Is Trump Pulling Out Of The Iran Deal? [Update: Yup]

Ken AshfordIran, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

The overwhelming consensus is that Trump will pull out of it. According to the New York Times, Trump has told French President Macron that he is pulling out.

Trump has criticized the deal in rallies and on Twitter ever since his presidential campaign, but the criticisms have mostly been repetitions of “terrible deal” and well as criticisms of John Kerry…..

… but I don’t think Trump has ever explained why it is terrible in his view.  Just keeps saying it is bad bad bad. The biggest thing to realize about Trumps decision about the Iran Deal is that he doesn’t actually know what is even in it. He doesn’t even know what it’s in the deal or how it works.

The Iran deal — like redecorating the Oval Office, attacking Obamacare, demolishing regulations, reinstating Bush tax cuts, et al — is about erasing Obama’s presidency. It’s visceral. This is all about what he said on the campaign, ego vs Obama.

Trump’s decision to pull out of the deal will plunge America’s relations with European allies into deep uncertainty. They have committed to staying in the deal, raising the prospect of a diplomatic and economic clash as the United States reimposes stringent sanctions on Iran.  It also raises the prospect of increased tensions with Russia and China, which also are parties to the agreement. Even Trump’s own aides had persuaded him twice last year not to take this step.

Trump is breaking the Iran deal without ever expressng any policy for what comes next besides regime change. The Iran deal provides substantially more provision for verification of denuclearization and ongoing monitoring than will exist in this new post-Iran-deal reality. There are only two reasons to break the Iran deal:

1. You want Iran to get a nuclear weapon;  or
2. You want war

And we’ll probably get both. Watch arguments for war in the coming months take the shape of “we can’t be sure Iran isn’t building a bomb.”

And why shouldn’t it?  The only thing for anybody to do is to re-negotiate and Iran wants to renegotiate from a stronger standpoint. Like North Korea is in.

Here’s Ben Shodes, who put the deal together:

It’s now one hour until Trump’s announcement and this just came down:

UPDATE: It is 2:15pm and Trump is live on TV saying he is pulling out of Iran deal.  He is talking about problems with the deal, and while I can’t speak to each one, I think it is safe to say that the deal is not perfect. Compromise rarely is.  But Trump is not saying what he will do other than reinstating sanctions.

Trump is sticking to the prompter — a sure sign that he has no idea what he is talking about.

And here we go…

Q: “How does this make America safer?”

Trump’s real message to the world: Don’t trust the United States.

By the way, everybody is phrasing this wrong. There is no provision for withdrawal from JCPOA. This means that Trump is violating the Agreement, rather than “withdrawing” or “pulling away” from it.

When Trump says Iran is in breach of JCPOA, just a reminder that under the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, the US intelligence community is required to provide Congress with details on any potentially significant Iranian breach or compliance concern within 10 calendar days of receiving that information. *chirp, chirp*

Trump’s talk of the dangers of Iran with a nuclear bomb sound JUST like Bush and Rice back in the 2000s.  Same mistake.  Different asshole.  Peter Reinhart wrote an article today entitled “America’s Iraq Hawks Are Now Iran Hawks”:

The parallels between that moment and this one are uncanny. In both cases, American leaders feared that a longtime Middle Eastern adversary was breaking free of the fetters that had previously restrained it. In both cases, American leaders pursued a more confrontational policy, which they buttressed with frightening statements about the regime’s nuclear program. In both cases, international inspectors contradicted those alarmist claims. In both cases, America’s European allies defended the inspectors and warned of the chaos America’s confrontational policy might bring. In both cases, hawks in America and Israel responded by trying to discredit the inspection regime. And in both cases, two leaders of that effort were John Bolton and Benjamin Netanyahu.

So true.

UPDATE – 3 pm —

UPDATE — Barack weighs in

There are few issues more important to the security of the United States than the potential spread of nuclear weapons, or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East. That’s why the United States negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the first place.

The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working – that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current U.S. Secretary of Defense. The JCPOA is in America’s interest – it has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program. And the JCPOA is a model for what diplomacy can accomplish – its inspections and verification regime is precisely what the United States should be working to put in place with North Korea. Indeed, at a time when we are all rooting for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from the JCPOA risks losing a deal that accomplishes – with Iran – the very outcome that we are pursuing with the North Koreans.

That is why today’s announcement is so misguided. Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one Administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.

Debates in our country should be informed by facts, especially debates that have proven to be divisive. So it’s important to review several facts about the JCPOA.

First, the JCPOA was not just an agreement between my Administration and the Iranian government. After years of building an international coalition that could impose crippling sanctions on Iran, we reached the JCPOA together with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, the European Union, Russia, China, and Iran. It is a multilateral arms control deal, unanimously endorsed by a United Nations Security Council Resolution.

Second, the JCPOA has worked in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. For decades, Iran had steadily advanced its nuclear program, approaching the point where they could rapidly produce enough fissile material to build a bomb. The JCPOA put a lid on that breakout capacity. Since the JCPOA was implemented, Iran has destroyed the core of a reactor that could have produced weapons-grade plutonium; removed two-thirds of its centrifuges (over 13,000) and placed them under international monitoring; and eliminated 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium – the raw materials necessary for a bomb. So by any measure, the JCPOA has imposed strict limitations on Iran’s nuclear program and achieved real results.

Third, the JCPOA does not rely on trust – it is rooted in the most far-reaching inspections and verification regime ever negotiated in an arms control deal. Iran’s nuclear facilities are strictly monitored. International monitors also have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, so that we can catch them if they cheat. Without the JCPOA, this monitoring and inspections regime would go away.

Fourth, Iran is complying with the JCPOA. That was not simply the view of my Administration. The United States intelligence community has continued to find that Iran is meeting its responsibilities under the deal, and has reported as much to Congress. So have our closest allies, and the international agency responsible for verifying Iranian compliance – the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Fifth, the JCPOA does not expire. The prohibition on Iran ever obtaining a nuclear weapon is permanent. Some of the most important and intrusive inspections codified by the JCPOA are permanent. Even as some of the provisions in the JCPOA do become less strict with time, this won’t happen until ten, fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years into the deal, so there is little reason to put those restrictions at risk today.

Finally, the JCPOA was never intended to solve all of our problems with Iran. We were clear-eyed that Iran engages in destabilizing behavior – including support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel and its neighbors. But that’s precisely why it was so important that we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Every aspect of Iranian behavior that is troubling is far more dangerous if their nuclear program is unconstrained. Our ability to confront Iran’s destabilizing behavior – and to sustain a unity of purpose with our allies – is strengthened with the JCPOA, and weakened without it.

Because of these facts, I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake. Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East. We all know the dangers of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. It could embolden an already dangerous regime; threaten our friends with destruction; pose unacceptable dangers to America’s own security; and trigger an arms race in the world’s most dangerous region. If the constraints on Iran’s nuclear program under the JCPOA are lost, we could be hastening the day when we are faced with the choice between living with that threat, or going to war to prevent it.

In a dangerous world, America must be able to rely in part on strong, principled diplomacy to secure our country. We have been safer in the years since we achieved the JCPOA, thanks in part to the work of our diplomats, many members of Congress, and our allies. Going forward, I hope that Americans continue to speak out in support of the kind of strong, principled, fact-based, and unifying leadership that can best secure our country and uphold our responsibilities around the globe.

And THAT’S how you make a convincing argument.