HomeTop StoriesMaddow Blog | As Iran approaches nuclear weapons capability, accountability matters

Maddow Blog | As Iran approaches nuclear weapons capability, accountability matters

For those concerned about Iran’s nuclear program, The Washington Post published a disturbing report this week, starting with a plant known as Fordow and the “alarming” changes nuclear inspectors discovered at the facility in February.

The same Post report, whose details have not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, added that Iran is now “closer to nuclear weapons capability than at any time in the country’s history.” The article further noted that Iran “now has a stockpile of highly enriched uranium that could be converted into weapons-grade fuel for at least three bombs over time ranging from a few days to a few weeks.”

As regular readers know, I like to bang my head against this particular wall every now and then, but I think the political world needs to take a break every now and then to come to terms with how serious the consequences are of Donald Trump‘s policy towards Iran has been. Let’s revisit our previous reporting and take stock.

It was Joe Cirincione, whose expertise in international nuclear diplomacy has few rivals, who wrote a piece for NBC News a few years ago explaining that the international community’s job is to try “to undo the damage that Donald Trump caused when he left an agreement that would have effectively shrunk Iran’s [nuclear] program, froze it for a generation and put it under lock and camera.

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I continue to believe this is an underappreciated truth. The international agreement with Iran did exactly what it set out to do: the policy dramatically limited Tehran’s nuclear ambitions and established a rigorous system of monitoring and verification. Once the policy went into effect, all parties agreed that participants were adhering to their agreements, and that Iran’s nuclear program was at that time on indefinite hold.

And then Trump took office and set about abandoning the policy for reasons he could never explain.

Broadly speaking, Barack Obama They wanted to use economic sanctions to bring Iran to the international negotiating table. That worked and eventually a breakthrough agreement followed. Trump came to believe he could duplicate the strategy by abandoning the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), reinstating the old sanctions and adding new ones.

If Obama’s sanctions led to a historic deal, the argument went, then Trump’s sanctions might lead to an even better deal.

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But that’s not what happened. In reality, when the United States was no longer part of the deal, the West lost verification access to Tehran’s program, and Iran almost immediately became more dangerous by starting up advanced centrifuges and abandoning its pledge to end uranium enrichment. to limit.

A few years ago, Robert Malley, then the special envoy for Iran, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that after Trump’s decision, Iranian attacks on U.S. personnel in the region worsened, Iranian support for regional proxies worsened, and the pace of the Iranians’ nuclear research program has become “much worse.”

A year later, then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Colin Kahl explained to the House Armed Services Committee that Iran’s nuclear progress since Trump left the international nuclear deal had been “remarkable.” Around the same time, the Pentagon told Congress that Iran could make enough fissile material for one nuclear bomb in “about 12 days” — a number that is now smaller — as opposed to the year this would have taken when the Iran nuclear deal from 2015 was closed. in fact.

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The way Trump came to his decision makes it even worse. One of my favorite stories about the Iran deal came a few months into Trump’s tenure in the White House, when the then-president held a lengthy meeting with top members of his team: Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense James Mattis , White House National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Joseph Dunford. Each of the officials told Trump the same thing: It was in the United States’ interest to maintain the existing JCPOA policy.

The Republican expected his team to tell him how to get out of the international agreement, not how to stick to it. When his own foreign policy and national security advisers told him the policy was working, Trump had “a bit of a meltdown.”

Shortly afterwards, he left the JCPOA anyway, not because it failed, but because Trump was indifferent to its success.

The world is now dealing with the consequences.

This message updates our related previous reporting.

This article was originally published on MSNBC.com

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