Melania Trump likes to recycle; Donald Trump prefers the trash

Iran nuclear deal is the latest to go

By Linda Pentz Gunter

Melania Trump has demonstrated a keen interest in recycling — her speech at the Republican National Convention (Michelle Obama); her recent “Be Best” pamphlet (Obama Federal Trade Commission); the inaugural cake (Obama again) and so on.

Her less popular husband, on the other hand, prefers to trash everything — Affordable Care Act, DACA, Paris Climate Agreement, NAFTA (maybe), Trans-Pacific Partnership, Keystone Pipeline cancelation, Endangered Species Act, pretty much any and all environmental regulations. And now the Iran Nuclear Deal. But each time without any plans for an alternative.

The Wrecking Ball in Chief has struck one of his most dangerous blows in pulling the US out of the Iran nuclear deal — known officially as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA.  And not only for the most obvious reasons, related to nuclear weapons development in the Middle East.

In anticipation of a US withdrawal from JCPOA, much has already been written about the potential negative implications. On the positive side, Iran’s more moderate wing, represented by President Hassan Rouhani — who forged the nuclear deal in the first place — has indicated Iran might remain in the deal, even with US sanctions reinstated. But the economic squeeze, already being felt in Iran even before the reimposition of sanctions, might force their hand.

If Iran cannot weather the sanctions storm, it will likely resume enriching uranium to beyond commercial reactor grade — in other words at least to “weapons usable” if not “weapons grade” level. This will have an immediate and destabilizing effect in the already volatile and strife-ridden region.

Iran nuclear partners

Partners in the Iran Deal, (L to r): China, France, Germany, EU, Iran, Russia, UK, US

But if the JCPOA can survive despite the US withdrawal, Iran will effectively be thumbing its nose at US authority, providing yet another example of how, despite Trump’s global supremacy boasts, his actions are further isolating the US politically and reducing its global power status.

Trump called the Iran deal “decaying and rotting” which seems like an apt description of the state of his White House. Listening is not in the wheelhouse of this White House. In recent times, France, the UK and Germany have all urged the president not to abandon the Iran deal, even suggesting it could be reworked. But like a petulant toddler who will not be ruled by his parents, Trump prefers to trash his own room. The only certain outcome of his decision on the Iran deal is that it makes the world — and therefore the US and its citizens — a more dangerous place.

But it’s not just the specifics of the nuclear deal, and the US withdrawal, that present a danger. It’s also the prospect of an Iran thrown into deep recession, a potential outcome if the European partners to JCPOA find the penalties of sanctions too severe and curtail their business with Iran. A bankrupt Iran could topple the moderate Rouhani, who has built bridges and reduced Iran’s political isolation. This could lead to a return to greater fundamentalism, raising renewed security threats.

The key question, then, is not whether the US should, or should not, have withdrawn from JCPOA. It is whether Iran will. The fact that Iran is even considering staying in, is already encouraging. The Iran nuclear deal requires strict oversight and inspection, an unprecedented level of transparency designed to ensure that Iran, as it claims, is developing a civilian nuclear power program only (albeit already a bad idea) without intending to transition to nuclear weapons production.

Negotiations room

The ministers of foreign affairs of Germany, the United Kingdom, China, the United States, France, Russia, the European Union and Iran meeting in Geneva for the interim agreement on the Iranian nuclear programme (November 2013).

Not without significance, such oversight and restrictions are not on the agenda for a multi-reactor nuclear power deal the US is pushing with Saudi Arabia, a long-time enemy of Iran. (Israel, another US ally and enemy of Iran, has never been asked by the US to declare its undeniable possession of nuclear weapons.)

The US civilian nuclear contract with Saudi Arabia would allow domestic enrichment of uranium there without oversight or inspections.

There is an obvious level of hypocrisy here. The US government continues to label Iran as the world’s biggest state sponsor of terrorism, while Saudi Arabia remains one of the world’s biggest arms dealers. And of course most of the 9/11 terrorists were Saudis.

A year ago, the Saudis signed a deal with the Trump administration to purchase arms from the US totaling $110 billion  — although that number was found to be another Trump brag, with the real deal more like $25 billion, still not chump change. This March, the US State Department agreed to a $670 million sale of anti-tank missiles to Saudi Arabia.

A US-Saudi partnership is financially lucrative and politically strategic. Cooperating with Iran isn’t.

(Cover photo shows left to right, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, President of Egypt; King Salman of Saudi Arabia, Melania and Donald Trump. Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead.)

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