The Corner

National Security & Defense

H. R. McMaster Adjusts His Arguments to Keep the U.S. in Iran Nuclear Deal

Three weeks ago, on July 17, I posted in The Corner concerning a startling statement by National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster during a phone conference on the Trump administration’s decision to certify to Congress, for the second time this year, that Iran is complying with the 2015 nuclear deal (the JCPOA) and that this agreement is in the interests of the United States. Click here and here to read why this certification decision was a serious mistake.

McMaster conceded the JCPOA is a bad agreement that has not improved Iranian behavior but argued that the Trump administration planned to certify Iran’s compliance because it had not violated the accord. I wrote last month that McMaster said in response to a question during the July 17 phone conference that Iran was in default of the spirit of the agreement and “we need to take a closer look at whether it is violating the letter of the deal.” McMaster also said Iran has been “walking up to violating the letter” of the JCPOA.

This statement was baffling not only because many experts and four leading Republican senators believe there is clear evidence that Iran has violated the deal, but also because of the absurdity of claiming six months into the Trump administration that the president’s team has not yet determined whether Iran violated the agreement.

During an August 5 MSNBC interview with Hugh Hewitt, McMaster adjusted his arguments on Iranian compliance with the JCPOA when he told Hewitt that Iran has violated the spirit of the JCPOA and, when it occasionally violated the letter of the agreement, the U.S. went to the IAEA to get it to take remedial measures.

This contradicts what McMaster said during the July 17 phone conference. This argument also is false since it ignores Iran’s refusal to allow the IAEA to inspect military sites and German intelligence reports of Iranian cheating. Moreover, as I explained in a September 2, 2016, NRO article, the IAEA has been faulted for being less than a straight shooter when it comes to monitoring Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA.

McMaster probably adjusted his arguments because he is trying to find a way to keep the United States in the JCPOA despite strong evidence of Iranian cheating and a growing belief by Americans that this agreement is not in their country’s national security interests. I also believe the general thinks the president is unlikely to agree to a third certification of the JCPOA to Congress in October and is looking for ways to prevent this by papering over Iran’s violations and the dangers of this pact.

It is my sincere hope that President Trump will dismiss the many misleading arguments being made in defense of the JCPOA by its supporters and repudiate this disastrous agreement as soon as possible.

Fred Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy, served in 2018 as deputy assistant to the president and to the chief of staff of the National Security Council. He previously held national-security jobs with the CIA, the DIA, the Department of State, and the House Intelligence Committee staff.

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