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Backing out of the Iran nuclear deal a bad diplomatic look for the U.S., a Mason professor says

May 9, 2018

Richard Kauzlarich

By pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, the United States, under the Trump administration, has shown it can be untrustworthy when it comes to upholding its treaty obligations, a George Mason University professor said.

“The only way you get things done internationally and diplomatically is to show you are trustworthy,” said Richard Kauzlarich, a former U.S. ambassador, and a distinguished visiting professor at George Mason’s Schar School of Policy and Government. “Part of that is following through on agreements that might have been negotiated by a previous administration and are otherwise, objectively, working.”

There has been an intense push from the administration to portray the seven-country deal, which tightly restricted Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for reduced economic sanctions, as a bad one for United States security interests.

Mason professor Jamil Jaffer, director of Mason’s National Security Law & Policy Program, said the deal was never worth doing for the United States because of its failure to address Iran’s support for international terrorism and ballistic missile development and testing.

“President Trump is doing the right thing by walking away from the deal and returning us to maximum leverage by reimposing sanctions now,” Jaffer said.

But Kauzlarich countered that the International Atomic Energy Agency has said Iran is in compliance with the deal.

“Now, what they are doing in Syria and supporting other groups like Hezbollah, that’s a problem for us,” Kauzlarich said. “But you don’t fix a problem by getting rid of the one thing that has Russia, China and the European allies together.”

Jamil Jaffer

That Trump has also pulled the United States out of the Paris climate accord and the Trans Pacific Partnership, and wants to renegotiate NAFTA, creates the perception the United States does not live up to its agreements, Kauzlarich said.

The diplomatic consequences of that are problematic, he said.

“This certainly sets back transatlantic relations,” Kauzlarich said, “and it makes it more difficult to take action against Iran should they violate the terms of the (nuclear) agreement, as it stands, without the U.S. And I don’t think we’re going to have that much help dealing with the nuclear issue in Korea if we show ourselves willing to pull out of an agreement hardly a couple of years into it.”

Richard Kauzlarich, former U.S. ambassador to Bosnia and Herzegovina and also to Azerbaijan, can be reached at 703-993-9652 or

Jamil Jaffer can be reached at 703-993-5620 or

For more information, contact Damian Cristodero at 703-993-9118 or

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George Mason University is Virginia’s largest public research university. Located near Washington, D.C., Mason enrolls 36,000 students from 130 countries and 49 states, including Washington, D.C. Mason has grown rapidly over the past half-century and is recognized for its innovation and entrepreneurship, remarkable diversity and commitment to accessibility.