David E. Sanger, one of the best reporters on the planet, provides insight into what motived President Trump to pull the plug on the Iran nuclear agreement Tuesday.
“For President Trump and two of the allies he values most — Israel and Saudi Arabia — the problem of the Iranian nuclear accord was not, primarily, about nuclear weapons. It was that the deal legitimized and normalized the clerical Iranian government, reopening it to the world economy with oil revenue that financed its adventures in Syria and Iraq and its support of terror groups,” writes Sanger, the chief Washington correspondent for The New York Times.
“Now, with his announcement Tuesday that he is exiting the Iran deal and will reimpose economic sanctions on the country and firms around the world that do business with it, Mr. Trump is engaged in a grand, highly risky experiment.”
Iran No Match for U.S. and Allies
“Mr. Trump and his Middle East allies are betting they can cut Iran’s economic lifeline and thus ‘break the regime,’ as one senior European official described the effort. In theory, America’s withdrawal could free Iran to produce as much nuclear material as it wants — as it was five years ago, when the world feared it was headed toward a bomb.
“But Mr. Trump’s team dismisses that risk: Tehran doesn’t have the economic strength to confront the United States, Israel and the Saudis. And Iran knows that any move to produce a weapon would only provide Israel and the United States with a rationale for taking military action.
“It is a brutally realpolitik approach that America’s allies in Europe have warned is a historic mistake, one that could lead to confrontation, and perhaps to war. And it is a clear example of Middle East brinkmanship that runs counter to what President Barack Obama intended when the nuclear deal was struck in July 2015.”
Why Obama’s Iran Policy Failed
“By taking the prospect of nuclear weapons off the table, the Obama administration had argued, the two countries could chip away at three decades of hostility, and work on common projects, starting with the defeat of the Islamic State,” Sanger writes.
“It didn’t turn out that way. While the deal succeeded in getting 97 percent of Iran’s nuclear material out of the country, Iran’s conservatives and its military recoiled at the idea of cooperating on any projects with the West.
“Months before it became clear that Mr. Trump had a decent shot at being elected, the Iranian military increased support for President Bashar al-Assad in Syria; it expanded its influence in Iraq and accelerated its support for terror groups. And it doubled down on deploying cyberattacks against targets in the West and in Saudi Arabia, embracing a weapon that was not covered by the nuclear accord.”
Clearly, President Trump was of no mind to reward Iran’s bad behavior.
Iran Nuclear Pact Largely a European Effort
For analysis of why U.S. allies in Europe opposed Trump’s decision, read this excellent piece from Politico’s Matthew Karnitschnig at this link.