As expected, President Trump on Tuesday announced the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
Mr. Trump has railed against the agreement for quite some time now. Even before he began his campaign for the presidency, he criticized it for not meaningfully deterring Iran from developing nuclear weapons. The deal, for example, insulated Iran from Western action as long as no one uncovered evidence of it violating the deal’s provisions – which was hardly likely given the wholly inadequate inspection regime.
We think, however, that the president’s primary motivation in leaving the deal now was a desire to undermine the regime of the mullahs and to cut it down to size by depriving it of funds to export terror and extend its influence around the world. Under the deal – which eliminated economic sanctions hurting Iran’s economy – Iran was able to continue, and enhance, its efforts to fund terror around the world, build up its presence in the Middle East through its surrogate Hezbollah, and expand its role in Syria.
Plainly, a growing Iranian economy was a looming problem for American geo-political interests around the world, particularly in the Middle East. So the re-imposition of sanctions – which will severely diminish Iranian trade with much of the world and stem Iran’s economic capacity due to wariness of violating U.S. banking laws – was of overriding importance to the president. In addition, we suspect he believes that diminishing the Iranian government’s revenues may create pressure from the Iranian street and possibly contribute to regime change.
This is not to suggest that President Trump acted without any concern for Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons once the nuclear deal restrictions expired. But the truth is that Iran today is in the same position it was in the run-up to the nuclear agreement. Today, as then, Iran can be targeted by the U.S., and perhaps Israel, should it attempt building a nuclear weapon. Indeed, avoiding that possibility was one reason Iran came to the negotiating table in the first place. So the president more than likely felt that he had the nuclear problem covered.
It is hard to predict what Iran will now do. Iran surely recognizes the U.S. is capable of devastating its economy and may therefore try to come to an understanding with us. On the other hand, pride and saving face looms rather large in the Middle East.
We have always believed the Iran nuclear deal represented President Obama’s acceptance of Iran and Islam as major players in international affairs. President Trump apparently does not share that view.
Finally, we can think of no more convincing message to North Korea that the U.S. has a leader that doesn’t kid around than the termination of the Iran deal.