Foreign Policy

Trump's Iran Policy Might Be Working

The rogue regime and European allies are signaling that a new deal is possible.

Brian Mark Weber · Sep. 27, 2019

When President Donald Trump pulled out of Barack Obama’s Iran deal in 2018, he was criticized by his opponents for making the world more unstable. They argued that the Iranian regime would become more lawless and its nuclear program more dangerous.

At the time, Mark Landler of The New York Times argued that Trump’s decision threatened to damage America’s fragile trans-Atlantic relationship. He added, “Mr. Trump’s move could embolden hard-line forces in Iran, raising the threat of Iranian retaliation against Israel or the United States, fueling an arms race in the Middle East and fanning sectarian conflicts from Syria to Yemen.”

President Trump didn’t see it that way.

During a formal White House announcement in 2018 of the U.S. decision to pull out of the deal, the president said, “This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” adding, “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”

Known as the Joint Comprehension Plan of Action, or simply the “Iran Deal,” the 2015 agreement brought together the five permanent members of the UN Security Council (the U.S., Great Britain, France, Russia, and China) as well as Germany and the European Union. In theory, the JCPOA was designed to ease economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for allowing its government to pursue a limited nuclear program. Although the U.S. is no longer part of the deal, the other member states held firm to the agreement.

The naysayers’ dire warnings of chaos and warfare breaking out across Europe never panned out, although when news broke that Saudi oil facilities had been attacked by drones on Sept. 14, many wondered whether Trump’s critics were right. But Iran hasn’t made a move since, and for now it seems that its attack on the Saudi oil supply was more an attempt at goading the U.S. into a military response than causing any serious threat to the region.

To his credit, Trump has avoided war despite pressure from within. The exit of National Security Advisor John Bolton may have been the result of Bolton’s “war hawk” reputation clashing with Trump’s more nuanced approach.

And it’s Trump’s approach that seems to be paying off.

The Wall Street Journal editorial board writes, “Iran will also now face even greater pressure to renegotiate. So far its leaders have refused, saying they will not do so under the pressure of sanctions. They are also violating the terms of the nuclear deal, stockpiling excessive enriched uranium. Iran could break out of the accord even further by enriching to weapons-grade levels. Or it could ratchet up its terror campaign with more attacks on Arab states, oil supplies, or U.S. and allied forces in the region.”

But just this week, there have been two important developments.

One is that the U.S. is clearly signaling its readiness to respond if Iran escalates the situation with more attacks. President Trump’s assertion that the U.S. was “locked and loaded” has been followed up by a Pentagon announcement that the U.S. will send a Patriot missile battery, radars, and 200 support personnel to Saudi Arabia.

Equally important was the joint statement earlier this week by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, and French President Macron that blamed Iran for the attack and pushed the regime to “accept negotiation on a long-term framework for its nuclear programme as well as on issues related to regional security, including its missiles programme and other means of delivery.”

In other words, those critics who claimed that Trump was alienating America’s allies were wrong. Thanks to the president, some of them now seem to realize that the so-called Iran deal was a bad deal, and that any new version of the JCPOA must include President Trump’s broader concerns about Iran’s missile program and its desire to exert power in the region.

With pressure coming from all directions, Iran is now showing signs of concession due to the painful sanctions implemented by the Trump administration, as well as additional penalties enacted after the incident in Saudi Arabia.

At the United Nations this week, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani hinted that Iran may be willing to make a new deal if sanctions are lifted. However, Reuters reported that the rogue regime’s Foreign Minister, Javad Zarif, was unwilling to change the original provisions of the JCPOA.

And so it goes.

Iran’s leadership is unpredictable, and that’s why President Trump’s decision to pull out of the Iran Deal was the right one. Too bad it took our allies so long to catch on to the big idea: Deals that benefit and embolden the enemy are not deals worth making.

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