgments about these issues themselves right now. If you don’t know who was right over the last seven years, you are not likely to have the first clue what to do next or who can be relied on for sound policy advice. Of course, Mead has been in sympathy with the deal-wreckers for years, so his feigned neutrality can’t be taken seriously. He is like a pyromaniac excitedly watching an arsonist’s handiwork and then pretending not to know who is responsible for the fire.
It is clear that negotiating the nuclear deal significantly reduced the danger that Iran’s nuclear program would be used to build nuclear weapons. The deal was doing exactly what it was supposed to do and Iran was fully complying with it until the US chose to go back on its word. The decision to break that agreement and wage economic war on Iran despite Iranian compliance was one of the more consequential blunders in recent US foreign policy. Trump took an issue that was being successfully managed and turned it into a potential crisis. Biden has since had the chance to reverse Trump’s policies, and he has botched it because he is afraid of being accused of “weakness” by the same people that created the current problem. Iran hawks were wrong in 2015 when they opposed the agreement, and they were wrong again when they supported Trump’s decision to violate it, and they are still wrong today as they agitate for bankrupt coercive “options” that solve nothing.
Daniel Larison is a weekly columnist for Antiwar.com and maintains his own site at Eunomia. He is former senior editor at The American Conservative. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.