International Juan Cole

Why the US and Israeli Right Really Hate the Iran Nuclear Deal

What do right-wingers in both countries actually want to happen in Iran?
Iran flags waving at a 2009 protest. [Marjolein Katsma / CC BY-SA 2.0]

By Juan Cole | Informed Comment

Right wing Israeli politicians such as former prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu and even centrist politicians like caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid have fulminated against any US renewal of the 2015 Iran nuclear deal or Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). As with the loony Right wing in the US (increasingly the only Right wing there is), they typically allege that the JCPOA will allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon. Since the treaty makes it virtually impossible for Iran to develop a nuclear device, this charge literally makes no sense.

Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program. It has a civilian program to enrich uranium for fuel for its Bushehr reactor. It has plans to expand the number of its nuclear power plants.

The way it would make a bomb if its leadership ever decided they wanted to go in that direction would be to run thousands of high-powered centrifuges to enrich the uranium and build up a stockpile of High Enriched Uranium (HEU), which could be further enriched in the thousands of advanced centrifuges, until you got it to 95% enriched. Or, it could modify a heavy water reactor being used to generate electricity so as to turn it into a breeder reactor that quickly allowed the harvesting of fissile material.

The UN and the US put sanctions on Iran, and the carrot the UN Security Council and the Obama administration used to convince Iran to mothball 80% of its nuclear enrichment program was that these sanctions would be lifted and Iran would be integrated into the world economy.

When Iran was faithfully adhering to the terms of the JCPOA in 2015-2019, it only ran 6,000 low-tech centrifuges. It was only allowed to enrich to 3.6%. It cast its entire uranium stockpile in a form that could not be further enriched. It halted building a heavy-water reactor at Arak and bricked it in. It accepted regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the UN. No country under regular IAEA inspections has ever developed an atomic bomb.

In short, the 2015 nuclear deal worked perfectly for 4 years. It made sure that Iran was not in a position to make an atom bomb as long as Tehran adhered to its terms. And if Iran ceased observing the provisions of the treaty, everyone would know it immediately.

It only failed on the economic side. The Republicans in Congress refused to allow Obama to lift US sanctions, which threaten third parties. European companies, fearing the US Treasury Department, refused to invest in Iran. So the country never really got the sanctions relief it was promised. It was taken for a ride.

Once Trump abruptly destroyed the JCPOA, and began waging war on the Iranian economy, even halting the export of Iranian petroleum, Iran felt released from its obligations. It started ramping up new and better centrifuges beyond the 6K limit. It began enriching to the level of High Enriched Uranium, getting even to 60%, which is unprecedented for that country. The IAEA faced restrictions on its inspections and found suspicious uranium signatures at sites where they shouldn’t have been. Iran is much closer to having the capability to get a bomb, if it ever decided to take that step, than it ever was before. Ripping up the JCPOA freed Iran to do whatever it wanted, despite the US war on the Iranian economy, which mainly hurt ordinary Iranians, not the ayatollahs.

So it is completely illogical to charge that having Iran in the JCPOA gives it an opportunity to develop nuclear weapons.

Why would anyone say a crazy thing like that?

Neither the Israeli Right wing nor the American Right wing can possibly believe the nonsense they spew on Iran. So they must have an ulterior motive.

One thing the Right wing hates about the JCPOA is the prospect that Iran would be released from trade restrictions and would garner riches from this trade and investment. Iran would become an important trading partner of some European countries. A wealthier and more connected Iran would have more diplomatic influence and be taken more seriously in geopolitics. It could emerge as a genuine rival to Israel in these areas.

Iran emphasizes Palestinian rights and opposes the Israeli Occupation of the Palestinians, and if it were more influential, the standard Israeli narrative, that Palestinians must be deprived of basic human rights because they are inherently violent and dangerous, would begin losing its purchase.

A richer Iran could also be a more generous patron to its client militias in Iraq and Lebanon, both of which Israel sees as a dire threat.

Finally, both the American Right wing and the Israeli Right Wing want Iran’s government to be overthrown and replaced by a pro=Western puppet. In other words, they want to rerun the 1953 CIA coup, which deposed populist prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh and reinstalled the exiled shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlevi. That regime change was reversed 25 years later by the Islamic Revolution, which was driven in part by resentment at the US and Britain for imposing a hated dictatorship on the Iranian people.

Some people, however, never learn any lessons, and so are dreaming again of a 1953.

So these considerations lie behind the laughable assertions by the Right wing about the Iran nuclear deal. They are maximalists. They don’t actually care so much about Iran’s civilian nuclear enrichment program. They want to roll back and undo the Islamic Revolution and carry out a regime change operation. Short of that, they want to keep Iran under massive sanctions and bleed its economy, which might cause popular unrest and allow a regime change operation. They surely know that the JCPOA worked. They didn’t want it to. They want the whole ball of wax.

Juan Cole
Juan Cole

Juan Cole is a public intellectual, prominent blogger and essayist, and the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.

