Memo: Congress Must Clarify No Authorization for Iran War, Urge Deescalation after Saudi Oil Attack

President Trump is once again hinting that he will go to war with Iran via Twitter, this time over attacks on key Saudi Arabian oil facilities for which the Houthi rebels in Yemen claimed credit. At this time, there is no clear smoking gun to implicate Iran despite the Trump administration’s strident condemnations.

For lawmakers, it is imperative to reinforce:

1)   Congress has not authorized war against Iran, nor has the United Nations. Any strikes on Iran without authorization would be illegal.

2)   There is no clear evidence implicating Iran – but even if there was, a Trump-led war on a nation nearly four times the size of Iraq would be a costly, generational mistake. Iran has signaled it will retaliate forcefully against any attacks on its territory.

3)   If it was the Houthis who initiated the attack, as they have claimed, it is yet another clear sign that the Yemen war needs to end. Not only is the war a disaster for Yemen, but it is achieving the opposite of its goals by eroding the security of Saudi Arabia.

4)   If Iran is implicated as the sponsor of the attack, it would be yet another sign that Trump’s maximum pressure approach is a catastrophic failure. Far from ease regional tensions and Iran’s military footprint, Trump’s approach is ensuring the reverse.

5)   Regardless of the sponsor, now is the time for de-escalation. The skeleton for a deal is on the table – the international community would ease economic pressure on Iran in exchange for Iranian restraint and further negotiations. 

We are at this crisis point because of the convergence of two self-inflicted disasters spurred by our impulsive President: the decision to abandon the Iran nuclear deal and impose “maximum pressure” sanctions; and the refusal to pull out of the war on Yemen and seriously press for Saudi Arabia to deescalate there.

At this juncture, Trump can choose diplomacy and peace or repeat the mistakes that led to the 2003 invasion of Iraq with Iran. With the region at a boiling point, all lawmakers need to be strongly urging restraint and reinforcing that there is no authorization for war.

Key War Amendments Subject of Upcoming Congressional Negotiations

Over the next few weeks, key legislators in Congress will negotiate the final details of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual defense policy bill that is viewed as a “must-pass” piece of legislation. Those negotiations will determine the fate of several amendments that passed the House of Representatives, including several supported by NIAC Action to prevent a war with Iran.

This week, NIAC Action joined more than 60 organizations in signing a letter calling on Congressional negotiators to support the repeal of the 2002 authorization for use of military force that Congress passed to authorize the George W. Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq in 2002. As the letter – spearheaded by our colleagues at the Friends Committee on National Legislation – states, “leaving the 2002 Iraq AUMF in place renders it susceptible to misuse by this or a future president.” The administration has, concerningly, held open the possibility that it could utilize the 2001 or 2002 authorization as a legal green light for war with Iran. NIAC Action supported the amendment, which passed the House and is now a subject for negotiations with the Senate for final passage. 

NIAC Action additionally continues to strongly support the amendment from Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) that would clarify that the Trump administration does not have Congressional authorization for military action against Iran. This week, ten high-ranking retired military officers drafted a letter to Congress calling for the Khanna-Gaetz amendment’s passage in the final NDAA. According to the letter from military veterans, organized by VoteVets, “The idea that we would enter yet another war in the Middle East without a clear national security interest, defined mission, and withdrawal strategy is unacceptable to America’s veterans and our allies across the political spectrum.” The amendment successfully passed the House and garnered the support of a majority in the Senate

NIAC Action will continue to closely track these amendments and argue forcefully for Congress to make clear that Trump cannot take us to an unauthorized war with Iran.

Please see the full text of the coalition letter on the 2002 authorization below.


