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The deal with Iran and Trump's lies

By Askia Muhammad -Senior Editor- | Last updated: Oct 18, 2017 - 9:50:27 AM

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President Donald Trump de-certifies Iran nuclear deal, announces more sanctions against Iran, Oct.13. Photo: MGN Online
WASHINGTON—Though he is clearly intent on shredding every accomplishment of the presidency of Barack Obama, President Donald J. Trump stopped short of discarding the landmark diplomatic achievement of his predecessor, the nuclear agreement negotiated between Iran on one side and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council—the United States, Russia, United Kingdom, France and China—Germany and the European Union on the other.

“As I have said many times, the Iran Deal was one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” Mr. Trump said in remarks from the White House Diplomatic Reception Room. “The nuclear deal threw Iran’s dictatorship a political and economic lifeline, providing urgently needed relief from the intense domestic pressure the sanctions had created. It also gave the regime an immediate financial boost and over $100 billion its government could use to fund terrorism.”

But Mr. Trump’s speech Oct. 13 and the basis of his policy change are both rooted in falsehoods and distortions of the actual facts. “The Iranian regime has committed multiple violations of the agreement,” Mr. Trump went on to say. The truth is that the United States, the Europeans, outside observers, and international weapons inspectors all agree that Iran is meeting the conditions of the deal. Defense Secretary James “Mad Dog” Mattis testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that he believes it is in the U.S. national security interest to maintain the agreement.

When asked directly at that hearing on Oct. 3, by Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), “Do you believe it is in our national security interest at the present time to remain” in the Iran deal—known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)? The retired Marine Corps general replied: “Yes Senator I do.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, accompanied by Organization of American States Secretary-General Luis Almagro, left, answers a question about the Iran Nuclear Deal at the State Department, Oct. 13 in Washington. Photo: AP/Wide World Photos
World leaders, other senior U.S. officials and lawmakers all pressured the president to not decertify the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. Among those pressuring Mr. Trump is former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak, known as an anti-Iran hawk, but who nevertheless called the proposed withdrawal a mistake. The president said he was decertifying Iran’s compliance with the agreement, but he stopped short of pulling the U.S. out of it altogether.

“That is why I am directing my administration to work closely with Congress and our allies to address the deal’s many serious flaws so that the Iranian regime can never threaten the world with nuclear weapons.

“However, in the event we are not able to reach a solution working with Congress and our allies, then the agreement will be terminated,” Mr. Trump said. “It is under continuous review, and our participation can be cancelled by me, as president, at any time.

“As we have seen in North Korea, the longer we ignore a threat, the worse that threat becomes. It is why we are determined that the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism will never obtain nuclear weapons,” Mr. Trump declared.

“I get the distinct impression that the person who wants to do that doesn’t really understand the nature of what he is proposing, what was achieved; what has been achieved,” Edward Peck, retired former U.S. ambassador to Iraq said in an interview. The disputed agreement “in effect is a series of actions which serves the interests of everybody involved, including hopefully the Iranians, in reducing the threat of very, very serious consequences if that agreement collapses and Iran feels compelled, or free to do whatever it wants.”

“I’m a little worried about our government which appears to be under an awful lot of pressure— in the press, in the Congress and elsewhere—to do something to Iran which will not in the long run, or even in the short run serve our interests.

“If the United States should very wrongly pull out of” the Iran agreement, the already belligerent North Koreans would have even less reason to trust this country to keep its word and honor any potential agreement they might reach.

After Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein both voluntarily surrendered their ambitions to obtain weapons of mass destruction, this country militarily dismembered their countries and murdered both leaders. And if the U.S. were to subsequently renege on the Iran deal, even as that country is living up to its terms of its agreement, what possible incentive might remain for the North Koreans to come to terms?

“The answer is, ‘None at all,’” said Ambassador Peck. “If you remember North Korea and the Korean War, I recall a statement from the Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay. He said we dropped more bombs on North Korea, than we did in all of World War II. And he was in a position to know. So that leaves a certain unpleasant memory, and in the intervening years, we haven’t done very much to repair the relationship, or otherwise soothe them.

“So, they would be reluctant to do almost anything we wanted, because I have the very distinct impression—I’ve only been as far north as the DMZ, and no farther—but I have the very distinct impression that they feel, both having been savaged by and threatened by the United States, they would see no reason in the world to think that they might gain something by signing a piece of paper, particularly after the United States acted on its own to topple governments and essentially destroy countries.”

In his White House speech, Mr. Trump said the United States gave $100 billion to Iran, as if this country “paid” Iran for its agreement. But those were assets which belonged to Iran in the first place. They had been frozen by the U.S. government after the Iranian revolution in 1979. The Treasury Department has estimated that once Iran fulfills other obligations of the agreement, the U.S. would still hold about $55 billion in Iranian-owned funds.

There were numerous other falsehoods and exaggerations in Mr. Trump’s remarks. “The deal allows Iran to continue developing certain elements of its nuclear program and, importantly, in just a few years, as key restrictions disappear, Iran can sprint towards a rapid nuclear weapons breakout,” he said. The fact is that certain provisions of the agreement do not last indefinitely, nearly all of them phase out after from 10 years to 25 years.

Iran would likely have never agreed to an indefinite ban on all nuclear activities, because it has a right to have a peaceful nuclear program under the Nuclear Non- Proliferation Treaty. Mr. Trump, also conveniently does not mention that under the agreement, Iran is permanently prohibited from acquiring nuclear weapons, and will be subject to certain restrictions and additional monitoring indefinitely. And the Iranian government has repeatedly foresworn all ambitions for acquiring nuclear weapons.