31 comments

  1. Looming: opening up Iran facilitates the North-South Trade corridor.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_North%E2%80%93South_Transport_Corridor#/media/File:North_South_Transport_Corridor_(NSTC).jpg

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/International_North%E2%80%93South_Transport_Corridor

    The legal framework for the INSTC is provided by a trilateral agreement signed by India, Iran and Russia at the Euro-Asian Conference on Transport in 2000. Since then Kazakhstan, Belarus, Oman, Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Syria have signed instruments of accession to become members of the INSTC.

    Once fully operational, the INSTC is expected to reduce freight costs by 30% and journey time by 40% in comparison with the conventional deep sea route via the Suez Canal. Indeed, the need for an alternative route was deeply felt last year, when the Ever Given container ship was stuck in the Suez, halting maritime traffic between the Mediterranean Sea and the Red Sea.

    Another development, along with the Road and Belt initiative — that connects Europe, Africa and Asia, that will unite nations outside the “rules based order” of American imperialism

    https://www.ejiltalk.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/OBOR1-1.png

    1. The last thing.the US.needs in their.final.days of Empire is.more economic.trouble.from who.they perceive as.sand.niggers,a racist.term.fully.accepted in.the.halls.of power in.the US and Israel.

  2. The Israeli right hates the JCPOA because it makes it more difficult for Israel to argue for a military intervention. They have been urging the US to do that dirty work since the Project for a New American Century called for a Middle East campaign of “regime change.”

    The American right hates the JCPOA because they are captured by the an evangelical fringe that wants to see more war in the Middle East, especially involving Israel because they believe it will hasten the rapture, where in the midst of fire and brimstone the true believers will ascend to heaven.

    1. There will be a lot.of.fire and.brimstone if the US.and Israel.succeed.in their ambitions.wipe.out the Palestinians.for.power and.profit.Palestine.has.a lot.of friends.both in the MidEast.and.around.the world who can.clearly.see.who wants.war.and who wants.peace

  3. Why do the Left and the Democrats want World War III?

    Biden and the Democrats could have re-started this deal on Day One of the Biden regime with a simple Presidential signature, since that was all that had cancelled the deal in violation of the UN Security Council (and thus the US Constitution).

    The Democrats want World War III. They are pushing for this in Ukraine, with nothing but escalations and war on the table. They are pushing for this in Taiwan, with Nasty Nancy and her lot trying to start a war there. And Biden just made his Tour of War Criminals in the Mid east to try to start a war there with his “Arab NATO” proposals.

    So, why hasn’t Biden restarted this deal in the interests of Peace and Regional Stability? Because Peace is the one thing the Democrats hate and want to banish from this earth in their big drive to give their oligarchs the World War III the Democrats so obviously desire and crave.

    Democrats, going for the big body counts both at home and abroad. COVID kills by the hundreds of thousands, with another Democrat Back to School Death year ahead of us. Democrats love police who kill, kill, kill, and feed much more money to them instead of to nurses. Democrats love war abroad, and massive war budgets. The Democrats never look so happy as when they announce that $Billions more will be given away to foreign countries for war, and thus not spend on the needs of Americans which the Democrats do not give a flying @#%$^ about.

    (D) is for “Die, m#$^#$-f@#$%s, die!” — The Democrat policy towards human beings everywhere.

    1. I totally agree. Hopefully you understand the Republicans are not any better.

  4. How can anyone believe Iran? A regime that poses a grave threat and danger to its own citizens. A regime run by religious fanatics. You discredit progressives by such nonsense.

    1. At this late date how can you condemn Iran, while the US does everything in their power to start WW3?

      It’s not Iran you have to worry about Herb. It’s your own government that is the real danger….to everyone.

    2. how can anyone admire the disgusting behavior of Israel? Iran has not attacked another nation for 3+ centuries….nazi Israel continues aggression vs Syria and Lebanon

    3. @Herb Steiner

      Read these sentences gain, aloud if that helps.

      “When Iran was faithfully adhering to the terms of the JCPOA in 2015-2019, it only ran 6,000 low-tech centrifuges. It was only allowed to enrich to 3.6%. It cast its entire uranium stockpile in a form that could not be further enriched. It halted building a heavy-water reactor at Arak and bricked it in. It accepted regular inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency of the UN. No country under regular IAEA inspections has ever developed an atomic bomb.

      In short, the 2015 nuclear deal worked perfectly for 4 years. It made sure that Iran was not in a position to make an atom bomb as long as Tehran adhered to its terms. And if Iran ceased observing the provisions of the treaty, everyone would know it immediately.

      It only failed on the economic side. The Republicans in Congress refused to allow Obama to lift US sanctions, which threaten third parties. European companies, fearing the US Treasury Department, refused to invest in Iran. So the country never really got the sanctions relief it was promised. It was taken for a ride.

      There were international inspectors on-site who verified this.

      The religious fanaticism of the government has nothing to do with these facts. Theyhalted their nuclear program to get sanctions relief, and the US reneged.