September 10, 2019

The Honorable James Inhofe
Chairman, Armed Services Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Jack Reed
Ranking Member, Armed Services Committee
United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510

The Honorable Adam Smith
Chairman, Armed Services Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

The Honorable Mac Thornberry
Ranking Member, House Armed Services Committee
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515

 

Re: 2002 Iraq AUMF Repeal Provision in National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020

Dear Chairmen and Ranking Members:

We, the undersigned, are a diverse group of organizations with a range of missions and perspectives from across the ideological spectrum. As you work to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (NDAA), we strongly urge you to retain in the conference version of the bill the provision from the House passed bill, H.R. 2500, to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq (2002 Iraq AUMF) (PL 107–243). This provision is included in H.R. 2500 as Section 1270W.

Repealing the 2002 Iraq AUMF would reassert Congress’ constitutional duty to determine whether and when the United States chooses war. It would remove an outdated force authorization that is not required for any ongoing operations, while protecting against its abuse by this or any future president to justify unforeseen and unauthorized new wars.

Congress passed the 2002 Iraq AUMF to authorize force against Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi regime in order to defend the United States against the threat posed by the regime’s alleged possession of weapons of mass destruction.[1] While this threat proved unfounded, the mission undertaken pursuant to the 2002 Iraq AUMF – designated “Operation Iraqi Freedom” – began on March 20, 2003, and officially ended on December 11, 2011.

Since this time, the 2002 Iraq AUMF has been repurposed by successive presidents for military activities unrelated to the Saddam Hussein regime. Both the Trump and Obama administrations have used the 2002 Iraq AUMF as supplemental authority for operations that they have claimed are being conducted pursuant to the 2001 AUMF in Iraq and Syria, including operations against ISIS.[2]

Repealing this outdated authorization would put an end to such unconstitutional repurposing of war authorizations without impacting current operations. The 2002 Iraq AUMF has never been cited as the sole authority to justify any current U.S. military operations. Indeed, Acting State Department Legal Adviser Marik String testified in a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing that he was “not aware” of any situation where the administration was relying solely on the 2002 Iraq AUMF for present military operations.[3]

Yet leaving the 2002 Iraq AUMF in place renders it susceptible to misuse by this or a future president. Last year the administration claimed that the 2002 Iraq AUMF authorized the use of force to address “threats to, or stemming from, Iraq” in “in Syria or elsewhere.”[4] This dangerous interpretation goes far beyond congressional intent and serves as a ticking time bomb that paves the way for the Executive Branch to draw the United States into further wars that were not even contemplated, let alone authorized, 17 years ago. Any new war must be specifically approved by Congress, as required under the Constitution.

Article I of the Constitution vests in Congress—as the branch most accountable to the American people—the responsibility to determine whether, when, and where to go to war. Congress should seize the opportunity to exercise its constitutional war powers by repealing the 2002 Iraq AUMF. This would remove an unnecessary force authorization and ensure that it cannot be exploited by the Executive Branch to start new, unauthorized wars.

We strongly urge you to retain in the conference version of the NDAA Section 1270W of H.R. 2500 to repeal the 2002 Iraq AUMF.

Thank you for your attention to this important matter.

Cc: Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, House and Senate NDAA Conferees

Sincerely,

About Face: Veterans Against the War
Action Corps
Action Corps NYC
Action Corps, Indianapolis
American Civil Liberties Union
American Friends Service Committee
Antiwar.com
Avaaz Bridges Faith Initiative Campaign for liberty
Center for Constitutional Rights
Center for International Policy Center for Victims of Torture
Center on Conscience & War Coalition for Peace Action
CODEPINK
Committee for Responsible Foreign Policy
Common Defense
Congregation of Our Lady of the Good Shepherd, U.S. Provinces
Council for a Livable World
Council on American-Islamic Relations
Defending Rights & Dissent
Demand Progress
Disciples Center for Public Witness
Disciples Justice Action Network
Environmentalists Against War
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Foreign Policy for America
Franciscan Action Network
Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ
Historians for Peace and Democracy
Human Rights First
Indivisible
Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
Interfaith Network on Drone Warfare
International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN)
Just Foreign Policy
Justice for Muslims
Collective Libertarian Institute
Maryknoll Office for Global Concerns
Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
National Iranian American Council
National Priorities Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
Nonviolence International
Peace Action
Peace Corps Iran Association
Peace Tax Foundation
Presbyterian Church (USA)
Project On Government Oversight
September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows
The United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society
The Yemen Peace Project
Truman Center for National Policy
United Church of Christ United for Peace and Justice
VoteVets
Win Without War
Women’s Action for New Directions
World BEYOND War

