When Barack Obama enacted the Iran Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, many Republicans compared him to Neville Chamberlain (the British prime minister whose appeasement of Adolf Hitler led to World War II).
However, recent events suggest Donald Trump was the one who failed America when he decided to withdraw from the deal.
In the last two weeks, tensions with Iran have skyrocketed, with evidence the country attacked a Japanese ship, then a Norwegian one, as well as a confirmed attack on an American drone. This led to President Trump ordering- then abruptly calling off- a retaliatory strike.
Hours ago, we learned that Iran’s latest response to America’s withdrawal and decision to re-impose sanctions is to begin enriching uranium to a higher degree than they agreed to in the deal.
When the Obama administration began drafting the nuclear treaty in 2015, Donald Trump was not a serious presidential contender. He was merely a distant, rather comical figure scowling down from his ivory tower, who found time to wax political between bankruptcy filings and trysts with porn stars.
Via Twitter, Trump claimed the Iran deal was, “a terrible one for the United States and the world,” as well as “a major embarrassment,” and “we got nothing.”
How accurate are these assertions?
Here are the stipulations of the accord in brief:
- Iran must give up 97% of its uranium
- The 3% the country is allowed to keep can only be enriched to 3.67% (weapons-grade uranium must be enriched to at least 90%)
- Iran is to reduce its centrifuges (devices used to enrich uranium) by 75%
- There will be frequent inspections to ensure the Iranian government is complying with these measures
5.In exchange, economic sanctions imposed on Iran by the US and several other countries would be lifted
It should be noted that a number of sources, including the United Nations, indicate that Iran was compliant.
Despite this, the deal was anathema to the American Right, with criticisms ranging from fair to half-true to downright delusional.
Claims such as “We got nothing,” are not based in reality.
Even Colin Powell, George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, said “I think it is a good deal,” and several foreign powers (the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, Germany and the European Union) were party to this agreement as well.
These countries are now scrambling to save it despite American withdrawal, so evidently, they do not feel they got nothing.
A more legitimate concern is that Iran is untrustworthy…which is precisely why the deal mandated relentless inspections, to a point where those tasked with these inspections claimed ‘there’s basically a 100% chance” they would catch Iran should the country break the agreement.
Critics of the accord also assert (correctly) that President Obama bypassed Congress when he enacted this deal.
What they leave out is that in 2016, Iran was as little as six months away from a nuclear weapon.
Sanctions- despite being strong enough to cripple the Iranian economy for decades- were not a sufficient deterrent. Congressional obstruction of Obama had long become routine, and par for the course, our legislators refused to act.
Congress might have had a seat at the table, but- as they did for most of Obama’s presidency- they instead attempted to kick the table over. This, despite a looming crisis that required swift action.
Perhaps the strongest objection to the nuclear deal is, “Why should the United States relieve sanctions on a country whose government routinely violates human rights?”
It is absolutely true that Iran is guilty of human rights abuses, including support for the oppressive and bloodthirsty regime in Syria. Further, they are hostile toward Israel and our other Middle Eastern allies. So why negotiate with them?
The short answer is, “Because we don’t want Iran to be a nuclear power, and because the treaty was a far better option than war.
But in May 2018, President Trump withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear accords and re-imposed sanctions.
In response, Iran is now defying the provisions of the deal and behaving aggressively toward the US and our allies.
The other signatories to the deal are trying to save it, though Iran has thus far rejected their efforts and is again testing boundaries, so the outlook is bleak.
While President Trump seems genuine in his desire to avert a war with Iran- again, he called off a retaliatory strike last week- he is surrounded by hawks such as Defense Secretary John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
It must be noted that while Trump ultimately called off the strike, citing a loss of Iranian life disproportionate to destruction of an unmanned drone, he was still persuaded to order it.
Throughout his presidency, Trump has demonstrated a stunning ineptitude on foreign policy. Judging by his speeches and answers at press briefings, about 70% of the Trump Doctrine consists of posturing and empty bluster, with the other 30% being “You just wait and see.”
When coupled with his pettiness and impulsivity, it does not take much imagination to see us stumbling into war.
Given statements such as, “There will indeed be hell to pay…we are watching and we will come after you” (Bolton, while directly addressing Iranian leaders) and “Our military is rebuilt, new and ready to go” (Pompeo, when asked about conflict with Iran) it sounds as though the drums of war are already beating, albeit softly.
Still more alarming, Pompeo may have found a way to circumvent Congress should Trump be persuaded to start a war: given Iranian ties to al-Qaeda (though the closeness is quite debatable), a post 9/11 law may allow the president to declare war on Iran without congressional authorization.
Again, though, Trump seems resolute- for now- in his desire to avoid armed conflict. For example, he has publicly criticized Secretary Bolton for his warmongering. In 2016, Candidate Trump decried frivolous wars of the George W. Bush variety, instead advocating an “America first” isolationism.
However, Trump also withdrew from a deal that was working.
Iran is closer to a nuclear weapon without the deal than with it. The United States is clearly closer to war without the deal than with it.
Trump was warned by everyone from non-partisan diplomats, the previous administration and even some of the less-hawkish Republicans not to walk out of the accord.
But withdraw he did. Now America is less safe and our soldiers are closer to paying for Trump’s folly with their lives.