- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Obama-era Iranian nuclear deal has succeeded in delaying how long it would take for Iran to build a nuclear bomb and in making Tehran’s activities more transparent to U.N. inspectors, according to a U.S. intelligence assessment published Tuesday that contrasts President Trump’s threats to pull out of the deal unless its “disastrous flaws” are fixed.

While Tuesday’s assessment does not directly contradict Mr. Trump’s assertions about the 2015 accord, it presents a sober assessment against a backdrop in which the president has consistently criticized the agreement that gave Iran billions of dollars worth of international sanctions relief in exchange for Tehran’s limiting of its nuclear activities.

The Iranian government’s “implementation” of the deal — known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA — has “extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about one year, provided Iran continues to adhere to the deal’s major provisions,” the assessment states.

“The JCPOA has also enhanced the transparency of Iran’s nuclear activities, mainly by fostering improved access to Iranian nuclear facilities for [U.N. inspectors].”

The assertions are part of the 2018 “Worldwide Threat Assessment” that Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats, a Trump administration appointee, submitted to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday morning.

The assessment maintains that “Tehran’s public statements suggest that it wants to preserve the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action because it views the JCPOA as a means to remove sanctions while preserving some nuclear capabilities.”

Iran recognizes that the U.S. Administration has concerns about the deal but expects the other participants — China, the EU, France, Germany, Russia, and the United Kingdom — to honor their commitments,” it says.

Mr. Trump has been vowing to end the deal since the start of his presidency, saying tougher inspections should be imposed on Iran’s nuclear program and arguing that the agreement has dangerous time caps built into it, since it will expire over the coming decade.

Last month, the president begrudgingly kept sanctions relief provided by the deal in place for another 120 days, but warned it was the last time he would do so under a congressionally mandated deal “certification process.”

Ultimately, Mr. Trump seeks a tougher agreement against Tehran with European allies. While such a new agreement remains elusive, the administration has slapped Iran with some fresh sanctions unrelated to the current deal.

“This is a last chance,” Mr. Trump said in a statement on ordering the new sanctions last month.

“I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal,” Mr. Trump said. “In the absence of such an agreement, the United States will not again waive sanctions in order to stay in the Iran nuclear deal. And if at any time I judge that such an agreement is not within reach, I will withdraw from the deal immediately. No one should doubt my word.”

Some analysts argue Iran has used the JCPOA as a geopolitical cover that has allowed Tehran to ramp up testing of ballistic missiles during recent years — tests that do not technically violate the terms of the deal, but do violate pre-existing U.N. Security Council resolutions banning such activity.

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