Ever since former President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from Barack Obama's "nuclear deal" with Iran, various media outlets and pundits have blamed Trump for the ramping up of Iran's nuclear program and its enrichment of uranium well beyond the thresholds allowed by the 2015 agreement.
Top U.S. and Russian officials for Iran are meeting in Vienna this week, and delegates on both sides say Moscow and Washington are continuing a bid to salvage the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.
American Family News spoke to Clare Lopez, founder and president of Lopez Liberty and former career operations officer with the CIA. She contends that Iran's unwillingness to curtail its nuclear weapons program is the heart of the issue. In fact, she points out that the Iranian regime has been violating the provisions of not only the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) of 2015 (the formal name for the Iran nuclear deal), but also those found in the original Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which entered into force in 1970.
Looking back over nearly two decades, the national security expert contends that the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) has been instrumental in revealing a number of clandestine sites of the Iran nuclear weapons program. Most importantly, says Lopez, the Iranian opposition group exposed how these secret sites should have been subject to the provisions of the NPT – in accordance with the safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – but were not.
"The fact of the matter is that the Iranian regime has been cheating well before the world powers ever even entered into the July 2015 JCPOA," Lopez argues. "The agreement itself neglected, deliberately or otherwise, a concession to hold Iran's regime to account for its prior, now-disclosed violations of the NPT and IAEA."
In 2018, former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed that Israel had obtained documents proving Iran had been covertly gathering nuclear weapons capabilities for years. On the heels of this revelation, Lopez says the reason Trump withdrew the United States from the JCPOA in May 2018 is because "he recognized that the Iranian regime was reneging on all of its prior commitments, much less the provisions set in place more recently by the JCPOA."
After the U.S. withdrew from the agreement, Iran more openly began to violate more and more of the provisions of the JCPOA. For example, Lopez notes, the nuclear deal of 2015 was supposed to prohibit the enrichment of uranium beyond a level of 3.67%. But Iran has admitted enriching up to 60% – and threatens to go further. The regime has also "blasted past" the limits on the amount of uranium it enriches and failed to abide by the provisions that held them to the use of early generation centrifuges, she adds.
What's more, Lopez says a November 2011 report by the IAEA details what Iran was doing with its nuclear program a decade ago. "Iran was literally developing a warhead back then – already milling, fashioning, shaping the nuclear pit and testing explosive mechanisms," she says.
"These violations are enough to show that they never meant to abide by any of the provisions of the original NPT nor the provisions of the JCPOA," Lopez states. She says the Iranian regime has not given up the pursuit of a deliverable nuclear weapon, adding that "they will not stop unless and until they are stopped."
As Foreign Policy reports, "the uncomfortable truth is Iran's most aggressive moves came after U.S. President Joe Biden was elected, [and] what's driving Tehran forward is not Trump's maximum pressure campaign but Biden's decision to ease that pressure."
In light of that observation about Iran's aggressiveness, Lopez says "it doesn't look like the current leadership in the United States has any inclination to stop them" – and that it's "absurd" to believe Iran would give up the advances of its nuclear weapons programs.
"The Iranian regime has advanced so far beyond the provisions of the NPT and 2015 nuclear deal that," she contends, "there's no way they can go back nor does it appear Biden is truly willing to do anything about it." And Trump, she says, can't be blamed for that.