[1] For more on the legislative history of the 2002 Iraq AUMF see Tess Bridgeman, “Now is the Time to Repeal the 2002 AUMF,” July 11, 2019, https://www.justsecurity.org/64885/now-is-the-time-to-repeal-the-2002-aumf/.

[2] Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Use of Military Force and Related National Security Operations, March 16, 2019, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/4411804/3-18-WarPowers-Transparency-Report.pdf; Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Use of Military Force and Related National Security Operations, December 5, 2016, https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2016/12/05/fact-sheet-presidential-memorandum-legal-andpolicy-transparency. 

[3] Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Reviewing Authorities for the Use of Military Force, July 24, 2019, https://www.foreign.senate.gov/hearings/reviewing-authorities-for-the-use-of-military-force-072419.

[4] Report on the Legal and Policy Frameworks Guiding the United States’ Use of Military Force and Related National Security Operations, March 16, 2018, https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/4411804/3-18-WarPowers-Transparency-Report.pdf.

NIAC Applauds House for Pulling U.S. Back from the Brink of War with Iran via Khanna-Gaetz Amendment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Friday July 12, 2019
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mana@niacaction.org

WASHINGTON DC – Moments ago, the U.S. House of Representatives voted to pass a bipartisan amendment from Reps. Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Matt Gaetz (R-FL) to bar funding for an unauthorized war with Iran. The amendment passed with a final vote count of 251-170. The Khanna-Gaetz amendment was offered as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) and builds on the momentum from last month’s Senate vote on the Kaine-Udall amendment, which also would have also blocked the Trump administration from launching an unauthorized war with Iran.

In response to the passage of the Khanna-Gaetz amendment, NIAC Action President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement:

“The House of Representatives should be applauded for its vote today to stop an unauthorized war with Iran before it starts, and we call on the Senate to follow suit. With the passage of the amendment from Representatives Ro Khanna and Matt Gaetz, legislators moved one step closer to pulling the U.S. back from the edge of a war that the American people do not want and that Congress has never authorized. With nearly all of the 2020 presidential candidates calling for the U.S. to return to the Iran nuclear deal, and now with the House passing the Khanna-Gaetz amendment, a bipartisan consensus against the Bolton-Pompeo approach to Iran has clearly emerged.

“Such safeguards would not be necessary if the Trump administration were not recklessly endangering American security with its incoherent maximum pressure approach toward Iran. Last month, the President took us ten minutes from war, which would have been certain to trigger Iranian reprisals and a long trail of consequences not confined within Iran’s borders. Both the President and his Secretary of State have intimated that they do not need Congressional approval to launch a war, with many Members of Congress alarmed by the administration’s transparent attempts to justify a war with Iran under the 2001 authorization to use military force.

“The Iranian-American community and the broader American public know that war with Iran would be a disaster. That’s why a majority in the House and Senate now are on the record voting for provisions to rule out an unauthorized war with Iran. It is imperative that legislators ensure that the final defense authorization bill includes the Khanna-Gaetz amendment.

“We applaud Reps. Khanna and Gaetz for their leadership. Without the help of Chairmen Eliot Engel, Adam Smith and Jim McGovern as well as Reps. Anna Eshoo, Seth Moulton, Anthony Brown, Barbara Lee and countless Americans who spoke out against war with Iran, this vote would not have been possible.”

