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Locals react to Iran deal withdrawal

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Local scientist, former LANL director, state politicians react to Trump’s decision

By Tris DeRoma

In an 11 minute speech Tuesday from the White House, President Donald Trump dismantled the United States’ 2015 nuclear accord with Iran, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, calling Iran “the leading state sponsor of terror,” and that the deal with Iran created under the Obama Administration was “defective at it’s core.”

Dr. Siegfried Hecker, a former Los Alamos National Laboratory director and senior fellow with the Center for International Security and Cooperation, told the Stanford News Service Tuesday that in spite of Trump’s announcement, there’s still a chance Iran will honor the deal – with or without U.S. approval.

“I don’t see Iran making a mad dash for nuclear weapons to respond to the U.S. withdrawal,” Hecker told the Stanford News Service. “The country has too much to lose. Tehran could decide to keep the essence of the deal with the other countries and isolate the U.S. It may find that it will get adequate sanctions relief from the other countries in spite of U.S. pressure. That may be sufficient for Iran to continue to honor its nuclear deal commitments for now.”

T. Douglas Reilly, a retired Los Alamos National Laboratory physicist who worked at the lab for 38 years, was devastated by the news Tuesday.

Reilly, who worked with the International Atomic Energy Agency in the field of nuclear safeguards and nonproliferation of and on while he was at LANL, started to sob over the news.

“I’m proud of what I’ve done,” Reilly said through his tears.

When asked if his reaction was based on the president’s announcement Tuesday morning, he was thoughtful.

“I suppose, but really I’m just crying because  so much of what I hear is the ignorance of how good these things are. It is totally based on political motives.”

Some of the main reasons Trump criticized the accord as lacking measurable data to show Iran was not pursuing a nuclear weapons program.

“Without being pejorative, it is incorrect,” Reilly said. “The inspection provisions are extremely good. Let me just leave it at that.”

Reilly went on to say that while preventing Iran from making technology that would create nuclear weapons, is important, it’s not the whole picture.

“This is my field. I have studied the agreement. I have worked with the IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency) for 40 years or more. The inspector who heads the inspection group is an old and dear friend. They are damn good. This is an agreement that’s far better than I ever expected,” Reilly said. “Most of what has been on the media deals with (Iran’s) centrifuges. The most important thing was repurposing the Arak reactor. Other than power, it’s identical to Israel’s Dimona reactor, which makes plutonium for nuclear weapons. If you leave it to do other things, they cannot make plutonium. More than 90 percent of the nuclear weapons ever made in the world use plutonium, not enriched uranium.”

New Mexico’s congressional delegation was quick to respond Tuesday to Trump’s decision.

Republican Congressman Steve Pearce (CD-2) lauded the news, calling the Iran deal “dangerous.”

“We cannot in good faith sit back and enable the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism to continue their illicit activities,” Pearce said. “Moving forward, we must work with our allies to prevent nuclear research, development, testing, and production in Iran, while also stifling the rouge state’s ability to finance and support terror around the world.”

U.S. Sen. Martin Heinrich (D-NM) said backing out of the agreement will just promote religious extremism and make the nation more dangerous and unpredictable.

“The President just handed religious extremists in Iran’s government a major victory,” Heinrich said. “Leaving the Iran deal, green lights the country’s nuclear program, jeopardizes our credibility, and threatens our nation’s security. It also exposes our allies and weakens our ability to forge future multilateral agreements.”

U.S. Sen. Tom Udall said Trump has damaged America’s standing in the world as a result of the withdrawal.

“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran deal is a dangerous mistake that will do grave damage to our global standing and our efforts to stop a nuclear Iran,” Udall said. “The president calls himself a dealmaker – but on one of the most consequential decisions of his presidency, all President Trump has shown is that he can tear up a good deal without any backup plan or feasible path to a better deal.”