Donald Trump Wants Conflict with Iran

The American is determined to declare Iran noncompliant with the nuclear deal, regardless of the truth.

American president Donald Trump reviews troops at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, February 6
American president Donald Trump reviews troops at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, February 6 (DoD/D. Myles Cullen)

By all accounts, Iran is complying with the 2015 multilateral agreement that curtailed its nuclear program. The country is giving full access to inspectors, who have found no violations.

The only person upset by this is Donald Trump.

The New York Times revealed earlier this month that the American president had only reluctantly certified Iran’s compliance with the deal.

Now the same newspaper reports that he has instructed his team to find a way to declare Iran noncompliant — whether it is or not.

Congress requires the president to certify every three months that Iran is meeting its obligations under the agreement. If Trump doesn’t, then lawmakers have sixty days to restore sanctions that were rescinded in 2015.

“Radical enforcement”

One idea is to demand access to Iranian military facilities which are not suspected of sheltering clandestine nuclear research but do contain other sensitive activities.

Bob Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and who has advised Trump against tearing up the nuclear agreement, describes this approach as “radical enforcement”.

The expectation is that Iran would deny inspectors access, giving the United States a pretext for ending the deal.

You want the breakup of this deal to be about Iran. You don’t want it to be about the US, because we want our allies with us.

In other words: It just has to look like Iran is doing something wrong.

Alternate reality

Fred Kaplan argues at Slate that Trump doesn’t care if the Iranians are compliant or not:

As he does with many issues, Trump is creating his own reality and finds nothing wrong with that.

“If it was up to me, I would have had [the Iranians] noncompliant 180 days ago,” Trump told The Wall Street Journal.

Consequences

The worst-case scenario is war, but we’re a long way from that.

First the International Atomic Energy Agency would need to implement Trump’s phony “radical enforcement” strategy. It is unlikely to.

Even if it does, and Iran bars IAEA monitors from nonnuclear sites, Congress might not vote to restore sanctions. American businesses and American diplomacy would be the first to suffer:

  • American companies have already resumed doing business with Iran. New sanctions would put them at a disadvantage vis-à-vis their competitors in Asia and Europe.
  • The nuclear deal is not just between Iran and the United States; the European Union, China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom also signed it. They don’t want it to fall apart. Maybe Israel’s right-wing government and Saudi Arabia’s royal family would back Trump up, but only because they wouldn’t mind America fighting their war with Iran. The rest of the world would — rightly — blame Trump.