NIAC Applauds NDAA Amendment Aimed at Blocking Trump’s Path to War

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Tuesday, June 25, 2019  
CONTACT: Mana Mostatabi | 202.386.6325 x103 | mana@niacaction.org

WASHINGTON D.C. – Today, an amendment was offered to the FY20 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would block an unauthorized war against Iran. The amendment, introduced by Representatives Ro Khanna (D-CA) and Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL), has wide support including from the Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith, the Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Eliot Engel and the Chairman of the House Rules Committee Jim McGovern. Many other legislators – including Reps. Anna Eshoo, Andy Levin, Barbara Lee, Seth Moulton and Anthony Brown – who have been champions in the effort to ensure Trump doesn’t lead us into an unauthorized war are already signed on as original cosponsors of the amendment.

In response to the amendment’s introduction, NIAC President Jamal Abdi issued the following statement:  

“Congress may be all that is standing between Donald Trump and war with Iran. It is crucial that lawmakers summon the wherewithal to act as a co-equal branch of government to stand up against a disastrous war with Iran. 

“The Khanna-Gaetz amendment is a strong response to the growing risks of war with Iran that stem directly from President Trump’s disastrous maximum pressure approach. 

“After nearly two decades of endless war, the American people do not want another reckless war of choice with Iran. Congress must ensure that the defense authorization rules out war with Iran by passing the Khanna-Gaetz amendment in the House, the Udall-Kaine amendment in the Senate and protecting the provisions from pro-war legislators.

“Recent events have only underscored the importance of ruling out an unauthorized war with Iran. Our thin-skinned President lashed out on Twitter this morning in response to a mistranslation of an Iranian statement, and maintains that he does not need Congressional authorization to start a war. Other Members of Congress – including Mitch McConnell and Tom Cotton  – have shamefully played defense for Trump’s reckless actions in an attempt to keep the path to war with Iran open.”

Congress Must Rein in Trump’s War Cabinet

Trump has stacked his cabinet with Iran warhawks, withdrawn from the Iran nuclear deal that is successfully guarding against Iranian nuclear weapons and – according to recent reports – Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton and the President himself sought plans from the Pentagon to attack Iran.

These developments are dire and, barring Congressional intervention, the U.S. may launch yet another ill-advised war of choice that could haunt the U.S. and Middle East for generations.

The 116th Congress must investigate the Trump administration’s war plans for Iran, impose legal and political restraints to block an unconstitutional war with Iran and take steps to salvage the nuclear accord.

Bolton Asked for War Options Against Iran

  • John Bolton asked the Pentagon to prepare options to strike Iran in September – an act of war that has not been authorized by Congress.
  • The options considered reportedly included “a cross-border airstrike on an Iranian military facility” as well as “options to respond with strikes in Iraq and Syria as well.”
  • The response rattled national security officials, with one former official warning that it was “mind-boggling how cavalier they were about hitting Iran.”
  • voicing deepening fears” that Bolton “could precipitate a conflict with Iran.”

Mattis Scuttled Bolton’s War Push

  • The strikes were contemplated after two attacks in Iraq attributed to Shia militias tied to Iran – neither of which led to damage or casualties. It is unclear if Iran knew of the attack or to what extent it is tied to the militias involved.
  • In one attack, “mortar bombs landed inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone, where the U.S. Embassy is located.” A second involved a rocket attack on the airport near Basra, near to where the U.S. consulate was located. That incident followed raucous protests in Basra that led to the torching of the Iranian consulate.
  • U.S. officials warned it would hold Iran accountable, saying “Iran did not act to stop these attacks by its proxies in Iraq, which it has supported with funding, training, and weapons.”
  • The push to strike Iran directly over this murky affair was strongly opposed by former Defense Secretary James Mattis and other Pentagon officials, who argued successfully that the attacks were “insignificant.”

