What is intriguing about the poll of 2,159 registered voters — conducted by Harris for CAPS, the Center for American Political Studies at Harvard University — is its mix of demographics and political parties. Thirty-six percent were Democrat, 32 percent Republican, 28 percent independent and 4 percent from other parties. Of those polled, 85 percent of Republicans, 71 percent of independents and 57 percent of Democrats said the deal should be renegotiated.
This highlights several critical issues. It is not only American politicians on both sides of the aisle who argue that the current terms of the nuclear agreement are faulty, but regular citizens also support such an argument.
This can have significant policy implications for the Trump administration with regards to implementing its Iran strategy.
The support from both the Congress and the American people grants President Donald Trump much more leverage to continue with his position toward the Iranian regime, and to renegotiate the deal. In fact, if the Trump administration were to succeed in revoking the current deal and negotiating a new one with a more efficient mechanism to monitor the Iranian regime’s nuclear program, his popular vote would go up.
On the other hand, in the eyes of the majority of the American people, maintaining the current nuclear deal would point to Trump’s failure in conducting a successful and informed foreign policy toward Tehran’s regime.
In addition, the 70 percent support for renegotiating the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action indicates that despite Hassan Rouhani’s Machiavellian smiles and soft tone on the international stage, the American people do not trust the regime or buy its lies. It is the underlying ideology of the Iranian regime that continues to peek out, showing its true face as an untrustworthy player.
People can see the nuclear agreement did not “positively contribute to regional and international peace and security,” as it claimed. Iran’s military influence, expansion and interventions have increased since the nuclear agreement, in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Most recently Iranian diplomats were caught and expelled from Kuwait for links to spying and terror by trying to create proxies in Kuwait. With the newfound sanctions relief and rising oil prices, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has more money than ever to spend on its allies, including Syrian President Bashar Assad, and its militias.
People can see that the nuclear deal has not made America and the world safer. It has not served US national interests either. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and the senior ranks of the IRGC have ratcheted up anti-American sentiments and policies. This includes Iranian vessels approaching and harassing US Navy ships in an aggressive and unsafe manner, detaining and humiliating US navy sailors, spreading their videos on almost every social media platform, and arresting more Iranian-Americans. The Islamic Republic backs almost more than half of the region’s militias, and Tehran supports militias whose core mission is to harm Americans and harm US national security interests. What Daesh does appears to be done on a larger scale by the IRGC.
A new poll of US voters of all political persuasions gives Donald Trump the support he needs to take a tough line with Iran.
Dr. Majid Rafizadeh
Furthermore, the poll shows that majority of Americans believe the Iranian regime has already violated the deal. Harvard-Harris co-director Mark Penn said: “Americans see Iran as a bad actor on all fronts and substantial majorities believe this agreement is being violated and never should have gone into effect without a Senate vote.”
This is not only imaginary thinking among the public. There is proof. According to German intelligence, the Iranian regime has attempted to buy nuclear technology 32 times since 2015. Obtaining nuclear or ballistic missile technology is in direct violation of the nuclear deal. The Iranian regime has also exceeded the limits in heavy water, which can be used for developing nuclear bombs, several times.
More fundamentally, the poll reveals that majority of the voters believe that the Iran nuclear deal should be approved by the Senate. This means that it would require a two-thirds Senate majority, according to the US constitution. This is intriguing because Barack Obama and John Kerry skirted the public and the Senate by labeling the nuclear agreement as a “political agreement” rather than a treaty. The nuclear agreement with Iran should be regarded as a treaty.
Congressmen should pursue the demands of the majority of their constituents, which is renegotiating the nuclear deal. They can pass related legislation, which would strengthen Trump’s position with other members of the P5+1 to make the JCPOA better. If the Iranian regime does not agree to such an initiative, then the Congress has solid grounds to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions.
In a nutshell, the American public, which was in favor of the nuclear agreement in 2015, has realized that the Iranian regime is manipulating the world. Their strong opinions against the nuclear agreement are striking. The Trump administration should grasp this opportunity of strong public support to advance his Iran strategy. This can raise his popular vote and be his foreign policy accomplishment and legacy.
• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh