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The Iran deal is now in critical danger

Whether Trump outright tears up the deal or simply orders his administration to take punitive actions against Iran, the end result may be the same: goodbye to the nuclear deal.

By Derek Davison

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally, September 7, 2016. (Michael Vadon/CC BY-SA 4.0)

Republican Presidential Candidate Donald Trump at a campaign rally, September 7, 2016. (Michael Vadon/CC BY-SA 4.0)

There will be plenty of time to dissect Donald Trump’s surprising victory over Hillary Clinton in last night’s presidential election, and what a President Trump will mean for American foreign policy generally. But one thing is clear: the nuclear deal negotiated between the P5+1 (the United States, Britain, France, Germany, Russia, and China) and Iran may very well be among the first casualties of the incoming Trump administration.

Trump has been critical of the deal throughout the presidential campaign. However, as with nearly every other issue, his comments about the deal and what he might do with it in office were often unclear:

A businessman-turned-politician who has never held public office, Trump called the nuclear pact a “disaster” and “the worst deal ever negotiated” during his campaign and said it could lead to a “nuclear holocaust.”

In a speech to the pro-Israel lobby group AIPAC in March, Trump declared that his “number-one priority” would be to “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.”

He said he would have negotiated a better deal, with longer restrictions, but somewhat paradoxically, he criticized remaining U.S. sanctions that prevent American companies from dealing with Iran.

By contrast, he has conceded it would be hard to destroy a deal enshrined in a United Nations resolution. In August 2015, he said he would not “rip up” the nuclear deal, but that he would “police that contract so tough they don’t have a chance.”

Walid Phares, one of Trump’s top foreign policy advisers and a long-time advocate of regime change in Iran, said in July that Trump will “look back at [the nuclear deal] in the institutional way. So he is not going to implement it as is, he is going to revise it after negotiating one on one with Iran or with a series of allies.” This notably puts Trump slightly outside the consensus of the Republican Party, which seems bent on simply destroying the deal. But that also means that any anti-Iran steps the Trump administration chooses to take will get virtually no pushback of any significance from a Congress in which both houses still belong to the Republicans.

Trump’s election also presumably gives his biggest financial booster, Sheldon Adelson, a direct line to the Oval Office. Adelson is not only opposed to the nuclear deal, he has actually advocated launching a nuclear strike on Iran as a negotiating tactic. His financial support has already caused Trump to rethink parts of his Middle East strategy (such as it is). Adelson’s influence over President Trump bodes poorly for the future of U.S.-Iran relations, to say the least. So, too, does the influence of Mike Flynn, Trump’s military advisor who has been nothing but hostile toward the nuclear agreement.

But whether President Trump outright tears up the deal or simply orders his administration to take punitive actions against Iran, which could well cause Tehran to tear it up, the end result may be the same: goodbye to the nuclear deal. Trump’s insistence that he can “negotiate a better deal” notwithstanding, the probable result would be an Iran with no more restraints on its nuclear program and a United States with little international capital to spend on trying to rebuild the sanctions regime that led to the negotiations. In a broader sense, for the U.S. to take steps to scuttle the deal now may also tarnish America’s reputation as a reliable partner in international negotiations.

There is, for starters, no evidence that any of the parties to the deal, which took nearly two years to negotiate, are interested in revisiting its terms. Iranian officials are already insisting that the U.S. must abide by its “commitments” under the terms of the deal or else be held “liable” for the deal’s collapse. And Europe has been spending the past few months building up its relationship with Iran to the point where it has taken preliminary steps toward the opening of an EU office in Tehran. Indeed, it’s the international inertia that’s built up around the deal over the past year that may be the deal’s best hope for survival. Trump has talked about his desire to improve U.S. relations with Russia, and Russia was part of the P5+1. It is conceivable, though this may be grasping at straws, that Moscow could use some of whatever leverage it has with Trump to persuade him not to take harsh measures that would probably wreck the deal.

