Michael Klare is The Nation’s defense correspondent and a professor of peace and world-security studies at Hampshire College. He’s written 14 books on international energy and security affairs, including, most recently, The Race for What’s Left. This interview has been condensed and edited.
Jon Wiener: In the wake of Trump’s pulling out of the Iran treaty, there is some talk that Europe could still maintain the deal with Iran to monitor its nuclear capabilities, and that Trump might, over the long term, renegotiate this treaty in some way. What do you think?
Michael Klare: I don’t think there’s really a happy outcome from this. I don’t see some way in which Europe can rescue the Iran nuclear deal at this point. Trump says that he wants new negotiations with the Iranians for a totally new deal. I don’t think that’s in the cards at all. We’re going to see very tough sanctions on Iran. And I don’t think the Europeans will be able to protect their companies from the effects of US sanctions, so they will have to quit trading with Iran. And if the Iranians move to restart their nuclear-enrichment program, the next step is war.
JW: The Iran nuclear agreement has been a great success over the past three years. The UN nuclear agency has a monitoring station outside of Vienna where they get live video from inside Iran’s once-secret uranium-enrichment plants. Every week, scientists analyze dust samples collected from across Iran, looking for minute particles that could reveal possible cheating. There are UN inspection teams on the ground in Iran who work every day of the year checking and rechecking the nuclear facilities there, investigating tips that something might be going on. All of this has stopped Iranian nuclear enrichment.
MK: That’s correct. And it’s not just the International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors—the UN and the Europeans also say that Iran is fully compliant. It’s the top American intelligence officials as well. Mike Pompeo and Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence, have testified as recently as last month that, so far as they know, Iran is in full compliance with the agreement. There’s no evidence whatsoever of Iranian cheating on the deal.
JW: How unusual is this degree of scrutiny of Iran’s nuclear program?
MK: This is the most intrusive inspection regime ever mounted by the international community. There’s never been anything this intrusive in terms of the number of inspectors, the number of inspections, the constant intrusion into Iran’s nuclear facilities. Aside from the issues covered by the agreement, Donald Trump complains that Iran is engaged in other activities that he finds offensive—like ballistic-missile testing, like supporting Hezbollah in Lebanon and the Houthis in Yemen. The Europeans and others also object to those activities, but they are not covered by the deal that the United States signed. So Trump can’t say that those are in fact infractions of the deal.