Ehud Barak Warns Trump: Scrapping Nuclear Deal Would Embolden Iran and North Korea

According to the former Israeli prime minister, pulling out of the deal will set off a chain reaction throughout Asia and the Middle East, The New York Times reports

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak gives a speech at a security conference in Ramat Efal, Israel, June 19, 2017.
Ofer Vaknin

Former Prime Minister Ehud Barak warned the United States against pulling out of the international deal to curb Iran's nuclear program, The New York Times reported on Wednesday, a day before U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to decertify the 2015 agreement in an address to Congress. 

According to Barak, who also served as defense minister and is known for his hawkish views on Iran, scrapping the deal would not only play into Tehran's hands, it would also harm Washington's credibility in the eyes of North Korea.

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In an interview on Tuesday, Barak explained that since Tehran is holding up its end of the deal, Trump disavowing the agreement "would give the Iranians a pretext for resuming their drive toward a nuclear 'breakout' capability," The Times wrote.

North Korea, in turn, "will say it makes no sense negotiating with the Americans if they can pull out of a deal that has been signed, unilaterally, after a relatively short time," Barak continued.

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A renewed nuclear drive in Tehran and "an unconstrained North Korea," as the Times describes, would then set off a chain reaction in east Asia and the Middle East, with Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Japan and South Korea all under pressure to up their nuclear game.

Barak is not the first prominent Israeli to voice opposition to decertifying the nuclear deal. As Amos Harel reported in Haaretz on Tuesday, the Israel Defense Forces and Israel's intelligence agencies are aware of the risks that could ensue if Trump abandons the agreement.

Former Military Intelligence director Amos Yadlin, who currently heads Tel Aviv University’s Institute for National Security Studies, remains close to senior IDF officers, and his public statements often reflect the mood in the General Staff and the intelligence community. In an article published this week, Yadlin and Dr. Avner Golov argue that this isn't the moment to cancel the nuclear agreement.

A number of prominent critics of the 2015 deal and of the Obama administration's wider policy on Iran have also publicly stated that despite their objections, they believe Trump should keep the U.S. committed to the deal, as long as there is no clear evidence that Iran has breached it.

If Trump indeed decides to decertify the deal, but leaves it to Congress to decide whether or not to place sanctions on the Islamic Republic, the actual decision whether on not to put an end to the nuclear agreement would be delayed. It is possible that in such a scenario there will not be enough votes in the Senate, where republicans have a slim four-member majority, for imposing new sanctions, and thus the nuclear deal could be wounded, but not totally destroyed. 

Yet it is impossible to predict what exactly the Senate will do, and it is possible that if Trump chooses such a path, it would eventually lead to an American withdrawal from the deal and its possible collapse.