    4. Herb Steiner, try eating your own words!
      “How can anyone believe (Israel)? A regime that poses a grave threat and danger to its own citizens. A regime run by religious fanatics. You discredit progressives by such nonsense.”
      The ‘nonsense’ is, in applying your understanding of the word, to the facts; that there is no progressive left, either in Israel, or the U.S.
      What there is, in both regimes, is a regressive left, and a regressive right.

    5. Herb Steiner,
      Apparently, you don’t visit Iran. If you did you would be happily surprised to find wonderul, warm, kind people everywhere you go. Their leadership is actually superior to ours in that they don’t attack other countries, one after another nor pull off coups, one after another. Israel attacks every country in the Middle East at whim and is trying to push the US into war in Iran, dragging all of NATO in, too. Believe me, it’s more pleasant living in Iran than in Portland Oregon where I live. BTW, so is Russia and Cuba, places the MSM lie about in every issue and newscast.

  5. Puzzling: Why doesn’t Iran point out the obvious. The US and Israel both have enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world; the US is the only country that’s used them. Yet, this is never mentioned. It should be first on the agenda to be discussed. Also, the US (and Israel) illegally attack countries all the time. Iran doesn’t. Let’s talk about that. Let’s discuss illegal coups pulled off by the US. (Latest: Ukraine 2014.) Iran knows the US can’t be trused to keep a promise. It never has, not once.

  6. So, by the American right wing, do you mean Biden and Pelosi? Biden hasn’t renewed the Iran deal and continues to sanction a large part of the world, as well as inflame conflict with the other two big regional powers. Your article infers that there is an American left wing that isn’t ‘loony’ and is good and noble. Bernie and the fraud Squad support imperialism and playing the great game against nuclear powers. Should we all nod our heads and then vote blue harder?

    1. Yes, he does mean Biden and Pelosi, who, as members of the “opposition” right wing (or Rite-Lite) party of corporate primacy, the Dimmocrats, act as foils for the far right that he discusses above.

    2. we do need an article on “Bernie and the fraud Squad support” of “imperialism”

  7. The Evangelical Christian-Zionist troglodytes welcome Nuclear Armageddon and they would love to see nothing less than the Middle East turned into dust and all the Muslims and Arabs eliminated. Same goes for China and the Chinese. When the Christian Fascist Republicans get a majority in Congress and take the Presidency, you will see all this war-mongering accelerate to the maximum extreme. It’s already bad now with Biden and the Neocons around him, but the next Republican President will surely try to outdo Biden and Co. and will be much more competent, with a bunch of Evangelical Foreign Policy advisors. The faux Populist Right are mostly flag-waving, theocratic bigots. The US is a theocratic sewer.

  8. I hate to say it, but Israel – or the extreme rightwing zionists who are in charge – poisons everything it touches. Yet it still claims special privileges, all the while breaking international law and committing war crimes to a backdrop of the apartheid it imposes on both Israeli Palestinians, or Arabs as Israel calls them because to use the collective term “Palestinians” indicates that there are a legitimate indigenous population being denied their equal rights by the Zionist settler state, and the occupants of the Palestinian territories which Israel has illegally occupied since 1967. Not forgetting the illegal expansion of settlements on Palestinian land. The US continually blocks any and all attempts to sanction Israel or hold it accountable for the crimes against humanity it commits on a daily basis. The other elephant in the room is Israel’s illegal Nuclear arsenal, which it denies exists. The disgusting hypocrisy on display condemns all who play along with the racist endeavour that is the Zionist Israeli settler colony.

    1. The world is.becoming a.very.dangerous.place.mostly due.to Israel,US and Saudi Arabia.The number of.Nukes is increasing.not.being.eliminated.Sooner rather.then later some idiot is.going.to
      push a button.There are a lot.of idiots.in the US which still is.the.only.one.to.use.this.horrible.weapon.

      1. Wendell,
        Just curious. Why do you insert periods between words where they don’t belong?

  9. The US should end sanctions on Iran and aid to Israel. The US should mind its own business.

  10. more CIA Cole propaganda; the true reactionary right in USA–liberals, more imperialistic and racist by evidence never ratified the the Iran nuke agreecole ment. the current regime does nothing but promote more imperialism in ukraine, Africa, ME….Cole consistently celebrates US invasions—Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan , Syria—an immoral cretin

    1. Giligan, where do you come up with such nonsense about Cole? Nowhere in this piece does he do anything of the sort. You’re a crackpot.

  11. Interests are the nub of all diplomatic confrontations, inevitably leading to conflict. As the author says, Israel does not to see Iran “emerge as a genuine rival”. Such rivalries have always led to war; and the current crises globally have the potential to conflate into one global nuclear conflagration – world war. The pursuit of interests is always posed in terms of engaging existential threat: but it is the effort to neutralize the existential threat that becomes, paradoxically, the existential threat itself; certainly the case with nuclear war, as the current international crisis is descending into.
    https://patternofhistory.wordpress.com/

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: