De­ci­sion on nu­clear deal about more than just Iran

Texarkana Gazette - - OPINION - An­drew Mal­com

With the na­tion jus­ti­fi­ably con­sumed with the aw­ful rav­ages of hur­ri­canes and a wealthy, crazed sniper in Ne­vada, the most im­por­tant dead­line of the young Trump pres­i­dency sud­denly looms: Cer­ti­fy­ing whether Iran is com­ply­ing with the leaky nu­clear deal “ne­go­ti­ated” by the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Ev­ery 90 days—Oct. 15 marks the next such dead­line—the ad­min­is­tra­tion must up­date Congress on whether Iran is “trans­par­ently, ver­i­fi­ably and fully im­ple­ment­ing the agree­ment.” This is not part of the pact it­self but a con­gres­sional edict passed be­cause for­mer Pres­i­dent Barack Obama, know­ing what’d likely hap­pen, re­fused to sub­mit the agree­ment to Capi­tol Hill for rat­i­fi­ca­tion.

If you don’t know Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump de­spises the deal, you haven’t been lis­ten­ing these past two years. Most re­cently, he told ev­ery­one at the United Na­tions: “Frankly, that deal is an em­bar­rass­ment to the United States and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it, be­lieve me.” We be­lieve him this time. Af­ter some leaks, some day this week, prob­a­bly Thurs­day, de­spite op­po­si­tion from some se­nior aides, Trump will likely an­nounce he is de­cer­ti­fy­ing Iran’s com­pli­ance. This is the com­pro­mise po­si­tion be­tween 1) walk­ing away from the whole deal and 2) once again, falsely cer­ti­fy­ing Iran’s co­op­er­a­tion for fear of ril­ing the mul­lahs, who can wait 10 years to restart their war­head con­struc­tion even if abid­ing.

As a top­ping, Trump will likely de­clare Iran’s Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Guards a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion like al-Qaida and the Is­lamic State.

Trump’s de­cer­ti­fi­ca­tion it­self, if that’s what he fi­nally de­cides, is not as big a deal as crit­ics will have you be­lieve. Obama will be upset be­cause the pact was his sole for­eign pol­icy legacy, if you don’t count turn­ing Libya into a failed state, slap­ping in­ef­fec­tive sanc­tions on Rus­sia for an­nex­ing Crimea, and pas­sively dis­miss­ing the Is­lamic State as a “JV,” al­low­ing it to get a full head of killing steam in Iraq and Syria with wannabe mem­bers ma­raud­ing Europe.

The de­cer­ti­fi­ca­tion ac­tu­ally does noth­ing ex­cept start a 60-day clock for Congress to do some­thing—kill the pact, or­der rene­go­ti­a­tion or, more likely, mire it­self in yet another em­bar­rass­ing, par­a­lyz­ing pro­ce­dural de­bate.

Does turn­ing the is­sue over to Congress sound fa­mil­iar? That’s ex­actly what Trump did with DACA, which could lead to the de­por­ta­tion of il­le­gal chil­dren of il­le­gal im­mi­grants. Both shifts kind of ful­fill cam­paign prom­ises—check those boxes, but leave the heavy po­lit­i­cal lift­ing to oth­ers.

Largely for­got­ten in all this are Iran and our Euro­pean al­lies, who re­ally don’t want the in­ef­fec­tive pact to fail be­cause their busi­nesses have a lot of lu­cra­tive deals in Iran. Tehran has no in­ter­est in rene­go­ti­at­ing, which it’s made clear. Why bother? Obama front­loaded all of Iran’s good­ies, in­clud­ing un­freez­ing $150 bil­lion in as­sets.

What es­pe­cially both­ers Trump’s team is the sun­set pro­vi­sion, which ef­fec­tively ends the pact in a decade no mat­ter what. And Trump cor­rectly thinks Iran should stop its fund­ing of ter­ror­ism and sedi­tion through­out the re­gion and be­yond.

That and Iran’s de­vel­op­ment of in­ter­con­ti­nen­tal bal­lis­tic mis­siles to de­liver its fu­ture war­heads weren’t part of the agree­ment. And the Amer­i­can real es­tate mogul has no lever­age yet to force the is­sues.

But here’s where the Iran prob­lem goes global. North Korea is watch­ing. Its weapons and de­liv­ery sys­tems are much far­ther along than Iran’s. Short of nu­clear an­ni­hi­la­tion of Kim Jong Un’s rogue regime and mil­lions of its starv­ing sub­jects, Trump has lit­tle lever­age there be­yond plead­ing with a re­luc­tant China to help.

What­ever gets worked out or not with ei­ther North Korea or Iran will set a prece­dent for the other.

From the view­point of Py­ongyang or Tehran, why should they trust any ne­go­ti­ated West­ern prom­ises? Af­ter lengthy de­tailed di­plo­matic talks, the U.S., Bri­tain and Rus­sia promised to honor Ukraine’s ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity if it would re­lin­quish its nu­clear weapons. It did. We didn’t.

In 2003, un­der di­plo­matic pres­sure, Libya’s Moam­mar Gad­hafi gave up his nu­clear weapons pro­gram. As a reward, eight years later we ac­tively over­threw the dic­ta­tor, leav­ing him for a mob to tear apart. Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton cel­e­brated that with a vic­to­ri­ous arm pump.

So, pre­ven­tive nu­clear war? Or once again, al­lied ac­qui­es­cence to the deadly de­vel­op­ment of now two am­bi­tious pro­grams to build weapons of mass de­struc­tion and—who knows?—quite pos­si­bly launch them?

Maybe if we just give them a few more years.

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