To be clear, the Iran deal is working. The International Atomic Energy Agency says that Tehran has complied with all its obligations to date, and the consensus of the arms control community is that the deal effectively blocks Iran’s path toward nuclear weapons—assuming Iran ever decides to develop them, something it has long said it would not do. Taking provocative steps that risk collapsing the deal risks abandoning the deal’s restriction on Iran’s nuclear program with no way to rebuild them or to reestablish sanctions. Although opponents of the nuclear deal would like to pretend that this isn’t so, such steps would very likely set the U.S. and Iran on a path toward war.

Derek Davison is a Washington-based researcher and writer on international affairs and American politics. This article is reprinted, with permission, from Lobelog.com.

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    1. Grandpa Frost

      I hope Trump tears it up. It’s time to hold the Mullahs accountable for their never ending perfidy. And… BUILD THAT WALL!

      Reply to Comment
      • Ben

        Oh that is SO intelligent, Grandpa. LoL. If only we had you during the p5+1 negotiations! I would say I look forward to Trump making a total fool of himself here—the Iranians are licking their chops—but I remember all too well the horrifying mess a previous American presidential jackass made. I do look forward to Bibi, King of Bluster, starting to sweat as he realizes this ass may actually scuttle the deal that Bibi secretly admits was a good one for all countries involved. At the same time, have at it Israel, bomb Iran. With your own planes. You fakes. Meanwhile, if Trump actually moves to make war with Iran a real thing, count on truly massive protests, overwhelming marches on Washington, civil disobedience on an enormous scale, Vietnam plus, from the American populace who remember all too well the thousands of caskets coming home because of the idiot they let get inside the White House in 2000 despite, like Trump, losing the popular vote. Trump will tear his country apart. Israel, America is not your plaything.

        Reply to Comment
        • Grandpa Frost

          That was SO coherent, Ben, LoL. As always. LoL.

          Reply to Comment
        • AJew

          “Israel, America is not your plaything.”

          I can’t wait till one of the resident brainiacs will make the accusation that “Trump is Israel’s fault”. … oh but wait…. isn’t that what Ben just said? A bit like blaming Israel for what American police do or don’t do. Oh and the twin towers was Mossad’s work too, right? And lava eruptions and tzunamis and earthquakes and plagues. Anything else, Ben? What other things do we play with? Are Jews at fault for your birth too? Wait… did I just ask that? Naaaah ?

          Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            I have never seen you not grossly distort what people write here. Ever.

            Your motto: Dulce et decorum est, pro patria [distort things].

            Which reminds me, today is Veteran’s Day in America. where President Obama remembers and honors all the American dead that he actually cares deeply about, and some of the right wingers here seem to treat casually as chaff for the Israeli cause, because any American policy that is not simply an extension of Israeli territorial designs is regarded as simply “weak.” Thousands of American boys dead and maimed. But the terrible pain over each and every Israeli casualty is of course an unspeakable horror, unmeasurable, nothing can compare. We get it.

            And one of your patented distortions is that I care more about Israel-Palestine than America…

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            “And one of your patented distortions is that I care more about Israel-Palestine than America…”

            I wouldn’t dream of it. But I am claiming that you care more about Palestinian Arabs than America.

            On what basis do I claim that? Because you are here posting on this site your inane posts, 7 days a week. Americans just went through an important election process. Both Democrats and Republicans claimed that this was a crucial life changing election yet you Ben spent all your time here, bad mouthing Israel instead of pushing your own cause in America. I for one find it strange. And I suspect most Americans would find it strange because one would expect Americans to put the interest of America first. Then again, maybe Ben you have dual loyalties? Maybe you put your loyalty to Palestinian Arabs ahead of your loyalty to America? Just asking. I have the right to ask since you made such accusations against some American Jews in the past.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            This from the resident +972 obsessive who camps out here hour after hour and gets into interminable fruitless squabbles. I can always count on him to make my point for me. Does he imagine now too that he has spies watching what I do elsewhere? This is all worth noting only from the following standpoint. Lurking in this petulance is the real grievance, disguised: “+972 Magazine publishes the inside real deal, and in English meant for outside consumption, not just in Hebrew where we can comfortably ignore it as we always have; and that enrages me.”