The President Reportedly Pushed Mattis to Sink Iranian Ships

  • In 2017, “Trump repeatedly asked his national security team for plans to blow up Iranian fast boats” patrolling the Persian Gulf.
  • Following a promise on the campaign trail to shoot Iranian ships “out of the water,” Trump was “incredulous” that the U.S. hadn’t sunk Iranian boats that have often had close run ins with U.S. ships, which he thought was a “humiliation and sign of weakness.”
  • Fortunately, 2017 saw fewer run ins between Iranian and U.S. vessels in the Persian Gulf, as the sinking of an Iranian ship could spark a major regional conflagration.

Trump Is Seeking to Kill the Iran Nuclear Deal

  • Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal and snap back sanctions – which was finalized in November – puts at risk severe limitations and comprehensive inspections over Iran’s nuclear program.
  • Iran has warned that it could respond to the provocation by expanding its nuclear program or limiting the access of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
  • By killing Iran’s benefit from the deal, the Trump administration appears to be baiting Iran to escalate its nuclear program – which Bolton could use to put his war plans in motion.
  • By targeting our allies with sanctions for seeking to uphold a UN Security Council-endorsed agreement that the U.S. negotiated, Trump has undermined U.S. leadership and sapped America’s diplomatic power.
  • In order to forestall a push to war, re-secure vital nonproliferation safeguards and restore U.S. diplomatic credibility, Congress should push for the U.S. to return to compliance with the deal.

Trump Has Assembled A War Cabinet

  • Bolton previously published an op-ed entitled “To Stop Iran’s Bomb, Bomb Iran” and promised a cult-like group that was designated as a terrorist organization until 2011 that they would celebrate regime change in Iran by the end of 2018.
  • Mike Pompeo pushed 2,000 bombing sorties on Iran as an alternative to nuclear negotiations in 2014, suggested that the U.S. pursue regime change in Iran, and  encouraged Trump to first decertify and then kill the nuclear accord.
  • James Mattis, the so-called “adult in the room,” is no longer there to push back on ill-advised military strikes in Iran.
  • Trump himself has tweeted in all caps against Iran, warning “YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE.”

Trump Has an Expansive View of War Powers

  • The Trump administration did not seek Congressional authorization prior to launching strikes on the Assad regime in Syria both in 2017 and 2018.
  • In later justifying its strikes, the Trump administration stated that the action did not risk rising up to the level of a “war” and that the administration could conduct strikes in the national interest, thus the administration did not seek approval from Congress.

Congress Must Rein in Trump on Iran

  • Failure to rein in Trump and his war cabinet could lead to a military confrontation with a nation of 80 million that is nearly four times the size of Iraq.
  • Congress should investigate Bolton’s request for war options against Iran as well as the murky events in Iraq that precipitated the request. Sec. Mattis is no longer in a position to scuttle Bolton’s half-baked plans for war.
  • Congress should impose political and legal restraints on the administration’s ability to start a war with Iran. Last year, legislation was introduced (the Prevention of Unconstitutional War with Iran Act – S. 3517/H.R. 7277) to prohibit the Trump administration from using funds to launch a war against Iran without Congressional approval.
  • Congress should push for a return to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal in order to shore up vital nonproliferation safeguards and restore American diplomatic credibility.
  • The American people do not want another war under a reckless administration – the 116th Congress must act without delay to rein in Trump on Iran.

House NDAA Clarifies Trump Has No War Authorization for Iran

 

 

 

 

Jamal Abdi, Executive Director of NIAC Action, issued the following statement after the House of Representatives passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) clarifying that the use of armed forces against Iran is not authorized by Congress:

“The House of Representatives just made clear that the President does not have authorization from Congress to launch a war against Iran. This is vital, as the elevation of Iran warhawks in John Bolton and Mike Pompeo and the violation of the Iran nuclear deal has put another disastrous war of choice in the Middle East back on the table.

