Analysis trump’s iran policy unmoored from facts electricity units to kwh


President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that the U.S. government would drop out of the 2015 multinational agreement limiting Iran’s nuclear activities. His White House speech included inaccurate statements and omissions of fact that reflect either misunderstanding of the accord or an effort to distort the historical record.

“At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction, that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program,” Trump said. Actually, it was the concern that Iran might be creating the ability to build weapons that led to the 2015 deal.

Trump then said: “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 Iranians’ regime and its history of pursuing nuclear weapons.”

What Trump did not disclose: the Israeli revelations concerned already-well-known Iranian efforts to pursue a nuke more than 15 years ago. Regardless, with the kind of tough inspection regimes contained in the Iran deal, the world does not have to rely on Iran’s word about anything.

Trump said the deal has allowed Iran to enrich uranium. He left out that Iran agreed to only enrich to levels of uranium-235 needed to operate a nuclear reactor (3.67 percent) – not to the vastly higher levels needed for a bomb (90 percent).

Most importantly, international inspectors say they have access to many more facilities than they saw before the deal — and access to every single place they say they have needed to see. U.S. intelligence agencies and Defense Department leaders also have consistently and publicly said that visibility into Iran’s nuclear program has increased substantially and that Iran is doing everything it said it would do.

But the United States has sanctions on Iran for its non-nuclear behavior. Perhaps those could be ramped up. But why would the president scuttle progress in one area — the nuclear one — in the hope it would lead to better outcomes on the other concerns?

Trump says the deal’s limitations on Iran are “weak.” Even if that were true, and that is highly debatable, aren’t weak limitations better than the virtually zero limitations that existed before — and may exist again if the deal is abandoned?

The president seemed to suggest that he would have struck a better arrangement had he been at the negotiating table a few years ago. We’ll never know if that’s true. But why couldn’t Trump sit down with Iran now and hammer out what he thinks is a better deal? He says he’s working toward that. But why pull out beforehand?

Whatever the shortcomings of the Iran deal, the comparison that must be made is not Iran Deal vs. Ideal Other Deal. Rather, it is: World With Iran Deal vs. World Without Iran Deal, whether that world is the world before 2015 or whatever world follows Trump’s announcement.

But there is a wild card question: How much will Trump’s move strengthen Iran’s hardliners? Will they succeed in returning Iran to its previous path of accumulating the know-how and material to build atomic bombs, if they were to choose to do so?

Trump said the 2015 Iran pact would lead to a nuclear arms race in the Mideast. But it’s hard to believe that the absence of a deal would reduce that likelihood. Quite the contrary: If Iran reacts to Trump’s move by returning to its pre-deal nuclear activities, such an arms race would almost certainly become more likely, not less.

Ironically, Trump also said Tuesday that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was en route to North Korea to strike a nuclear deal with that country. Maybe whatever deal the Trump team reaches with North Korea will be much smarter than the one Obama and other world powers struck with Iran.

On the other hand, maybe Trump will learn how difficult such negotiations are. And maybe he’ll see how much harder it is to talk with an actual nuclear power (North Korea) than with a would-be one (Iran). He may also discover how much countries want in return for giving up a nuclear arsenal, the sort of weaponry that gives the United States and other world powers clout on the global stage.