What is Trump Thinking On Iran Nuclear Deal?

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It was no surprise, given the early signaling from the executive branch, but it was still a disappointment on Monday when President Trump agreed to certify Iran’s continued compliance with the nuclear agreement signed by his predecessor and other U.S. allies. Though a New York Times story makes it sound like Trump agreed to the certification under considerable duress, the fact remains that – forces in his administration or no – the buck stops at the Oval Office. And now, for the second time in his tenure as president, Donald Trump has put his baffling stamp of approval on a deal he promised to scrap on “day one.”

Make no mistake about it: Trump, along with every other person working for him, knows damn well that Iran is NOT in compliance with the terms of the deal. Furthermore, Trump knows damn well that the deal itself is massively unbalanced and ineffective when it comes to keeping Iran from becoming a nuclear state. At best, the JCPOA buys the international community some time. At worst, it takes the pressure off the Islamic regime, funds them, and gives them the opportunity they need to flip the switch and go nuclear the moment the deal expires.

Now, it’s possible that the Trump administration will live up to their rhetoric from Monday – promises to get tougher on the deal’s enforcement mechanisms, apply new sanctions to Iran for its financing of terrorism, and to work with allies to keep Tehran from expanding its influence throughout the Middle East. But it’s also possible that these amount to little more than misdirection to keep critics from bluntly acknowledging the bald truth: That, so far, Trump has NOT done what he said he would do on the campaign trail.

To be sure, there are reasonable arguments for staying in the deal – well, staying in for as long as is possible, given some of the hardliner rhetoric emerging from Iran. After all, Obama managed to bungle the agreement so badly that Iran basically got everything it wanted up front, including plenty of cold, hard cash. Their only incentive to stay in the deal from now until it expires is the continued lift of U.S. sanctions, and it may be cash-rich enough know (and have enough international partners willing to defy the U.S.) that it can live without that benefit. Nonetheless, Iran holds the bargaining chips. If we pull out now, we don’t get to go in and grab back the treasure we so carelessly let go of under the Obama administration. Treasure that is, right now, going to fund terrorist organizations, expand Iranian influence in Iraq, and wage military expeditions in Syria.

But that doesn’t mean that Trump should continue to certify what it plainly not true: That Tehran is abiding by the terms of the agreement. They aren’t. And as bad as this deal is, it will become utterly worthless if Iran begins to feel like they can get away with virtually anything and still remain protected by the agreement.