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            In case you hadn’t heard, the United States gave Israel a gazillion dollars over the past 50 years and is signed up to give it, what, 30 billion over the next ten years? And is your “no daylight ally” and single staunch defender outside of Germany in the world, and your country’s lobbies in the U.S. are among the two or three most influential. And your Prime Minister, with the connivance of the Israeli Ambassador no less, got himself ‘invited’ by the opposition party’s conniving politicians to speak in the chamber of the national legislature in direct and open defiance of the United States president with an appalling, and backfiring, intrusiveness. And the last ten articles on this site are about the U.S. president-elect. And you begrudge me the right to visit a blog on your country and its connections to my country’s policies? Are you kidding me? Seriously, are you kidding me? I can’t think of a better display of overweening Israeli arrogance and self-centeredness. I can always count on you to make my point.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            That’s a great response from Ben.

            I just happened to mention that he is an American (allegedly) who is more obsessed with helping Palestinian Arabs than with the elections in his own country. Then he bitches about the outcome and sorta claims that an Israeli like Bus should take responsibility for it.

            And his response is? That me too (an Israeli) is obsessed by what happens to Israel. Well duh, Ben, of course I am. But that’s not the same as you, an alleged outsider is obsessed is it now? Unless you are not an outsider of course. Or maybe an American of Arab descent? That WOULD explain your unhealthy bias and obsession.

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            You just happen to mention a lot of nonsense all the time.

            Do you think these attacks by online trolls damages my personal brand enough that I can write you off as a tax deduction? It’s economics. Just wondering.

            Line 34c on my tax return?: gustav the online troll (Dear IRS, I’m just following president-elect Trump’s tax advice from his own stated practices, and so I feel that this is worth whatever I feel like it is worth on any given day and today I feel it is $10,379.50. Thank you.)

            Reply to Comment
          • Ben

            “an alleged outsider”

            And around and around we go…see the preceding two posts, to which you apparently responded while entirely missing the point. Missing the point has always been your forte. That, and distorting things. Oh, and anti-Semitizing. Your record is really strong on these three things. Congratulations.

            Reply to Comment
          • AJew

            Yes Ben but you still did not explain your unhealthy obsession with Palestine.

            If you were an American rather than someone a bit more of a natural bias (such as an Arab American) then you would not be posting here 7 days a week instead of worrying about what is happening in your own country. Just sayin’.

            Me trying to damage your brand? You think that being an Arab American would damage your name? I don’t. I just think it would make you more honest if you admitted it.

            Reply to Comment
          • Frank John

            There must have been SOMETHING you missed on that list, but it’s a good start, AJEW.

            Reply to Comment
      • Duh

        How is building THAT WALL going to hold the Mullahs accountable? Oh, you must mean building a wall between Iraq and Iran. Surely Trump can pull that off, too…

        Reply to Comment
    2. Fred

      Keep the deal. Make friends with the Russians who will in exchange help enforce it. Then make friends with Hassan Rouhani to help make Iran free again and bring American companies back into Iran for investment. Saudi Arabia is the country that needs sanctions, not Iran..

      Reply to Comment
    3. Lewis from Afula

      Iran and Saudi Arabia are both run by Fanatic Islamic Nutters. One believes in the Sunni version, the other in the Shiite version. Both behead apostates, gays, atheists etc. Not much to choose between the two.

      Reply to Comment
      • Carmen

        Israel is run by Fanatic Zionist Nutters. They made the land they stole from the palestinians into a jewish ethnoreligious ‘state’. One believes in ultra orthodox or hasidic version, another believes in the modern orthodox version, another believes in nothing but stupid brutality and jewish supremacy and yet another believe in nothing, yet will acquiesce to the rest. Everyone loses.

        Reply to Comment