Things just got worse, again

Trump’s reckless acts make a nuclear Iran more likely

By Linda Pentz Gunter

If one was to sum up 2019 in a phrase, it would probably be “just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse.”

On second thoughts, it’s probably been a daily refrain ever since Donald Trump took office as President of the United States. In those early days we still held out hope that his tenure could not last. It seemed incredible then that such an incompetent and unqualified man could enter, let alone remain, in the White House.

Now here we are at the start of 2020, Trump is still in the White House, and with sickening predictability, things just got worse once again.

This time it’s the tense situation with Iran, a story that is by no means over, whether or not violent reprisals cease or resume. The Pandora’s Box got opened by Trump with his rash and reckless decision to assassinate Iran’s top general. One might call the act ill-advised, except it’s likely no one advised him. Or if they did, he didn’t listen. Trump is an oligarch basking in autocracy. Like the petulant child he is, he shall do as he pleases. And the rest of us will pay the price.

Although, lest we forget, we have been here before. On February 4, 2012, under the Obama administration, a rally was held at the White House — simultaneously with others around the world — to call for “No War on Iran, No Sanctions, No Intervention, No Assassinations.” Instead, all of these things have continued to happen.

2012 no irn war demo

National Day of Action ANSWER Coalition NO WAR ON IRAN Protest in front of the White House, February 4, 2012. (Photo: Elvert Barnes Protest Photography/Wikimedia Commons)

At the time of the 2012 protests, the Answer coalition stated:

“The U.S.-led campaign to bring about regime change is escalating. The European Union has announced a complete embargo of Iranian oil. Taken together with the other economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. and its allies, this is a campaign meant to impose maximum suffering on the people of Iran by destabilizing and destroying the country’s economy.  At the same time, covert action inside the country, including assassinations, sabotage and drone over flights, is intensifying. U.S. military bases surround Iran, while nuclear-armed U.S. aircraft carriers and Trident submarines sit right off its cost.”

No lessons learned, then.

Doubtless many military families across America are this week giving Trump no thanks for making their loved ones sitting duck targets in Iraq and for sending more of them off to, at the very least a danger zone, if not a war. The short-term prospects are grim, no matter if there’s a standoff or an escalation.

But the long-term outlook is even worse. And that is never more true than on the nuclear front. Because, in keeping with his deliberate chaos strategy to make everything in our country and in our world infinitely worse, Trump has now made a nuclear weaponized Iran far more likely.

Possibly, and this is even worse still, he has also made the US use of nuclear weapons more likely. Trump may have reluctantly backed away from the war crime of destroying Iran’s cultural sites; and he may have suggested for now that the US will not escalate aggression against Iran while choosing to ramp up more sanctions instead. (This latter is arguably also a war crime since it will cause additional and immense suffering among ordinary Iranians.) But none of us can predict whether Trump won’t just decide to nuke the country instead. He’s already said it once — about Afghanistan — when Trump announced last July that he could have that country “wiped off the face of the Earth.”

The slow march to the nuclear brink began on May 18, 2018 when the US announced its withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). The JCPOA agreement was reached in July 2015 by Iran and the five members of the UN Security Council and the European Union.

Trump trashed the deal, an arrangement that was one of the most intrusive ever, given Iran is a signatory to the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), with all evidence pointing to its longstanding compliance. Iran was subject to vigorous UN inspections and verification to ensure it was enriching uranium only up to commercial grade for civilian nuclear power plants, and not to military grade for nuclear weapons. This included continuous monitoring of Iran’s uranium mines and mills for 25 years and monitoring of its centrifuge production facilities for 20 years.

The JCPOA, while by no means perfect, kept things transparent and held Iran to its claim that its nuclear intentions were civilian only. The greater problem, however, lies not with the JCPOA but with the NPT. 

The deeply flawed Article IV of the NPT affords the “inalienable right” to countries that eschew nuclear weapons to develop nuclear energy instead. This sets up a perpetual level of uncertainty as to whether a country exercising that right, truly intends to stop uranium enrichment at civilian grade rather than quietly progressing on to bomb making. The “inalienable right” simply blurs the line between civilian and military nuclear development and sets up the pathway — through technology, materials and personnel — to do precisely what it is endeavoring to avoid.


The US assassination of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani provoked renewed nuclear threats by Iran. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

After Trump withdrew the US from JCPOA, the Europeans struggled mightily to hold it together. But then came the US assassination of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, a provocation that handed Iran the perfect opportunity to renew threats it has made in the past to withdraw from the NPT. Iran has also hinted that its uranium enrichment will not now stop at commercial grade.

As the Nobel Prize-Winning International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW) said in its January 8 statement:

“The Iran nuclear agreement was seen by many, including IPPNW, as a stepping stone toward a more constructive period of international engagement with a country that will be crucial to any future negotiations for peace in the Middle East. That opportunity has now been squandered through the reckless and, apparently, politically motivated act of a US President who has repeatedly shown terrible judgment in international affairs.”

And the International Peace Bureau declared:

“We totally reject and abhor the foolhardy, belligerent and seriously dangerous actions of the U.S. in bringing the world even closer to a global conflict which would undoubtedly include the use of nuclear weapons. More war is not the answer.”

At the Trump administration’s May 2018 announcement that the US would withdraw from the JCPOA, Trump said:

“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.”

Since then, Trump has done everything possible to make sure that is precisely what happens.

Headline photo: “Iran reportage MO*” by MO* is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

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