“Trump himself has hinted at military action against Iran and both he and Pompeo have taken a page from the Iraq war playbook by falsely linking Iran to al-Qaeda. Representatives Keith Ellison (D-MN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Jim McGovern (D-MA), and Walter Jones (R-NC) deserve tremendous credit for taking a stand for peace and Congress’ Constitutional war-making authorities by introducing the amendment and ensuring its passage in the House. Now, the Senate should make sure that this clear statement of fact is included in the final version of the NDAA.

“This is a welcome step, but far more political and legal constraints are needed to ensure Trump, Bolton and Pompeo cannot put their war plans into place. The Trump administration has shredded norms and constraints across the board, and with Iran that is no exception. Unless lawmakers want to see the mistakes of the Iraq war repeated, they need to step up and rein in the Trump administration on Iran across the board.”

###

 

Top Five Takeaways From Mike Pompeo’s Nomination Hearing

At his confirmation hearing to become President Trump’s next Secretary of State, CIA Director Mike Pompeo offered little reassurance that he has tempered his hawkish inclinations on Iran or distanced himself from past bigoted remarks. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is planning to vote on Pompeo as soon as next week, and there is a likelihood he may not gain the votes necessary to earn the committee’s support – no one in modern history has become Secretary of State without winning that endorsement. Below are five key moments from the hearing that demonstrate why Pompeo is unfit to be Secretary of State:

Pompeo Offered No Reassurances on Protecting the Iran Deal from Trump and Bolton

Director Pompeo demurred when Senator Jeff Merkley asked if he was going to be part of a “war cabinet” with John Bolton. But his comments on Iran left little question that Pompeo would work to spike the Iran deal and put the U.S. on a potential war path with Iran. Pompeo vowed that he would follow Trump’s directive to try to “fix” perceived deficiencies in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). However, when pressed by Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) on whether he would recommend staying in the JCPOA if he couldn’t fix it by May 12, Pompeo refused to answer because he said it was a hypothetical – even though it is one that he could face in his first weeks on the job. When pressed further, Pompeo made clear that he would not caution against Trump snapping back sanctions and that he would instead work for a “better agreement” after Trump walks away from the deal.

View the full post on The Iranian…

Memo: Netanyahu’s Claims on Iran Don’t Match the Facts

 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the Munich Security Conference was full of eye-popping distortions on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal. Those remarks were forcefully rebutted by former Secretary of State John Kerry, who reiterated in the starkest terms yet how the Obama administration had resisted explicit calls from Netanyahu, as well as King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia and President Mubarak of Egypt, to bomb Iran rather than engage in nuclear negotiations. Given that Netanyahu appears to prefer war to the hard-fought security gains of the JCPOA, his remarks are not surprising – but they do deserve scrutiny and rebutting.

JCPOA

Netanyahu labeled the JCPOA as “appeasement” and falsely stated that it “has begun the countdown to an Iranian nuclear arsenal in little more than a decade.” Kerry directly addressed this claim, asserting that it is “fundamentally not accurate with respect to this agreement.”

The JCPOA obligates Iran to refrain from ever seeking, developing or acquiring nuclear weapons and will ensure intrusive inspections of Iran’s entire nuclear program in perpetuity. As Kerry noted, thanks to the JCPOA, “[t]oday we have 130 additional inspectors on the ground in Iran, inspecting radio-transmitted, sealed centrifuges and facilities on a daily basis.” If Iran chooses to break its commitments in pursuit of a nuclear arsenal under the JCPOA they would be detected and the U.S. would have the same options to respond – this will hold true even after certain restrictions expire.  

It is also worth noting that there is a sharp divide on the JCPOA between Netanyahu and the Israeli security establishment. As Haaretz reported in October, Netanyahu’s anti-JCPOA stance “is at odds with most Israeli experts in Military Intelligence and in the IDFs Planning Directorate, the Mossad, Foreign Ministry and the Atomic Energy Committee.” Moreover, the report indicated that “all Israeli intelligence bodies dealing with the Iranian issue are united in the opinion that…Iran hasn’t been caught violating a single clause.”

