NIAC Deplores Trump’s Push to Violate Iran Nuclear Deal

 

 

 

Washington, DC – Dr. Trita Parsi, President of the National Iranian American Council and author of Losing an Enemy: Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy, issued the following statement in response to President Trump’s speech withholding certification of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action:

“Trump’s speech was a national disgrace. This isn’t an effort to stiff a contractor over a real estate project, it’s a matter of war and peace. Donald Trump is in way over his head.

“Contrary to the reporting, Donald Trump is killing the deal – not in one move, but in several moves. First, Congress will attempt to kill it through deal-killing legislation from Tom Cotton. If that is blocked, Trump has vowed to kill it himself. Either way, the deal will get killed by this process triggered by Trump.

“Cotton’s legislation would seek to unilaterally rewrite the nuclear deal, an unequivocal violation of the agreement. A vote for that bill would be as significant as a vote for the 2002 war with Iraq.

“Trump is single handedly destroying U.S. credibility and all but guaranteeing that no country in their right mind would agree to a deal with the U.S. again. The U.S. has shredded alliances through go-it-alone approaches before, to disastrous effect. Trump’s has reduced America’s allies on Iran to just Benjamin Netanyahu and the Saudi royal family. Trump’s ‘coalition of the willing’ on Iran makes George W. Bush’s old coalition on Iraq look like a diplomatic masterstroke.

“The most insulting of Trump’s lies was when he sought to pass himself off as a champion of the Iranian people. As we speak, Trump is banning nearly all Iranians from the United States. The majority of people targeted by Trump’s Muslim ban are Iranian. Iranian Americans are being cut off from their family members in Iran thanks to Trump.

“Congress must step in and make it clear that it will restrain this President and that the U.S. is fully committed to upholding its word on the Iran deal.”

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Statement on Lawsuit Against Muslim Ban 3.0

For Immediate Release
 Contact: Shayan Modarres
202-379-1638
smodarres@niacouncil.org

Press Call Tomorrow on Two Lawsuits Filed on the Muslim Ban Expansion

Washington, DC – Today, Muslim Advocates, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and Covington & Burling LLP, in collaboration with the National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) and the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU, announced two lawsuits against the Trump administration’s latest efforts to unlawfully block the entry of Muslims into the United States and carry out President Trump’s long-promised Muslim ban.

For more information, please join a press call tomorrow, October 3 at 11am EST. Dial in 866-342-8591; Passcode “Muslim Ban 3”

About the Suits:

Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump

Iranian Alliances Across Borders v. Trump is the first major lawsuit to be filed against the latest iteration of the Muslim ban. It was filed in the U.S. District Court of the District of Maryland, Southern Division, on behalf of the Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) and six individual plaintiffs, all of whom are United States citizens or lawful permanent residents with Iranian relatives who will be blocked from coming to the United States when the latest Muslim ban goes fully into effect on October 18.

This legal action challenges President Trump’s September 24, 2017, Presidential Proclamation—which imposes broad restrictions on entry into the United States for nationals of several predominantly Muslim countries—as a violation of the United States Constitution and other federal laws.  

Brennan Center for Justice v. U.S. Department of State

Brennan Center for Justice v. U.S. Department of State was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to compel the Trump Administration to release critically important details on how it came to choose which countries would be covered by Muslim Ban 3.0.  

Over the summer, federal agencies purportedly conducted a worldwide review of visa issuance and data collection processes, the results of which determined which countries were included on the final list of banned countries in President Trump’s September 24 Proclamation. The process and results of that review have been completely hidden from public view, yet they are being used to determine the fate of millions of individuals across the world.

In July, a number of civil rights organizations, including the Brennan Center for Justice, Muslim Advocates, and Americans United, filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request on various “extreme vetting” measures enacted by the administration, including information regarding the worldwide review process. The administration has yet to comply with any part of that request, even though the statutory deadline for a response has long since passed. This litigation seeks immediate disclosure of just one element of this multi-part request: the report on the basis of which the Muslim Ban 3.0 countries were selected.  

According to Johnathan Smith, legal director of Muslim Advocates, “President Trump’s latest Muslim ban remains as unjust and unlawful as the prior versions. Banning people because of their religion or national origin doesn’t make our country safer; all it does is tear apart families and propagate bigotry and discrimination.  Through these two legal filings today, we seek to hold this administration accountable and make clear that no one  – including the President – is above the law. You shouldn’t have to file a lawsuit to see your fiancé or grandmother, but that’s what we have to do so our plaintiffs can be reunited with their loved ones.”

