A best-case sce­nario for the Iran deal

Cecil Whig - - OPINION -

I had the op­por­tu­nity of meet­ing some of Ce­cil County’s finest due to a car ac­ci­dent I was in. I am so thank­ful that I am only very sore, which would have been much worse had I not have had my seat­belt buck­led.

My sin­cere grat­i­tude goes to the am­bu­lance team, the EMTs, Of­fi­cer Boomer, the ER team at Union Hospi­tal, and the wit­ness who was will­ing to stay and speak with the of­fi­cer and called for help.

I thank you all for your kind­ness and as­sis­tance! I will never for­get your ef­forts. God bless you all!

LOS AN­GE­LES — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump plans to de­mand this week that the in­ter­na­tional agree­ment lim­it­ing Iran’s nu­clear pro­grams be re­vised to make it stronger. He’ll claim that Iran isn’t com­ply­ing with the 2015 pact, which he has called “the worst deal ever ne­go­ti­ated.” His lan­guage will be Trumpian and tough, in­tended to show that he’s keep­ing his cam­paign prom­ise to “rip the deal up.” But Trump isn’t rip­ping it up. In­stead, he’s climb­ing down — slowly, awk­wardly, re­luc­tantly — from a po­si­tion that made no sense.

In for­mal terms, Trump is re­fus­ing to “cer­tify” that Iran is com­ply­ing with the nu­clear deal, which re­quires Tehran to re­duce its hold­ings of en­riched ura­nium and al­low in­ter­na­tional in­spec­tors into its fa­cil­i­ties.

But Iran is, in fact, com­ply­ing with the agree­ment, as even U.S. of­fi­cials ac­knowl­edge. The main U.S. com­plaint is that Iran has vi­o­lated the “spirit” of the deal by en­gag­ing in non-nu­clear ac­tiv­i­ties, in­clud­ing mis­sile re­search, which the agree­ment doesn’t cover.

Even more awk­wardly, Trump’s clos­est aides want the deal to re­main in force. Last week, De­fense Sec­re­tary James Mat­tis told a Sen­ate hear­ing that it’s in the na­tional in­ter­est to keep the agree­ment alive.

The rea­son is sim­ple: What­ever its flaws, the deal has stopped Iran from build­ing a nu­clear weapon for at least 10 years.

If the United States walks away from the agree­ment, Iran’s supreme leader would be free to restart ura­nium en­rich­ment — and most other coun­tries would blame Trump, not Iran.

Trump aides have there­fore qui­etly asked Con­gress not to reim­pose nu­clear sanc­tions on Iran. And in­stead of dis­man­tling the deal, Mat­tis and other ad­vi­sors have given Trump an al­ter­na­tive: Try to fix it.

They’ve listed changes they’d like to see, in­clud­ing more in­tru­sive in­spec­tions and longer “sun­set” pro­vi­sions. (The cur­rent deal lifts the ceil­ing on low-en­riched ura­nium and al­lows al­most un­re­stricted en­rich­ment be­gin­ning in 2030.)

They also want new lim­its on Iran’s bal­lis­tic mis­sile ef­fort and in­ter­na­tional ac­tion against pro-Ira­nian forces in Iraq, Syria and other coun­tries.

Trump aides have floated the idea of de­mand­ing a for­mal “rene­go­ti­a­tion” of the 2015 deal, in keep­ing with lan­guage Trump oc­ca­sion­ally used dur­ing the cam­paign. But rene­go­ti­a­tion isn’t go­ing to hap­pen. All the other coun­tries in the agree­ment — in­clud­ing U.S. al­lies Bri­tain, France and Ger­many — have said it’s not fea­si­ble.

In­stead, French Pres­i­dent Em­manuel Macron has of­fered what some of­fi­cials call a “third way”: new ne­go­ti­a­tions to ex­tend the nu­clear deal’s sun­set pro­vi­sions and im­pose new lim­its on Iran’s mis­sile de­vel­op­ment, plus joint Western ac­tion against pro-Ira­nian proxy forces in the Mid­dle East.

Those are ideas with broad sup­port in Europe as well as Wash­ing­ton.

Trump and his aides are ac­tu­ally right when they say the 2015 pact should be strength­ened. Even the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials who ne­go­ti­ated the deal ac­knowl­edge that it didn’t set­tle ev­ery U.S. con­cern.

Here’s a best-case sce­nario: Af­ter Trump an­nounces his de­ci­sion, Con­gress, in­stead of de­mand­ing new sanc­tions, en­dorses ne­go­ti­a­tions to im­prove the deal, per­haps with ad­di­tional sanc­tions author­ity to give the pres­i­dent more lever­age. Trump ap­points a tough, high-pow­ered spe­cial en­voy to pur­sue ne­go­ti­a­tions; some­one like Den­nis Ross, who worked on the Mid­dle East for Pres­i­dents Ge­orge H.W. Bush and Clin­ton.

Once talks are un­der way, Pres­i­dent Trump can an­nounce that he’s ac­com­plished the moral equiv­a­lent of rene­go­ti­a­tion, and de­clare at least par­tial vic­tory.

That would put the U.S. con­fronta­tion with Iran in a cat­e­gory with other Trump for­eign pol­icy po­si­tions that turned out to con­tain more blus­ter than ac­tion: his threats to walk away from U.S. obli­ga­tions to NATO, for ex­am­ple, and his prom­ise to with­draw from the North Amer­i­can Free Trade Agree­ment (which, in Trump’s mind, is an­other “worst deal ever ne­go­ti­ated”).

There are plenty of ways that be­nign out­come could be de­railed.

Repub­li­cans in Con­gress could bow to pres­sure from hard-lin­ers and im­pose new nu­clear sanc­tions (although that looks un­likely; even Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, a noted hawk, has agreed to hold off).

