In light of President Trump's announcement this afternoon, the Obama administration's executive deal on the Iranian nuclear program is no longer US policy. It's undoubtedly true that Trump's decision is a controversial one that flies in the face of many American allies' diplomatic preferences and postures. It's also fair to argue that pulling out unilaterally will have less of an impact than a coordinated international effort, and that the ripple effect of the United States' withdrawal will create unforeseen tensions and complications. Nevertheless, Trump has done the right thing, in my view, because the Iran deal constituted an irresponsible, lopsided and weak giveaway to one of the most evil regimes on the planet. Here are three arguments in support of Trump's choice:
(1) By Obama's own admission, the Iran nuclear agreement clears the way for the regime to achieve threshold nuclear-armed status. The pact's key Western-imposed restrictions automatically expire after a period of 10-15 years, over which time period Iran is explicitly permitted to enrich uranium, utilize advanced centrifuges, and continue key research and development activities. The regime's nuclear program was not dismantled by any stretch of the imagination under the accord; it was, at best, partially and temporarily mothballed. The previous administration pledged that its negotiations with Tehran would result in Iran's nuclear program being ended, with all paths to nuclear weapons closed off. In reality, what they eventually agreed to amounted to a "pause" button, which overwhelmingly benefitted the Iranians -- who receive more than $100 billion in sanctions relief in exchange for fleeting concessions. This is a quote from Obama himself:
"What is a more relevant fear would be that in Year 13, 14, 15, they have advanced centrifuges that enrich uranium fairly rapidly, and at that point, the breakout times would have shrunk almost down to zero."
The key point is, even if Iran chose to be fully compliant, the agreement would merely slightly delay their nuclear ambitions, while paving a path to a globally-legitimized nuclear program in the near future. Furthermore, both the former president and UN Secretary General have each acknowledged that post-implementation, Iran has violated "the spirit" of the agreement. Obama also admitted that some portion of the regime's international windfall has been funneled to terrorists. This comes as no surprise, given the "death to America" regime's longstanding status as the world's foremost state sponsor of terrorism. Here is former Democratic Vice Presidential nominee and Senator Joe Lieberman laying out the case for Trump's important determination over the weekend:
(2) New evidence illustrates and demonstrates the depths of Iranian deceit. Part of the deal was that Tehran had to be 100 percent transparent about its nuclear history, owning up to the full extent of its previous activities on that front. Doing so was a mandatory prerequisite prior to implementation. Rather than acting in good faith and admitting their prior pursuit of nuclear weapons, Iran lied -- repeatedly -- while secretly hiding its vast trove of nuclear know-how, specifically catalogued for the purpose of developing nuclear weapons in the future. The idea, it seems, was to dupe the West into offering all sorts of goodies along the way, only to dust off their nuclear research when the coast was relatively clear. Almost everyone suspected that Iran was lying about its previous activities, but Israel's recent intelligence bonanza proves it beyond a shadow of a doubt. Israeli spies managed to steal tens of thousands of pages of Iranian nuclear files from their secret storage facility in Tehran, likely with help from the inside. Under the terms of the agreement, Iran had no choice but to completely open its books prior to ratification. Instead, they lied and literally hid their books, which the world can now see, thanks to the Mossad's clandestine efforts. This puts the lie to the oft-repeated refrain that Iran is "in compliance" with the deal. False. They cheated from the very beginning. New York Times columnist Bret Stephens contextualizes this well:
“The sanctions lifting will only occur as Iran takes the steps agreed, including addressing possible military dimensions.” That was State Department spokesman John Kirby in June 2015, speaking just as negotiations for the Iran nuclear deal were wrapping up. But Tehran did not “take the steps agreed.” The deal was founded on a lie. Two lies, actually. The first was Iran’s declaration to the International Atomic Energy Agency, prior to the implementation of the deal, of the full extent of its past nuclear work. This was essential, both as a test of Tehran’s sincerity and as a benchmark for understanding just how close it was to being able to assemble and deliver a nuclear warhead...So much for the notion that Iran has honored its end of the bargain. It didn’t. This should render the agreement null and void...Iran’s mendacity is no longer the informed supposition of proliferation experts...
As for Iran’s current compliance, of course it’s complying. The deal gave Iran the best of all worlds. It weakened U.N. restrictions on its right to develop, test and field ballistic missiles — a critical component for a nuclear weapons capability that the Iranians haven’t fully mastered. It lifted restrictions on Iran’s oil exports and eased other sanctions, pumping billions of dollars into a previously moribund economy. And it allows Iran to produce all the nuclear fuel it wants come the end of the next decade. Yes, Iran is permanently enjoined from building a nuclear weapon, even after the limitations on uranium enrichment expire. But why believe this regime will be faithful to the deal at its end when it was faithless to it at its beginning?
Iran may be "complying" in the moment, but despite this course of action clearly being in their best interests, even that proposition remains murky. Reports like this and this raise serious questions about Iran's ongoing surreptitious pursuit of banned materials -- and the Iranians continue to insist that not all areas within their borders are, in fact, subject to international inspections.
(3) A final, important point on the legality and legitimacy of Trump's unilateral action:
In choosing not to pursue his weak, lopsided Iran deal as a formal treaty — having utterly failed to persuade even 40% (!) of Congress that it was wise policy — President Obama set the stage for his succcessor’s reported withdrawal today.— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) May 8, 2018
Unilateralism can be quickly erased.
Many of us argued precisely this point during the political fight over the Iran deal, but it fell on deaf ears. Obama and John Kerry were dead set on a legacy "achievement," and nothing was going to stand in their way. When push came to shove, Congress was reduced to casting a symbolic vote against the accord. More than 60 percent of all Senators and Representatives voted in opposition to the plan (327 out of 535 voting members), including dozens of House Democrats and a number of high-ranking upper chamber Democrats. Even in an era of pitched partisanship, the likes of Chuck Schumer and Bob Menendez and Ben Cardin could not bring themselves to endorse a reckless nuclear giveaway engineered by their own party's president. Congress may have been willing to accept and formalize a more robust pact, but the Obama administration didn't craft one. Furthermore, Donald Trump's campaign rhetoric on this subject was unambiguous: He loathed the agreement and promised to undo it. He won the election. As we've seen on other major hot-button issues, he is now following through on that pledge. And he has the power do to so with the stroke of a pen entirely thanks to the myopic, arrogant choices, and failures -- both persuasive and sunstative -- of his predecessor. Perhaps this represents, as Obama loved to say, a bitterly 'teachable moment.'