According to Shayan Modarres, legal counsel for the National Iranian American Council: “Iranian Americans, and other affected communities, have had to familiarize themselves with ambiguous new laws and policies every few months because of this president’s obsession with fulfilling a flawed campaign promise to ban Muslims from the United States. This erosion of fundamental American values must stop. We are using every tool and legal remedy available to us to stop xenophobia and bigotry from becoming the official immigration policy of the United States.”

According to Mana Kharraz, Executive Director of Iranian Alliances Across Borders: “Over the past year, our members have been subject to discrimination in their schools and subways. We have been separated from our loved ones and had to endure this administration’s continued campaign to divide our families. Our youth are witness to a rise in hatred that puts our country in jeopardy of ushering in a dark chapter of bigotry becoming US policy. We have a right to exist and be protected in the US without becoming pawns in an agenda that has little to do with safety and security.”

According to Richard B. Katskee, legal director of Americans United: “This is the third time that President Trump has tried to implement the Muslim ban, and it’s still designed to exclude people because of their religious beliefs. The only thing that’s really different here is that the Trump administration is now trying to make this appalling ban permanent. Religious freedom is about fairness. When we treat one group of people unfairly because of their religious beliefs, that’s a threat to the religious freedom of all Americans.”

According to Faiza Patel of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University:“We need more information on the president’s decision to blacklist certain countries. Given his repeated insistence that he wants to ban Muslims from the United States, we cannot take his word that the most recent version of the ban is motivated by national security considerations rather than prejudice.”  

Muslim Advocates is a national legal advocacy and educational organization that works on the frontlines of civil rights to guarantee freedom and justice for Americans of all faiths.

The National Iranian American Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization dedicated to strengthening the voice of Iranian Americans and promoting greater understanding between the American and Iranian people.

Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.

The Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law is a nonpartisan law and policy institute that seeks to improve our systems of democracy and justice.

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European Ambassadors Defend Iran Nuclear Deal

“This agreement is a success, “ asserted European Union Ambassador to the U.S. David O’Sullivan in defense of the Iran nuclear deal on Monday. “[It] needs to be maintained, nurtured, needs to be strictly scrutinized to make sure that everyone, and that includes all the people who signed up to this agreement, deliver on their commitments in order to make sure that this global public good of nonproliferation in the Middle East region is maintained.”
 
With just three weeks before the Trump Administration’s decision whether to certify if Iran has been compliant with the nuclear accord, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Atlantic Council hosted a panel of top European ambassadors to discuss their government’s views of the pending decision.
 
French Ambassador Gérard Araud called renegotiating the JCPOA “a nonstarter” and reaffirmed that France is willing to engage in further negotiations with Iran regarding their activities in the region, but would not reopen the nuclear deal. “We are willing to work with our allies here and in the region to be up to the Iranian challenge,” but “walking away from the deal would have serious consequences.”
 
Peter Wittig, the German Ambassador, cautioned those who are discussing withdrawing from the deal against undermining the West’s credibility in future diplomatic negotiations. “What kind of signal would this send to countries like North Korea? It would send the signal that diplomacy is not reliable, that you can’t trust diplomatic agreements,” he explained. “To those who advocate to walk away from this agreement, [you] have to come up with an alternative of how to prevent, in a peaceful way, resuming of Iranian nuclear and military capabilities,” something Germany does not believe is possible.
 
Sir Kim Darroch of the United Kingdom highlighted how the deal makes his country safer, and that “as long as the Iranians continue to comply with it, in the view of the IAEA, we will continue to support it.” He put a particular emphasis on the fact that representatives from the UK have been speaking avidly to members of Congress regarding this deal, trying to convince their counterparts to continue to comply with the deal by explaining how it is beneficial to the national security of the UK. Amb. Darroch also told the audience how May and Trump spent nearly half of a fifty-minute long meeting discussing ways to push back on Iran’s non-nuclear behavior, though still asserted that the deal should be maintained. According to Darroch, “In a sense, this administration has changed the climate on Iran…But let’s keep the JCPOA.”
 
