Through the Diplomacy Works initiative, we’re working to provide timely information and analysis about diplomatic solutions to global challenges. Diplomacy Works was launched in 2017 with a focus on the Iran nuclear deal. We’re now excited to expand the effort to cover a broader range of issues including nuclear nonproliferation on the Korean peninsula and America’s relationships with our European allies. For more information, check out our issue pages and make sure you sign up for our Weekly Digests here.
IRan Nuclear Deal
In 2015, American diplomats – in conjunction with France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and China – negotiated a binding agreement with Iran to block its pathways to obtaining a nuclear weapon called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Before the agreement, Iran was only 2-3 months away from developing a nuclear weapon and many feared the only other alternative to stop Iran would be to launch a new war. But over months and years, a team led by Secretary of State John Kerry and Under Secretary of State Wendy Sherman achieved a historic agreement that would ensure Iran’s nuclear program remains exclusively peaceful in exchange for nuclear-related sanction relief from the international community .
Building a nuclear bomb requires either uranium or plutonium, but thanks to the deal, all of Iran’s pathways to a bomb are blocked. It has reduced its stockpile of enriched uranium by 98% and has kept the level of enrichment at or below 3.67% — significantly below the enrichment level needed to create the fissile material needed for a bomb. In report after report, the International Atomic Energy Agency — the UN-backed organization that conducts 24-hour monitoring of Iran’s nuclear sites — has confirmed that the country is complying with all aspects of the agreement.
But on May 8th, 2018, President Trump violated the agreement by withdrawing the United States from its commitments under the deal by reimplementing nuclear-related sanctions. By taking that action, Trump sparked new tensions with our European allies — who are in full support of the deal — and even threatened to sanction European companies that didn’t also break their commitments. While the deal remains in force despite the United States’ efforts to undermine it, the risk that Iran pursues a nuclear weapon – or that the US goes to war to stop it – have escalated dramatically.
To learn more about the Iran Deal, click here.
NOrth Korea’s Nuclear Program
The North Korean nuclear program poses a serious threat to the security of its neighbors South Korea and Japan, to the United States, and to the world. The North Korean regime currently possesses an estimated 10-20 nuclear warheads and enough fissile material for 30-60 weapons. After a series of missile launches by North Korea, President Trump’s escalating rhetoric led many to fear he would launch military attacks – a step experts warned could spark a catastrophic conflict that would lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in South Korea in a matter of days.
In late Spring 2018, the Trump Administration launched new talks with the regime, led by then CIA Director Mike Pompeo. The talks led quickly to a summit that took place in June in Singapore between President Trump and Kim Jong Un, as well as subsequent steps to diffuse tensions between the two sides. At the same time, the administration’s campaign of “maximum pressure” – a regime of international sanctions applied by even North Korea’s closest ally, China – remains in place.
So far, there are few signs that North Korea has taken steps to halt or roll back its nuclear program. Many fear that, given the President’s temperament and the administration’s history of undermining diplomacy, that it will once again embrace unilateralism and a path toward military conflict.
To learn more about North Korea’s nuclear program, click here.
As the United States continues to face pressing challenges on a global scale – from China embracing its role as a future superpower, to an unstable Middle East, and a resurgent Russia working to destabilize its neighbors – we must remain committed to our oldest and strongest allies in Europe, who share our commitment to democracy and the rule of law. The most important example of that alliance is NATO – the North Atlantic Treaty Organization – arguably the most successful military alliance in the history of the world.
But instead of working together with these partners – to roll back Iran’s nuclear program or pressure China to halt its practices of corporate espionage – the administration has attacked the NATO alliance and isolated the U.S. on the world stage. President Trump raised doubts about our commitment to NATO’s Article V, which says an attack on one is an attack on all, before finally reconfirming U.S. commitments. He walked away from the Paris climate agreement. In Germany, the U.S. Ambassador called for far right opposition to the sitting governments. Most recently, he threatened to sanction European banks that continue to comply with the Iran nuclear deal. As the U.S. faces up to major global challenges, including the rise of China and the threat of climate change, there is a growing risk that we will face those challenges alone.
For more on America’s transatlantic alliances, click here.