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Did Trump save face by breaking America’s commitment to the JCPOA?

Because, how does keeping America’s international agreements make it ‘great’?

Trump yesterday signed off on a US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) lifting tough economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for a throttled nuclear development commitment. Why would he do this when all the other parties to the agreement were literally begging him not to withdraw and the IAEA had certified nearly a dozen times that Iran was complying with the terms of the agreement?

Trump had been saying that the Iran nuclear deal was the ‘worst deal ever’ negotiated and had promised to end America’s participation in it during his 2016 presidential campaign. Add to that the fact that when he signed off on its continuation in January that it would be ‘for the last time’ bluntly stated that Trump was going to end it.

A Personal Commitment

Trump, in true narcissistic fashion, wants to appear as the greatest president that America has ever had, thus, he wants to downplay or destroy every achievement of his predecessor, Barack Hussein Obama, whether domestically or internationally, whether it was the Paris Climate Accord, the TPP, NAFTA, domestic environmental regulations, tax codes, etc., etc., etc.,. this time it’s the Iran nuclear deal. He will be the one to cut the deals and ‘make America great’. Should he take a different road and renew it once again, he might lose face and break a vital campaign promise, hence, Trump’s personal need to withdraw America from the 2015 multilateral agreement.

The Deal Maker in Action

Trump here breaks a nuclear arms deal immediately before attempting to broker another one with North Korea, who has developed nuclear warheads capable of striking the US mainland. Relative to the North Korea denuclearization prospect, Trump has already declared that if he doesn’t think that America will get the better end of such a deal that he would walk away from the meeting. By breaking America’s commitment to the Iran nuclear deal, the JCPOA, Trump is hereby proving his willingness to ‘walk away’ if he doesn’t get exactly what he wants. It appears as though Trump’s version of deal making is a ‘take it or leave it’ attitude, rather than one of negotiation.

The Deep State’s Iranian regime change ambition

Of course, we can’t overlook the fact that the American deep state has been itching to launch a regime change plan through the past few presidential administrations, and the fact that now it looks like it has a very good chance of accomplishing it under Trump, given the manner in which he has staffed his cabinet, not that it didn’t stand to achieve it under previous admins which proved that they were hungry enough to try it, even violently if need be, from Clinton to Bush to Obama in either of each one’s dual term administrations.

After all, we just witnessed Trump using coded language to call for such a regime change in his announcement of his withdrawal from the JCPOA. The intention is to apply enough economic pressure on the people of Iran to provide the domestic pretext to launch a color revolution on Tehran in much the same way as was done elsewhere in the Middle East and Europe, and as was attempted at the dawn of the current year.

Additionally, we can’t forget that Israel has been crying out for the cancellation of the JCPOA for some time, and Netanyahu’s BS presentation about the Iran nuclear program last week, which was used as part of Trump’s ‘logic’ for breaking America’s international commitment to its allies relative to economic sanctions on Iran over its nuclear development program.

Trump’s reasoning for withdrawing from the JCPOA, as delivered in his announcement, were little more than faulty polemics, as they were fraught with outright inaccuracies, distortions, and fabrications, as even the Washington Post, in a rare instance of legitimate news and analysis, observes:

We reviewed six of Trump’s claims from his May 8 speech announcing the decision to withdraw from the deal. As is our custom with roundups of multiple statements, we will not be offering a Pinocchio rating. But we invite readers to weigh in with comments.

“In fact, the deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and — over time — reach the brink of a nuclear breakout. …

“The agreement was so poorly negotiated that even if Iran fully complies, the regime can still be on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time. The deal’s sunset provisions are totally unacceptable. …

“If we do nothing, we know exactly what will happen. In just a short period of time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons.”

Notice how Trump uses flexible wording such as “on the verge of a nuclear breakout in just a short period of time.” This is refreshing and more accurate than his Four Pinocchio claim from April 30: “In seven years, that deal will have expired, and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons.”

