No Going Back Now: The Case Against Returning to the JCPOA

A new report from JINSA’s Iran Policy Project, co-chaired by Amb. Eric Edelman and Gen Charles Wald, USAF (ret.), lays out how the Biden Administration’s intention to rejoin the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), will confront myriad technical and political hurdles that make any such policy self-defeating – and perhaps outright impossible – for the United States.

Iran has violated the agreement not just by exceeding the deal’s limits on its nuclear program but by expanding that program in ways unforeseen by the agreement, such as constructing new facilities and operating advanced centrifuges. It has also become clearer how Tehran never fully complied with the JCPOA’s terms in the first place and has been acting in bad faith ever since. Meanwhile the United States has cast a much more comprehensive sanctions net over Iran than in 2015.

Thus, simply abiding by the letter of the JCPOA would leave Iran with too advanced a nuclear program for the United States to accept, and too many economic constraints for Tehran to abide. This creates the possibility of an untenable “more for less” interim outcome in which the United States tries to get back to the original nuclear agreement by giving up too many sanctions, in exchange for too few nuclear concessions from Tehran. In this light, the first step in realizing the Biden’s Administration’s oft-stated desire to pursue a more comprehensive agreement should be to recognize there is no returning to the JCPOA.

Click here to read the report.

Iran Policy Project Co-Chairmen

Ambassador Eric Edelman
Former Under Secretary of Defense for Policy

General Charles Wald, USAF (ret.)
Former Deputy Commander of United States European Command

Iran Policy Project Members

VADM John Bird, USN (ret.)
Former Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet

General James Conway, USMC (ret.)
Former Commandant of the Marine Corps

Lt Gen David Deptula, USAF (ret.)
Former Deputy Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance, U.S. Air Force Headquarters

Larry Goldstein
Founder and Director of Energy Policy Research Foundation, Inc.

John Hannah
Former Assistant for National Security Affairs to the Vice President

Lt Gen Henry Obering, USAF (ret.)
Former Director of the Missile Defense Agency

Steve Rademaker
Former Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control and Nonproliferation

Maj Gen Lawrence Stutzriem, USAF (ret.)
Former Director, Plans, Policy and Strategy at North American Aerospace Defense Command

Ray Takeyh
Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies, Council on Foreign Relations

Roger Zakheim
Former General Counsel and Deputy Staff Director of U.S. House Armed Services Committee