On Friday, President Trump read a series of hallucinatory claims from a teleprompter, and now the Iran nuclear agreement — and America’s diplomatic credibility on the world stage — is on life support.
To be fair to Trump, it would have been difficult to make a coherent case for decertifying the deal. James Mattis hates Tehran about as much as the president hates Rosie O’Donnell — the Defense secretary was so hostile to the Iran deal while it was being negotiated, the Obama administration kicked him to the curb. But even he recognizes that ripping up an agreement that Iran is complying with — and, thus, compromising America’s credibility and alienating its core European allies — is a bad idea.
So, to reach his desired conclusion, Trump was always going to have to get a little creative. But this president has never trafficked in little, low-energy distortions of reality — he prefers to spew hokum and poppycock like the world has never seen.
Here’s a rundown of Trump’s most absurd arguments for decertifying the nuclear agreement with Iran.
(1) If it weren’t for the nuclear agreement, Khamenei’s Islamist regime would have collapsed by now.
Trump claimed that the Obama administration lifted nuclear sanctions on Iran “just before what would have been the total collapse of the Iranian regime.” Literally, no one honestly believes this.
Do you remember back in 2015, when Bibi Netanyahu and all of the other Iran hawks were begging the Obama administration to take no action whatsoever against Iran, because the existing economic sanctions already guaranteed the imminent, “total collapse” of Ayatollah Khamenei’s revolutionary regime? Me neither.
It’s certainly true that sanctions had taken an enormous toll on Iran’s economy. But before the nuclear agreement, the nation already had a healthy balance of payments, and was making solid oil revenues off of sales to Japan, China, and other nations. The Iranian people suffered greatly, but the regime held up fine.
(2) The current situation with North Korea proves that it isn’t worth making major compromises to prevent hostile powers from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The president said — as an argument for canceling a diplomatic agreement that had succeeded in eliminating 98 percent of Iran’s uranium stockpile — “As we have seen in North Korea, the longer we ignore a threat, the worse that threat becomes.”
Trump has repeatedly argued that sanctions won’t stop North Korea from expanding its nuclear capabilities. His administration is desperately trying to trade the regime sanctions relief for an end to its nuclear program — without addressing the nation’s other offenses against international law. To make such an agreement, North Korea will need to believe that the U.S. will honor its diplomatic commitments.
So clearly, if we follow the lessons of North Korea, the way to deal with Iran is to rip up a successful nuclear agreement because we have other beefs with the country; trust that tougher economic sanctions will keep them from pursuing an atomic weapon in the absence of a deal; and demonstrate to every rogue state on the planet that signing a de-proliferation agreement with the United States is a fool’s game.
(3) We can’t trust Iran because (unlike our allies in the Middle East) it had ties to the perpetrators of 9/11.
“The regime harbored high-level terrorists in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, including Osama bin Laden’s son,” Trump said, in a speech that effectively called for prioritizing the protection of Saudi Arabia’s regional interests over maintaining a nuclear agreement with Iran.
(4) The Iran agreement is worthless because it only restricts the amount of nuclear fuel Iran can produce until 2031.
“In just a few years, as key restrictions disappear, Iran can sprint towards a rapid nuclear weapons breakout,” Trump said. “In other words, we got weak inspections in exchange for no more than a purely short-term and temporary delay in Iran’s path to nuclear weapons.”
Before the agreement, military analysts said that strikes against Iran’s military facilities would set the nation’s nuclear program back by two years — four, tops — at the cost of a new war in the Middle East. The current agreement sets limits on how much nuclear fuel Iran can produce until 2031. After that, Iran is still barred from developing a nuclear weapon — and still subjected to aggressive inspections to ensure that it abides by that condition. So far, Iran has fully complied with the inspectors’ requests.
(5) “The same mind-set that produced this deal is responsible for years of terrible trade deals that have sacrificed so many millions of jobs in our country to the benefit of other countries.”
It’s true: The Iran deal was principally motivated by the neoliberal conviction that increasing GDP through liberalized trade relations was worth the potential costs to America’s manufacturing sector.
(6) We are trying to reimpose devastating economic sanctions on Iran because we care about its citizens.
“In this effort, we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims: its own people,” Trump said, in a speech that bemoaned the Obama administration’s decisions to offer the nation sanctions relief. Here is what life was like for ordinary Iranians before the nuclear sanctions were lifted:
Iranian-Americans, who are allowed under U.S. law to send money to elderly parents in Iran, cannot find any bank in the United States or Europe that will wire the funds. Charities that raised money for emergency relief in response to the devastating 2012 earthquake in northern Iran were turned down by dozens of banks as they tried to send the funds to Iran — even though they had a license from the U.S. Treasury Department. Iranians attempting to download software, such as Adobe Acrobat or MacAfee AntiVirus, find the websites blocked. Pharmaceutical companies with contracts to sell medicine and medical equipment to Iran — quite legally — find that no shipping company will carry these goods, and no bank will accept payment from Iran … The most effective medicines to treat cancer and AIDS, which are manufactured only by Western pharmaceutical companies, can no longer be gotten within Iran.
… The results have been devastating for the Iranian population, triggering a collapse of industry, skyrocketing inflation, and massive unemployment. As the rich and politically-connected prosper under sanctions, Iran’s middle class has disappeared, and even access to food and medicine has been compromised.
We will stand in total solidarity with the Iranian people — by making it impossible for them to buy effective cancer drugs, discrediting the moderate forces within their government, and increasing the risk that their country is consumed by war in the near-future.