Another important aspect of the deal, particularly for the Europeans, was the normalization of trade with Iran. Should Trump choose not to re-certify the deal, Congress will have the power to re-impose new sanctions on Iran under expedited procedure, which would risk breaking the already fragile business ties Iran has started to rebuild since the sanctions were lifted last year. When asked if this would affect European companies dealing with Iran, each ambassador reiterated their commitment to the deal, expounding on how the resuming of normalized trade with Iran has helped each of their economies. “I have no doubt that if this scenario materializes, which it’s not clear it will, the European Union will act to protect the legitimate interests of our companies with all the means at our disposal,” said Ambassador O’Sullivan.
 
Amb. Araud reminded the audience that when the US originally imposed sanctions on Iran and forced their European allies to comply, “the burden of the sanctions has been carried by the Europeans,” who, up to that point, had enjoyed a healthy trade relationship with Iran. Now that the sanctions have been lifted, he insisted that France was merely returning to the relationship they had before, a natural result of the deal. If the situation were to devolve into a crisis, Araud said that French companies would “[base] their decision on the basis of their own calculations of their interest.”
 

Amb. Wittig went a step further and explained the history of Iran and German relations, dating back to the Qajar dynasty. He voiced his support for the French Ambassador’s remarks regarding the normalization of trade with Iran, and described how German companies “have suffered billions and billions and billions of dollars because we imposed sanctions [on Iran].” He believes that through the normalization of economic ties with Iran and bringing them into the international economic fold, Western power can strengthen their political with the country to improve Iran’s relationship with the rest of the world over time. “Iran is a very vibrant civil society. It’s a very young society… It’s a country with a future, and we want this Iran to gradually move to our values, to our world view.”

 

NIAC Statement on IAEA Report Confirming Iran’s Compliance with the JCPOA

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jamal Abdi
Phone: 206-369-2069
Email: jabdi@niacouncil.org

  
  
Washington, D.C. – Jamal Abdi, Policy Director of the National Iranian American Council, issued the following statement after reports indicated that the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) issued a quarterly report once again affirming Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), or Iran nuclear deal:

“The IAEA has once again affirmed what everyone outside of the White House appears to know: that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal. There is a reason why Trump can’t point to any specific evidence to justify his assertions that Iran is noncompliant with the nuclear accord. The IAEA, U.S. intelligence community and our allies in the P5+1 have all affirmed Iran’s compliance. Yet, Trump has violated the JCPOA and continues to hold the fate of the accord in doubt by threatening to withhold a Congressionally-mandated certification of Iran’s compliance in mid-October, which would trigger expedited consideration of snapback sanctions.

“While Iran continues to abide by its nuclear commitments, the evidence is mounting that the U.S. is trying to unilaterally withdrawal from the JCPOA. There appears to be little other way to explain Amb. Nikki Haley’s efforts to stir up controversy in the media over IAEA inspections of non-nuclear military sites in Iran, while at the same time reportedly abstaining from presenting any evidence to justify such inspections at her meeting with the IAEA in Vienna. As IAEA officials affirmed, the agency isn’t going to conduct such activities just to send a political signal, so the administration should halt its efforts to politicize their work.

“The JCPOA is working. Barring any unforeseen events, Iran will be adhering to it on October 15. The Trump administration must halt its transparently political efforts to subvert an accord that is blocking Iran’s pathways to a nuclear weapon and forestalling a disastrous war.”

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4th Circuit Issues Biggest Blow Yet to Trump’s Muslim Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Shayan Modarres
Phone: 202 386-6325
Email: smodarres@niacouncil.org

Washington, D.C.  –– The National Iranian American Council issued the following statement in response to the decision today by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals upholding the lower court nationwide freeze of President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban:

“The National Iranian American Council (NIAC) applauds the decision of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to uphold the lower court ruling. While fundamental American values of liberty and freedom were under attack by the Executive branch with complicity from the Legislative branch of government, the Judicial branch intervened and upheld the promise of America.

“In the wake of January 27, 2017, the day that will be remembered in history as the day America imposed a Muslim ban, Iranian-Americans became a community in crisis. In almost any airport across the country, you could find absolute chaos, phones ringing off the hook, lawyers huddled around on the ground rushing to type up habeus motions, hundreds of demonstrators, and hundreds of thousands of people in a state of confusion. NIAC, Iranian American Bar Association (IABA), Public Affairs Alliance of Iranian Americans (PAAIA), and Pars Equality Center took on the role of first responders for our community.

