Trump vs. Iran: How did Trump be­come the vil­lain?

Antelope Valley Press (Sunday) - - Opinion -

Of the numer­ous rea­sons Trump haters of­fer for their ha­tred of the Pres­i­dent, the crit­i­cism over his with­drawal of the Iran deal is among the most dif­fi­cult to fol­low. That th­ese crit­ics blame Don­ald Trump for Iran’s re­cent ag­gres­sive be­hav­ior is even more bizarre.

Iran at­tacks oil tankers and bombs Saudi Ara­bian oil fa­cil­i­ties and Trump be­comes the vil­lain?

When Trump with­drew from the Iran deal last year, The New

York Times ed­i­to­ri­al­ized: “When it comes to the dan­ger of a nu­clear arms race in the Mid­dle East, there is no sign Iran or any of the other ma­jor pow­ers in the ex­ist­ing and so far suc­cess­ful pact will sim­ply fall in line with Mr. Trump’s no­tional new plan. More likely, his de­ci­sion … will al­low Iran to re­sume a ro­bust nu­clear pro­gram, sour re­la­tions with close Euro­pean al­lies, erode Amer­ica’s cred­i­bil­ity, lay con­di­tions for a pos­si­ble wider war in the Mid­dle East and make it harder to reach a sound agree­ment with North Korea on its nu­clear weapons pro­gram.” The Times, in other words, said that af­ter Amer­ica’s exit from the Iran deal, Iran would con­tinue to en­gage in the very ter­ror­ism it en­gaged in be­fore the deal. Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s first sec­re­tary of de­fense, Robert Gates, de­scribed the deal as based on a “hope” that Gates con­sid­ered “very un­re­al­is­tic.” Af­ter he left the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion, Gates said: “The pur­suit of the agree­ment is based on the Pres­i­dent’s hope that over a 10-year pe­riod with the sanc­tions be­ing lifted … the Ira­ni­ans will be­come a con­struc­tive stake­holder. … That as their econ­omy be­gins to grow again … they will aban­don their ide­ol­ogy, their the­ol­ogy, their rev­o­lu­tion­ary prin­ci­ples, their med­dling in var­i­ous parts of the re­gion. And frankly, I be­lieve that’s very un­re­al­is­tic.”

Be­fore Amer­ica with­drew from the deal, Is­rael Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu ac­cused Iran of vi­o­lat­ing it. In a tele­vised pre­sen­ta­tion clearly timed to in­flu­ence Trump’s even­tual with­drawal, Ne­tanyahu said: “Iran lied about never hav­ing a nu­clear weapons pro­gram. One hun­dred thou­sand se­cret files prove it did.

Sec­ond, even af­ter the deal, Iran con­tin­ued to pre­serve and ex­pand its nu­clear weapons knowl­edge for fu­ture use.” In 2015, the In­ter­na­tional Atomic En­ergy Agency, the U.N.‘s nu­clear mon­i­tor­ing cen­ter, is­sued a re­port called the “Fi­nal As­sess­ment on Past and Present Out­stand­ing Is­sues re­gard­ing Iran’s Nu­clear Pro­gramme.” It con­cluded that “some ac­tiv­i­ties took place af­ter 2003” but “th­ese ac­tiv­i­ties did not ad­vance be­yond fea­si­bil­ity and sci­en­tific stud­ies.”

It found “no cred­i­ble in­di­ca­tions of ac­tiv­i­ties” af­ter 2009. The IAEA did not re­spond di­rectly to Ne­tanyahu’s pre­sen­ta­tion but is­sued a state­ment re­fer­ring to its 2015 re­port.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion ob­jected to and with­drew from the deal on sev­eral grounds. The agree­ment did not cover Iran’s ex­por­ta­tion of ter­ror through, for ex­am­ple, Hezbol­lah — the ter­ror or­ga­ni­za­tion that Iran founded and con­tin­ues to fund. Nor does the deal cover Iran’s mis­sile pro­gram. Most trou­bling to the Trump White House is that the deal did not per­mit no-no­tice, no­knock in­spec­tions.

It gave Iran 24 days to per­mit in­spec­tions from the time a re­quest is made by the IAEA. About this com­pli­ance time pe­riod, the lib­eral, pro-deal Brook­ings In­sti­tu­tion con­ceded: “The crit­ics are right that re­moval and cleanup ef­forts could be suc­cess­fully com­pleted within 24 days in the case of small-scale il­licit ac­tiv­i­ties, espe­cially if no nu­clear ma­te­ri­als are in­volved. More­over, al­though in­tel­li­gence as­sets have in the past de­tected ef­forts to san­i­tize sites — no­tably at Iran’s Parchin fa­cil­ity — de­tec­tion of such ef­forts can­not be counted on in all in­stances.”

Most Amer­i­cans also be­lieve Iran is cheat­ing. A May 2018 CNN poll found that while 63% op­posed with­draw­ing from the deal, nearly the same per­cent­age (62%) said Iran is vi­o­lat­ing it. Iran ad­mits it is now in vi­o­la­tion of the ura­nium en­rich­ment re­stric­tions set forth in the deal. Iran warns of fur­ther vi­o­la­tions if the coun­try does not get sanc­tions re­lief.

Trump’s crit­ics ig­nore or have for­got­ten that the ar­chi­tect of the deal, deputy na­tional se­cu­rity ad­viser Ben Rhodes, all but ad­mit­ted that he sold the deal to the pub­lic by push­ing a fake nar­ra­tive.

The ad­min­is­tra­tion ar­gued that Iran’s mod­er­ate ay­a­tol­lahs were chal­leng­ing the hard­lin­ers and that the deal would strengthen the hand of the for­mer. But The New York Times, in a 2016 piece on Rhodes and the mak­ing of the Iran deal, wrote that this nar­ra­tive was largely man­u­fac­tured: “The story of the Iran deal … was largely man­u­fac­tured for the pur­pose for sell­ing the deal. Even where the par­tic­u­lars of that story are true, the im­pli­ca­tions that read­ers and view­ers are en­cour­aged to take away from those par­tic­u­lars are of­ten mis­lead­ing or false. … (This was) the nar­ra­tive that Rhodes shaped.”

Be­fore he crit­i­cized Trump’s with­drawal from the deal, rank­ing Se­nate Demo­crat Chuck Schumer op­posed the deal. In 2015, Schumer said, “I be­lieve Iran will not change, and un­der this agree­ment it will be able to achieve its dual goals of elim­i­nat­ing sanc­tions while ul­ti­mately re­tain­ing its nu­clear and non-nu­clear power.”

Trump agrees with Schumer — the 2015 edi­tion.

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