For those with legitimate concerns about the sunset of enrichment restrictions in the out-years of the JCPOA, it might be possible for the U.S. to seek a follow-on agreement through serious diplomacy. But that possibility will be dashed if the U.S. fails to uphold its end of the bargain, as the Trump administration appears determined to do. As it stands now, killing the deal now out of fears that the agreement’s terms won’t last forever – and then expecting President Trump to negotiate a better deal after alienating our negotiating partners – is simply irrational.

Missiles

Netanyahu cited Iran’s missile testing, arguing that Iran is “developing ballistic missiles to reach deep into Europe and to the United States as well.” The track record of Iran’s recent testing contradicts Netanyahu’s claims. According to a recent analysis from the Center for Nonproliferation Studies and Nuclear Threat Initiative, it appears “the JCPOA has helped redirect Iran’s priorities for its missile program away from developing an ICBM (whose only purpose would be as a nuclear delivery system), to developing solid-fueled versions of its short-range missiles.” This also matches Iran’s stated policy, with the apparent endorsement of Iran’s Supreme Leader, to limit its missile program to a 2,000 kilometer radius around Iran. As a result, there is little evidence to back up Netanyahu’s claim on missiles.

Iranian Empire

Netanyahu also claimed that Iran “seeks to dominate the world through aggression and terror” and “hopes to complete a contiguous empire.”

Iran continues to exert its influence in the Middle East, including in ways that run counter to U.S. interests, such as the apparent flight of a drone into Israeli air space. However, Iran is not in any way positioned to establish an “empire” or dominate the region, much less the world.

Iran’s military capabilities are still outmatched by Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United States. In response to the drone flight into Israeli airspace, Israel took out Iranian and Syrian regime positions and defenses in Syria, albeit not without cost. In addition to a capable and modern air force, Israel possesses nuclear-tipped missiles. Iran has neither. Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, also possesses a modern air force and outspent Iran militarily by a 5:1 rate in 2016, amid the JCPOA’s implementation. As Vali Nasr, Dean of the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies, wrote in Foreign Affairs, many in Tehran who backed the JCPOA were disappointed as “Iran had given up an important asset only to see the conventional military gap with its regional rivals widen,” thanks to arms sales under the Obama administration.

Moving Forward

Iran is a regional power that engages in many activities that are counter to U.S. interests, and policymakers should carefully consider how to address them. Historically, bluster and confrontation have failed, while serious multilateral diplomacy has resulted in significant Iranian concessions on the nuclear issue. If we throw out that successful playbook and buy into Netanyahu’s fear mongering of an imminent Iranian nuclear arsenal and empire we risk unraveling the security gains from the JCPOA and moving rapidly toward a disastrous war with Iran.

Netanyahu, facing a corruption inquiry at home, will likely reprise his role as the JCPOA’s foremost opponent as the Trump administration weighs the fate of the agreement. While Israel has legitimate concerns regarding Iran, Netanyahu’s fabrications and exaggerations undermine his credibility on a nuclear agreement that has enhanced both Israeli and American security. As the Director of National Intelligence, Daniel Coats, stated in testimony during the Worldwide Threats report last week:

“Iran’s implementation of the JCPOA has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about one year, provided Iran continues to adhere to the deal’s major provisions. The JCPOA has also enhanced the transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities, mainly by fostering improved access to Iranian nuclear facilities for the IAEA and its investigative authorities under the Additional Protocol to its Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement.”

No amount of spin from Netanyahu can reverse the deal’s success, nor the fact that diplomacy has succeeded where bluster and unilateral demands failed. Policymakers should consider Netanyahu’s statements on Iran with a healthy dose of skepticism and reject his self-destructive attempts to undermine the JCPOA and force the United States into a military conflict with Iran.