“When we filed our lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the Muslim ban in court, we set out with the goal of completely dismantling what we believed was an unconstitutional and unabashed attempt by the President to fulfill a campaign promise of banning Muslims from our country.

“The product of a hurried effort to get a cheap political win for the President, written by shockingly inexperienced and unqualified advisors in the White House, resulted in an executive order that was almost immediately enjoined by the courts as likely unconstitutional.

“The second attempt at a Muslim ban did not fare much better, being enjoined by United States District Courts in Hawaii and Maryland.

“While dozens of challenges to the Muslim ban were filed, the Iranian American community was the community most impacted by the ban – we stood unified and filed our own lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ban. Inspired by the stories of Iranian individuals that we spent hours talking to and drafting declarations on behalf of, we meticulously developed a factual record of ongoing harm to our community. Judge Tanya S. Chutkan granted our communities’ request to present live testimony, and we became the first case in the country to provide the court with in-person testimony about how this ban affected our community.

“While Judge Chutkan ultimately exercised judicial restraint in favor of the two nationwide injunctions already in place, she too was “inclined to agree” with the Iranian-American community that this executive order was unconstitutional.

“We are pleased with the outcome, but recognize that there is no time to breathe a sigh of relief as long as this administration decides that it wants to continue down the path of targeting Iranians and Muslims – and as long as Congress passively allows for the erosion of our country’s values and institutions. We are fully prepared to fight relentlessly, for as long as it takes, until we are viewed not as the “other,” but as Americans.”

# # # 

 

NIAC Statement on Trump Administration’s Iran Sanctions Designations

Press Release

 

 

 
 
The National Iranian American Council issued the following statement on the Trump administration’s imposition of new sanctions on Iran following its ballistic missile test:

“The Trump administration is following a dangerous escalatory path with Iran without any diplomatic approach or exit strategy. It’s far easier to provoke crises on Twitter than to de-escalate them. A real diplomatic channel with Iran is needed to maximize U.S. national security.

“While the Trump administration’s designations are consistent with actions previously taken by the Obama administration in that they do not appear to violate the nuclear accord, the Obama administration had established channels for de-escalation and had conducted extensive relationship building with their Iranian counterparts. That enabled the previous administration to pressure Iran without risking a crisis that could spiral out of control. The Trump administration has not done so, and does not appear interested in doing so. Sooner or later, given the numerous tensions with Iran around the region, this escalatory dynamic risks spiraling into war.

“The Trump administration and Congress now need to hold their fire. No amount of sanctions designations will convince Iran to part with a missile program it believes  is vital to its defense doctrine, particularly when Iran is vastly outspent militarily by rivals like Saudi Arabia and is being threatened by a superpower in the United States.

“While the Trump administration seems to put a premium on the security of Saudi Arabia – a key source of funding for Jihadi terrorist organizations like ISIS and Al-Qaeda – it does not lie in the interest of the United States to be dragged into a war with Iran on behalf of the Saudi kingdom.

“Moreover, we have seen sanctions result in escalation previously, as well. After recent designations under the Obama administration, Iran directed its military to expand its missile development in defiance to the United States.

“If the Trump administration steps away from threats and hostile rhetoric, it could find Iran willing to discuss key security issues. However, by leading with bombast and threats, it is undercutting the vital work from the previous administration to build some trust and move away from a collision course toward war.”

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NIAC Calls for Grace Period on Inhumane Trump Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jamal Abdi
Email: jabdi@niacouncil.org

Washington, DC – The National Iranian American Council issued the following statement calling for a grace period on President Trump’s ban on nationals of Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen so that they can be reunited with their families:

With more and more reports of visa holders and lawful permanent residents being detained at U.S. airports, the horrific nature of Trump’s Muslim ban is fully apparent for the entire world to see. Families are being ripped apart without warning and with no assurance of when they will be reunited. Students traveling abroad at the time of the ban are horrified that they might not be able to return to continue their studies. Children are being detained along with their parents when they were just seeking to return home. This is a dark day in the history of this country.

If the Trump administration has any shred of humanity and decency, it will institute a grace period without delay in order to enable all lawful permanent residents, dual nationals and visa holders from Iran and the other targeted countries to return to the United States to reunite with their families and return to their daily lives. Anything less is a complete disgrace.