The JCPOA’s prohibition on Iran’s building nuclear weapons does not sunset, and other international agreements to which Iran has committed itself also prohibit the development of such weapons.

However, critics of the JCPOA have voiced concerns that — despite these strictures — Iran could keep working toward nuclear weapons capability under the guise of pursuing peaceful goals, such as a nuclear energy program.

Trump is alluding to the fact that the JCPOA gradually lifts restrictions on the types of nuclear activities and the level of uranium enrichment Iran may conduct. These and other provisions sunset over 10, 15, 20 or 25 years.

The president argues that easing these restrictions over time would open the door to Iran’s attaining nuclear weapons capability, rendering the JCPOA ultimately ineffective. But supporters of the Iran deal dispute that and say the JCPOA at least buys time, subjecting Iran to strong constraints on its nuclear activities for 10 to 25 years. Without the JCPOA, Iran could hasten its development of nuclear weapons on an even shorter timeline than the one Trump found unsatisfactory, they say.

“Even as some of the provisions in the JCPOA do become less strict with time, this won’t happen until ten, fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years into the deal, so there is little reason to put those restrictions at risk today,” Obama wrote in a Facebook post responding to Trump’s announcement.

Moreover, Iran is a signatory to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and has committed itself to ratifying the International Atomic Energy Agency’s Additional Protocol in 2023. The former restricts Iran from ever developing nuclear weapons, and the latter grants international inspectors wide access to monitor nuclear-related activities within Iran’s borders.

In agreeing to the JCPOA, Iran reaffirmed its commitment to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and stated: “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons.” …

“This disastrous deal gave this regime — and it’s a regime of great terror — many billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash — a great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States.”

Trump always makes it seem that the United States casually handed Iran billions of dollars in cash. But as we’ve reported, this was always Iran’s money. Iran had billions of dollars in assets that were frozen in foreign banks because of international sanctions over its nuclear program. The U.S. Treasury Department estimated that Iran would have a little more than $50 billion of usable liquid assets at its disposal after a broad lifting of sanctions under the terms of the JCPOA. The Central Bank of Iran said the number was $32 billion.

Trump also mentions “actual cash.” This relates to the settlement of a decades-old claim between the United States and Iran. In the 1970s, the pro-Western Iranian government under the shah paid $400 million for U.S. military equipment. But the equipment was never delivered because the two countries broke off relations after American hostages were seized at the U.S. Embassy in Iran…

“At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program. Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie. Last week, Israel published intelligence documents long concealed by Iran, conclusively showing the Iranian regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel announced on April 30 that Mossad agents had obtained a massive cache of documents and data discs from Iran about “Project Amad,” a clandestine nuclear-weapons development program. Netanyahu said the documents proved that Iran had lied about its past nuclear efforts.

“What he is revealing with all this detail is not news,” Daryl Kimball, executive director of the Arms Control Association, told The Washington Post after Netanyahu gave a PowerPoint presentation laying out these findings. “The fact that Iran has experimented with nuclear warhead designs, and had at one point an active weapons program, makes it all the more essential that the JCPOA remains in place to prevent Iran from quickly amassing enough fissile material for even one bomb.”

Like Kimball and other experts, U.S.-allied nations in Europe described Israel’s findings as nothing new and said they strengthened the case for the JCPOA….

“In the years since the deal was reached, Iran’s military budget has grown by almost 40 percent — while its economy is doing very badly.”

According to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), Iran’s military expenditure increased nearly 30 percent from 2015, when the JCPOA was adopted, to 2017. This increase brought Iran’s military spending back to near-2006 levels. But as we’ve pointed out before, just looking at the raw increase or decrease in any country’s military budget misses important context. Instead, let’s consider Iran’s military expenditure as a share of overall government spending. In 2015, it accounted for 15.4 percent of government spending. It increased 0.4 percentage point, to 15.8 percent of government spending, by 2017. According to a White House official, this spending level is expected to remain stable in 2018. That means military spending increased alongside overall government spending — not in a silo on its own.

