Last Friday, Donald Trump made a hard-hitting speech demonizing Iran. This shouldn’t have come as a surprise considering candidate Trump made it quite clear that he despised Iran. Prior to that, he had spent the last few years criticizing Barack Obama for entering into a nuclear agreement with the Iranian government. President Trump has now further intensified his stance, threatening to derail the deal multiple times before announcing his plan to “decertify” Iran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).
Donald Trump has vehemently voiced his opposition to the JCPOA over the course of the last few years. “The Iran deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States ever entered into,” is just one of Trump’s lamentations. He also called it an “embarrassment” and a “catastrophe,” at one point stating it was “incompetently negotiated.”
For the sake of this contention, let’s accept Trump’s assertion that the JCPOA is one of the “worst” and most “one-sided transactions” the U.S. has ever been a party to. If this is true, the simple solution would be to exit the deal completely.
So why hasn’t he exited the deal? The president has been in office since January, has been bashing Iran the entire time, and has flirted with demolishing the JCPOA numerous times. Yet the U.S. is still a party to this deal (remember, it’s one of the worst deals of all time).
“Accounts from inside the White House suggest that it’s supposed to be a kind of Goldilocks compromise: a move that would prevent Trump from having to regularly certify that the Iran deal is working, which wounds his pride given how publicly he’s criticized it, while simultaneously avoiding the potentially catastrophic consequences of quitting the Iran deal.”
If anything, President Trump is actually still acting well within the scope of the agreement – certainly not outside of it. As Vox explained further:
“Decertification, on its own, does not put the US in violation of this deal, because it doesn’t reimpose sanctions. There’s nothing in the text of the deal itself…that requires the American president to certify that Iran is complying with the deal’s terms.”
In other words, this deal is so bad that Donald Trump has decided to act completely within its framework and do nothing concrete to exit it.
The deal itself was formed with the help of China, Russia, France, the U.K., and Germany. In that sense, Trump has very few allies who openly want to see the Iran deal fail. Even among the most anti-Iranian hawks out there, there are none who support Trump’s position on this agreement. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May gave a scathing speech against Iran earlier this year, and yet she, too, has warned against derailing the deal.
Russia has not been impressed with Trump’s self-proclaimed ability to cancel agreements if he so chooses. Nor has Angela Merkel, Emmanuel Macron, and current High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Federica Mogherini.
Even Trump’s own anti-Iranian advisors such as Rex Tillerson, General H.R. McMaster, and James Mattis all disagree with Trump’s position on the JCPOA. It was Mattis and Tillerson who had to try to convince Trump to certify Iran’s compliance in July of this year, which enraged the president.
But distancing himself from Obama’s “failures,” opposing Iran at every turn, and threatening to dismantle the JCPOA have been major elements of Trump’s foreign policy.
For those who enjoy fact-based assessments, when it comes to deals the U.S. has entered into, the JCPOA is without a doubt one of the most effective in recent history. If the aim of U.S. foreign policy is to prevent a rival nation like Iran from possessing nuclear weapons, to avoid a war with said nation, and to give some peace of mind to America’s closest allies in the region, the JCPOA is remarkably effective. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has found that Iran is in full compliance with the agreement. It has dismantled thousands of its centrifuges and moved as far away from building a nuclear weapon as possible.
In contrast, backing Iran into a corner can only have one effect: an Islamic version of North Korea emerging from the shadows, radically expanding its nuclear program and testing all manner of missiles as a last-resort deterrence strategy to avoid an all-out confrontation. Who thinks it’s better to have the Iran deal fail than to avoid a potential nuclear holocaust?
A moron, that’s who.
As Vox explained:
“Trump doesn’t hate the Iran deal for policy reasons. He’s never offered a detailed public policy case against it, and experts don’t really believe he has one. ‘I don’t think anyone actually thinks he knows anything about the particularities of this agreement,’ says Sarah Kreps, a professor at Cornell University who studies arms control agreements.”
Instead, Trump was provided with an opportunity to continue to talk tough but prevent the deal from failing completely, which would be an “embarrassment,” indeed. According to the Washington Post:
“White House national security advisor H.R. McMaster and other senior advisers came up with a plan – one aimed at accommodating Trump’s loathing of the Iran deal as ‘an embarrassment’ without killing it outright.”
These developments may be the beginning of the end of the Iran nuclear deal. But the fact remains that Trump hasn’t presented any valid reason to oppose the deal in the first place. He most likely has no idea what the text of the deal involves and has ended up doing very little to follow through on his campaign promise to exit the Iran deal completely.
The only embarrassment the rest of us can see is Donald Trump himself, who is single-handedly and systematically destroying anything remotely positive in the international community and risking a full-on war simply to protect his own over-sized ego.
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