NIAC will continue to fight to overturn this unjust and inhumane ban on Iranians and other nationals.

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The New Playbook to Kill the Iran Nuclear Deal

Under the Obama administration, Iran hawks have been free to attack the Iran nuclear deal without fear that they would actually succeed in violating U.S. commitments – and triggering consequences from an unfettered Iranian nuclear program to an all out war. No matter what they proposed – from “tearing the deal to shreds” to blocking promised sanctions relief, they knew Obama would block them from translating their rhetoric into policy. But with this dynamic set to end in January under the Trump administration, many of the fiercest critics of the nuclear deal are suddenly warning against killing it directly. Instead, they are leaning in favor of an indirect approach of escalating pressure on Iran, including through sanctions with a “non-nuclear” label, in hopes of driving Iran to quit the agreement. While this approach might appear more attractive at first glance, it in fact carries the same risks of the U.S. unilaterally violating the agreement.

If Trump moves to snap back sanctions in blatant violation of the accord while Iran is upholding it, the international coalition that has enforced sanctions against Iran would fracture, and Iran would be free to withdraw from its obligations and advance its nuclear program. With a divided international community, the U.S. would have little diplomatic leverage with its spurned partners – let alone Iran – leaving only dire military options. Hence, those critics suddenly cautioning about the dangers of backing out of the deal include Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN), who has stated “I don’t think [Trump] will tear it up and I don’t think that’s the way to start.” The President of the hawkish United Against Nuclear Iran, David Ibsen, has also warned “You don’t want all the blame for the deal falling apart to land on the U.S.”

Read the rest of this article on TopTopic.com.

Trump: Using Ahmadinejad’s Playbook

Iranian and American politics might have more in common than you think.


Sometimes, Washington can be a strange place. A growing chorus of voices warns of dire consequences should Republican Donald Trump win the presidency, but few beltway insiders give him a realistic chance of victory. Many Iranians around the world think differently. For months, we’ve dissected the stylistic similarities between Trump and former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Equally important, but less understood, is Trump’s use of Ahmadinejad’s playbook from his 2005 presidential campaign. I was in Iran for that election eleven years ago, and a familiar confluence of factors that catapulted Ahmadinejad to the presidency has thus far provided Trump with a legitimate shot at winning in November.

Iranian voters were a largely disenchanted electorate in 2005. The reform movement had been stymied, and a sizeable portion of Iranian society failed to see their economic lot improve despite the country’s soaring oil revenues. Enter Ahmadinejad: His populist platform criticized Iran’s political elites for using their power to monopolize wealth, and promised to create new opportunities for the average Ali—an Iranian version of “Make America Great Again.” Ahmadinejad’s top challenger, former President Akbar Rafsanjani, said he would continue reforms, support a nuclear deal, and stimulate economic growth—all things that most Iranians view favorably, and similar to the status-quo platform of Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

And yet, most Iranians rebuffed Rafsanjani. They largely ignored warnings from establishment politicians that Ahmadinejad had plans to “bring a Taliban-like government into office.” For voters, his anti-establishment message on a rigged system and job creation resonated more. Ahmadinejad framed the election as a choice between an ordinary citizen who understood the common man’s struggles, or Rafsanjani the father of corruption in Iran—an Iranian version of “Crooked Hillary”: Dishonest, untrustworthy, beholden to moneyed interests, and exactly how Trump portrays Clinton. Her campaign is warning American voters that Trump is a “loose cannon” that “can’t be trusted.” It remains to be seen whether scare tactics are more useful today than they were eleven years ago in Iran.

Trump’s policy positions have been short on detail, so it’s almost impossible to nail down what his presidential doctrine might be. His talking points, however, have been consistent: Anti-trade, anti-war, and extreme right wing on everything else—a potentially huge, untapped voter demographic. Like Ahmadinejad in 2005, Trump is deriving the benefits of running on an anti-establishment platform while quietly forging working relationships with individuals who personify the establishment—and in many ways have been responsible for the policies that he rails against. Ahmadinejad was never forced to overcome this basic contradiction, and thus far, it looks like Trump will get a free ride as well.