Other coun­tries could balk. Trump is deeply un­pop­u­lar in Europe. Even Rus­sia’s Vladimir Putin may not be in the mood to help an Amer­i­can pres­i­dent who has turned out to be an un­re­li­able friend.

Any ne­go­ti­a­tions to ex­tend the deal will be multi­na­tional, and they’ll re­quire com­pro­mise _ two words that rarely ap­ply to Trump’s blus­ter­based diplo­macy.

The pres­i­dent will grow im­pa­tient. He’ll still have to re­port to Con­gress ev­ery 90 days. He’ll still have the author­ity to reim­pose sanc­tions any time he wants. (He doesn’t need Con­gress’ ap­proval for that, even now.)

But the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s in­ter­nal de­bates have brought Trump to an un­ex­pected and un­wanted con­clu­sion, that end­ing the nu­clear agree­ment is not in the na­tional in­ter­est.

He won’t ad­mit it. He’ll con­tinue to de­nounce the deal. But he’s not walk­ing away from it — and that gives nu­clear diplo­macy with Iran an­other chance to sur­vive.

Doyle McManus is a columnist for the Los An­ge­les Times.

WASH­ING­TON — The Trump tax plan is cur­rently un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion and, some keen an­a­lysts are find­ing, could do more to re­vi­tal­ize the econ­omy, lift up the poor and mid­dle class, and sim­plify out­ra­geous com­plex­i­ties than any­thing seen in a long, long time. That’s sim­ply in­tol­er­a­ble by the stan­dards of many in D.C. and must stop now, we’re told.

The Democrats, for in­stance, don’t like it be­cause the well-off will profit, too, as in low­er­ing cor­po­rate taxes from the de­vel­oped world’s high­est. The thing is, the av­er­age Joe and Jane mostly pay those taxes with fewer jobs, lower wages, higher prices and lower eco­nomic growth rates.

That last item is huge be­cause, as Trump ad­viser Stephen Moore has ob­served, we des­per­ately need some­thing bet­ter than the mis­er­able, cough, cough, limp-along 1.6 per­cent growth rate in Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s last year in of­fice. But this year, with good news pos­si­bly just around the cor­ner, cor­po­ra­tions have been think­ing big again. Their prof­its are up, stocks are up and the growth rate hit 3.1 per­cent in the sec­ond quar­ter.

We’ve also got high con­sumer con­fi­dence and lower un­em­ploy­ment. Of course, as has been said by oth­ers not­ing all of this, the hap­pier days may not be just a con­se­quence of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s tax ideas, reg­u­la­tory roll­backs and un­leash­ing of our en­ergy re­sources. But it truly is the case that we are talk­ing about mak­ing our cor­po­ra­tions more com­pet­i­tive in­ter­na­tion­ally, like­lier to stay home, for­eign­ers like­lier to in­vest more dol­lars here and the whole na­tion prof­it­ing.

It will also be the case un­der the plan, by the way, that money made over­seas will be com­ing back (maybe as much as $2.5 tril­lion) with­out the kinds of taxes that keep it abroad, and that feeds the econ­omy to ev­ery­one’s ben­e­fit even if some say a lot of that money just goes to share­hold­ers. Those share­hold­ers in­vest and spend, which ben­e­fits one and all, and the lion’s share would be go­ing to pen­sion funds known to serve many peo­ple with­out man­sions in Bev­erly Hills.

There’s a whole lot more here, of course, such as vastly sim­pli­fy­ing in­di­vid­ual and fam­ily in­come taxes, get­ting to just three ba­sic rates, ex­pand­ing child tax cred­its and get­ting rid of de­duc­tions for state and lo­cal taxes. Some love those de­duc­tions and don’t want to see them go, but step back and con­sider how it works. The states that tax the most get the most de­duc­tions, it has been ob­served. That means lower-tax states are in ef­fect sub­si­diz­ing higher-tax states whose rep­re­sen­ta­tives in Con­gress love that sys­tem and in some cases are will­ing to sac­ri­fice the rest of us to main­tain it.

Lots of loop­holes of var­i­ous kinds will go away as we get higher stan­dard de­duc­tions and what that means is the lob­by­ists are com­ing, the lob­by­ists are com­ing. They would much rather have spe­cial in­ter­ests con­quer­ing the over­all pub­lic in­ter­est, even if it means keep­ing tax-form con­fu­sion in­tact. The busi­ness of figuring out what ex­emp­tions you have and do not have and all the rest ends up cost­ing a lot of money, $165 bil­lion a year, it is said, and it would be oh, so nice to skip some of that pain.

The plan lacks lots of de­tails be­cause that was left up to Con­gress, not such a bad idea if the mem­bers do their job, and it is not a hor­ror to me that some Repub­li­cans are ques­tion­ing the pos­si­ble added bud­get deficit here. They should think it through and take care through com­pro­mises if nec­es­sary while not for­get­ting what a truly well-con­structed plan can do.

As for­mer U.S. Sen. Phil Gramm and Michael Solon of US Pol­icy Met­rics have writ­ten in the Wall Street Jour­nal, the com­bined tax cuts of Pres­i­dent Ron­ald Rea­gan in­creased fed­eral rev­enue by 19 per­cent dur­ing his time in of­fice while bless­ing the later years of his ten­ure with 4.6 per­cent growth. A per­cent­age point less than that could do won­ders this time around.

Jay Am­brose is an columnist for Tri­bune News Ser­vice. Read­ers may email him at speak­to­jay@aol.com.

www.ce­cil­daily.com Serv­ing Ce­cil County since 1841 Phone 410-398-3311 • Fax 410-398-4044

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