- - Monday, February 13, 2017


President Trump has often said that Barack Obama’s nuclear weapons deal with Iran was a “terrible deal.” He’s right. But whatever he decides to do about it, the opposition is apparent and will only grow both here and abroad.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s “supreme leader,” said he would set the agreement on fire if Mr. Trump tried to change it. Iranian President Rouhani said his nation won’t let Mr. Trump change the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, as the Obama deal is formally known.

Any proposal to renegotiate or cancel the deal won’t receive warmer receptions from Russia, China, England, France and Germany, which signed it with the United States and Iran.

From the political upheaval in reaction to his temporary immigration ban, the president will have learned to prepare the political battlefield before taking such major actions.

Regarding the Iran deal, perhaps the most effective way to do that is for Mr. Trump to reveal what Mr. Obama’s agreement actually provides.

Most international agreements are accompanied by confidential side agreements that are classified or concealed from the public for diplomatic reasons.

We don’t even know how many of them Mr. Obama’s deal with Iran has. Under the Corker Amendment, which enabled Mr. Obama to claim the Senate had approved the deal, although it had not, all side agreements were required to be submitted to the Senate. That was never done, as a senior Republican senator told me months ago

Many of the most puzzling aspects of Mr. Obama’s deal could be explained by Mr. Trump’s publication of the side deals.

For example, Iran is permitted to limit how and when international inspectors can inspect some of its nuclear weapons sites. What side deal enables Iran to evade the supposedly intrusive inspection plan?

Bizarrely, Iran is permitted to self-inspect some of its nuclear weapons sites. One example is the Parchin site at which Iran is permitted to collect its own forensic samples and turn them over to the U.N.’s purblind nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Parchin may be the heart of Iran’s nuclear weapons development. Unsurprisingly, the IAEA — on the basis of the samples provided by Iran — says that everything at Parchin is just peachy. How does Mr. Obama’s deal permit this ridiculous self-inspection? What other sites are exempted from real inspection?

At one point during the negotiations of the deal, Iranian opposition to inspection of military sites was to be decided by a panel of arbitrators comprised of representatives of Iran and each of the P5+1 nations. They were to have about three weeks to decide whether the inspection could proceed. Of course, those three weeks were more than enough time for the Iranians to conceal what was going on. Is there a side deal that effectuates the arbitration idea?

These are only two of the known problems that arose from the side deals. We don’t know how many more there are.

Our P5+1 allies will be embarrassed by publication of the side deals because it may show how badly they were duped. The Iranians — whose opposition Mr. Trump can comfortably ignore — understand that publishing the advantages they’ve gained in secret will result in a backlash supporting Mr. Trump’s demands to renegotiate or cancel the deal.

Mr. Trump will be told that we can’t risk undoing the nuclear weapons deal because of Iran’s strengths in Syria and Iraq. Iran is Russia’s principal partner in Syria and will, with Russia, control the outcome of the Syrian war. Both could prove to be obstacles to Mr. Trump’s plan to destroy ISIS, but publication of the side deals is immaterial to their action on ISIS.

None of those facts outweigh America’s national security interest in preventing Iran from having nuclear weapons. Revealing the side deals can only benefit Mr. Trump. By doing so, he will be able to show Americans how bad the deal really is. He can build political support for the action he intends to take and may, with relative ease, be able to overcome the foreign and congressional opposition that’s sure to erupt in Congress and the media.

It will be harder for him to overcome what former President Obama says in defense of what he and the media believe was his greatest diplomatic achievement. What Mr. Obama says will be published and republished hourly by Mr. Trump’s media opponents, so Mr. Trump needs to be doubly prepared.

Mr. Trump’s team should remember that Mr. Obama made an arms limitation agreement with Russia, the New START Treaty, which became effective in 2011. Like the 2015 nuclear weapons deal with Iran, Mr. Obama’s treaty with Russia has unpublished side deals.

Whatever those side deals say, one gave rise to a Russian claim that the our anti-missile missiles (and the warheads on them) must be counted among our offensive missiles, warheads and bombs. Before Mr. Obama’s treaty, we had never agreed to count purely defensive weapons as offensive ones. What does that side agreement say and what others did Mr. Obama sign, needlessly giving away American advantages?

Mr. Obama’s deals with Iran and Russia are contrary to our national security and those of our allies. Mr. Trump can, and should, make that perfectly clear by publishing the side agreements.

• Jed Babbin served as a deputy undersecretary of defense in the George H.W. Bush administration. He is a senior fellow of the London Center for Policy Research and the author of five books including “In the Words of Our Enemies.”

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