The aforementioned disenchantment amongst the Iranian electorate in 2005 not only heightened Ahmadinejad’s allure, but also helped drive down voter turnout. When he emerged victorious, Iranians were ultimately forced to accept that he was able to appeal to the majority of voters who went to the polls. Only 63 percent of eligible voters participated, and that number dipped to 60 percent in the second round—a significant drop off from the more than 80 percent who cast their ballots in 1997 when Khatami was elected, and the 72 percent when Rouhani was elected in 2013. Eleven years ago, millions of Iranian voters decided to stay home on election day, and that ended up hurting moderate and reformist candidates.

In the democratic primary, Clinton’s eventual nomination started as forgone conclusion but became hotly contested because a previously unknown senator from Vermont garnered 12 million votes on a different kind of anti-establishment platform—Sanders was like Batman, Trump is like The Joker. By preying on voter disenchantment Ahmadinejad-style, Trump is banking on low voter turnout and convincing Sanders supporters to choose him over Clinton. If her campaign doesn’t win over and mobilize progressive Democrats, they might stay home in November, much like Iranian reformist voters did eleven years ago. The fact that Trump is polarizing at Ahmadinejad-levels doesn’t guarantee high voter turnout, and thus her campaign doesn’t inherently operate from a position of strength.

To hear the Clinton campaign tell it, they understand that high voter turnout increases their odds of success, but we’ve yet to see the kind of game-changing action that would ensure voters flock to the polls. For example, she has denounced the campaign finance system predicated on Wall Street donors and Super PACs, but she’s also using it to bankroll her election. Short of choosing anti-corruption crusaders Bernie Sanders or Elizabeth Warren as her vice president, it’s hard to see how Clinton can connect with reform-minded voters in anti-establishment election cycle—a similar predicament faced by Iranian moderates and reformists eleven years ago.

The Iranian electorate was divided in 2005, and voters neither followed their leaders nor were they averse to radical change. Fast-forward eleven years, and the American electorate may be in a similar place. Like Ahmadinejad, Trump has locked in his base of ultra-conservative voters, tapped into a large pool of economically disillusioned voters, and won over anti-establishment votes. It remains to be seen if American voters will learn from the experiences of their Iranian counterparts. Whether or not Clinton’s campaign internalizes the experiences of Iranian reformist and moderate politicians in 2005 could go a long way toward determining the result on election day.

This piece originally appeared in The Cairo Review.

The Iran Deal Worked

– Here’s How to Make It Even More Effective


A year has passed since diplomats from Iran and the P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States; plus Germany) defied conventional wisdom and struck a deal aimed at both preventing Iran from getting the bomb and preventing it from getting bombed. At the time, the deal’s detractors were apoplectic; Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called it a “historic mistake” that would pave the way for Iran to obtain a bomb. But the world has not come to an end. Iran is not the hegemon of the Middle East, Israel can still be found on the map, and Washington and Tehran still define each other as enemies. These days, voices such as Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti-Defamation League, criticize the deal for having changed too little.
 
But a closer examination shows that it has had a profound impact on the region’s geopolitical dynamics. Only four years ago, the Iranian nuclear program was consistently referred to as the United States’ number one national security threat. Senior U.S. officials put the risk of an Israeli attack on Iran at 50–50, a confrontation that the United States would quickly get dragged into. A war that was even more destabilizing than the Iraq invasion was not just a possibility; it seemed likely.
 
Today, however, the talk of war is gone. Even the hawkish government of Netanyahu has gone silent on the matter. Former Defense Minister Moshe Yaalon, a hawk in his own right, announced a few weeks ago that “at this point, and in the foreseeable future, there is no existential threat facing Israel. Thus it is fitting that the leadership of the country stop scaring the citizenry and stop giving them the feeling that we are standing before a second Holocaust.”
 
Moreover, members of the U.S. Congress who have recently visited Israel have also noted that Israelis are no longer shifting every conversation to a discussion about the Iranian nuclear threat. “I can’t count how many times I, and many members of Congress, were urgently and passionately informed that negotiation with the Iranian menace was wishful thinking and the height of folly,” Representative Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) wrote after a recent visit to Israel. “And now? Nothing.”
 
The nuclear deal has thus halted the march toward war and Iran’s progress toward a bomb. And that certainly qualifies as significant change. To continue to argue that Israel and the region are not safer as a result of the deal would be to contend that Iran’s nuclear program was never a threat to begin with. That is a not a position that the Likud government in Israel can argue with a straight face.
 