Looking at Iran’s military expenditure as a share of GDP, there’s a similar trend. It has increased by only half a percentage point — going from 2.6 percent to 3.1 percent from 2015 to 2017. (For comparison, in 2016, military expenditure accounted for about 3.3 percent of GDP in the United States.)…

“Making matters worse, the deal’s inspection provisions lack adequate mechanisms to prevent, detect, and punish cheating and don’t even have the unqualified right to inspect many important locations, including military facilities. Not only does the deal fail to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it also fails to address the regime’s development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads.”

Let’s start at the top. To meet its end of the JCPOA deal, Iran first had to dismantle its nuclear program significantly. Then, Iran gave the international community wide access to investigate its nuclear activities.

As we’ve reported, the IAEA already has the ability to investigate nuclear facilities and activities disclosed by Iran’s government. The country also has committed itself to ratifying the IAEA’s Additional Protocol in 2023, which would give international investigators the power to “investigate undeclared nuclear facilities and activities” as well as “demand information from member states,” according to a 2017 report by the Congressional Research Service.

If Iran were to violate the terms of the deal, sanctions would be reinstated.

This all hinges on the access given to international watchdogs (and their ability). Supporters claim the JCPOA grants them unprecedented access. Some critics point out that Iran has been known to evade inspections in the past and that key provisions giving access to monitors sunset over time. Others say the IAEA should be given wider authority, particularly the ability to inspect military sites, to adequately police Iran’s nuclear programs.

“As long as Iran remains in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), it has an obligation to answer the IAEA’s questions and allow inspectors access to military sites and personnel in Iran related to that effort,” the Institute for Science and International Security, which has been skeptical of the Iran deal, said in a statement after Trump’s speech.

“The Iranian regime is the leading state sponsor of terror. It exports dangerous missiles, fuels conflicts across the Middle East, and supports terrorist proxies and militias such as Hezbollah, Hamas, the Taliban, and al-Qaeda.”

This claim is not new to the president’s repertoire. Trump suggests the assistance to al-Qaeda continues to the present day. This is in line with the latest State Department Country Reports on terrorism, released in July 2017, which said: “Since at least 2009, Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through the country, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.” This phrasing marked a shift from previous reports, which indicated the support was in the past.

Trump’s reasoning simply doesn’t fly here. With the JCPOA in place, even if Iran were violating it, international nuclear inspectors are keeping a close eye on their activities, whereas if the deal is canned, then Iran would have no incentive to keep it under wraps and would therefore escalate its nuclear program with impunity as they would have no reason not to do so, especially if the US announces that it wants to invade them. After all, nuclear weapons have worked as a great deterrent to a Western backed invasion attempt in North Korea, why would it not work for them, especially if other means prove unfeasible.

The accusations about Iran being a state sponsor of terror, as the WaPo demonstrates, are nothing new, as the US has been saying this all along, however, that it sponsors American backed terrorists is what is laughable about the claim. If that were indeed the case, then wouldn’t Washington consider Iran a strategic ally, in the much the same way that it views the Saudis, who likewise train, arm, and fund terrorists, ahem, ‘moderates’ and ‘opposition forces’, in the Middle East who are serving the deep state’s interests? Trump is borrowing Israel’s propaganda against Iran in order to justify withdrawing from the deal.

This is a case where Trump’s personal ambitions are both in concert with, and conflict with, his administration’s own interests. How is this so? Well, Trump is devaluing America’s clout on the world stage by giving the world its newest example of America violating its international commitments, while, at the same time, it wants to implement new ones with parties that the US has little or no diplomatic experience (North Korea, in particular), and showing European partners that their interests and their contributions are not esteemed by Washington. Here, he is breaking America’s word by keeping his personal word to his constituents to do so.

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