Other criticisms of the deal centered on predictions that Iran would not honor the agreement. Yet the International Atomic Energy Agency has reported that Iran is abiding by its obligations under the deal. Also not borne out have been prophecies that Iran’s regional policies would radicalize, that the deal would, as The Heritage Foundation’s James Phillips wrote, “project [American] weakness that could further encourage Iranian hardliners.” To be sure, Washington continues to view many of Iran’s regional activities as unhelpful and destabilizing, but those activities have not increased as a result of the nuclear deal. Hezbollah and Tehran’s posture toward Israel has, for instance, not become more aggressive than it already was. Any changes that have occurred have been rooted in regional developments—the Syrian civil war or the Saudi assault on Yemen—rather than the nuclear deal. Important developments in Syria, such as Russia’s broader entry into the war or Iran’s maneuvers on the ground, are divorced from the nuclear deal and directly tied to developments on the ground in Syria.
 
If anything, as the European Union’s foreign policy head, Federica Mogherini, told me last December, the deal paved the way for renewed dialogue on Syria, which offers a glimmer of hope to end the carnage there. “What we have now in Syria—talks bringing together all the different actors (and we have it now and not last year)—is because we had the [nuclear] deal,” she told me. And last month, U.S. Secretary Of State John Kerry stated that Iran has been “helpful” in Iraq, where both the United States and Iran are fighting the Islamic State (ISIS).
 
It is undisputable that outside of the nuclear deal, the relationship between the United States and Iran has shifted significantly since the breakthrough. That became abundantly clear in January, when ten American sailors drifted into Iranian waters and were apprehended by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps—and were then promptly released. An incident that in the pre-deal era likely would have taken months, if not years, to resolve was now settled in 16 hours. Direct diplomacy between Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif combined with a mutual desire to resolve the matter quickly made all the difference. The two countries had embarked on a path that could transform their relationship, and both were too committed to that path to allow the incident to fester. “I was afraid that this [the sailors’ arrest] would jeopardize everything, not just the implementation [of the JCPOA],” Zarif admitted to me.
 
But for relations to improve beyond the nuclear deal, moderate elements on both sides need to be strengthened by the deal. That is one area where the skepticism of the critics may have been justified. Rather than seeing the government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani gain momentum after the deal, the pushback from Iranian hardliners has been fierce. Those officials couldn’t prevent Iran from signing the agreement, but they could create enough problems to halt any effort to translate the nuclear deal into a broader opening to the United States. A swift crackdown against individuals and entities seeking to build bridges between Iran and the West had its intended effect: Confidence that the nuclear deal would usher in a new era for U.S.-Iranian relations quickly plummeted.
 
Moreover, challenges to sanctions relief has given hardline opponents of the deal in Iran a boost. Their critique of the agreement—that the United States is not trustworthy—seems to ring true since no major banks have been willing to enter the Iranian market. The banks’ hesitation, in turn, is mainly rooted in the fear that after the U.S. presidential elections, Washington’s political commitment to the deal will wane.
 
Neither Republican candidate Donald Trump nor Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton have signaled any desire to continue down the Obama administration’s path with Iran in general. Clinton has vowed to uphold the deal, but neither she nor Trump have made it crystal clear that they will protect the agreement from new congressional sanctions or other measures that would cause the deal’s collapse.
 
Clinton’s team has signaled that its priority will be to rebuild relations with Israel and Saudi Arabia and restore those allies’ confidence that the United States will counter Iran in the region. Meanwhile, the uncertainty around a Trump presidency needs no explaining. As a result, many banks deem the risk of entering the Iranian market too high due to the political challenges on the U.S. side. That has left Iranians without much in the way of sanctions relief, which is in turn costing Rouhani politically.
 
In other words, although the deal has been remarkably successful in achieving its explicit goals—halting, and even reversing, Iran’s nuclear advances while avoiding a costly and risky war with Tehran—its true value in rebalancing U.S. relationships in the Persian Gulf and creating a broader opening with Iran may be squandered once Obama leaves office. If Obama’s successor returns to the United States’ old ways in the Middle East while hardliners in Tehran stymie outreach to the West, these unique and historic opportunities will be wasted.
 
This piece originally appeared in Foreign Affairs.