Why Trump can’t keep his promise of no nuclear Iran ‘ever’

Source: Why Trump can’t keep his promise of no nuclear Iran ‘ever’ – Middle East – Jerusalem Post

February 16, 2017 15:02


Trump and Netanyahu may not like the Iran nuclear deal, they may not have made it, and they may enforce it more aggressively than the Obama administration, but attempts to “rip it up” are over.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump. (photo credit:REUTERS)

Has everyone forgotten the complex challenges posed by Iran?

Most of the media attention from Wednesday’s landmark first meeting between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and US President Donald Trump has been on Israeli-Palestinian issues.

The minimal coverage of the two leaders’ comments on Iran has focused on their similar sounding tone and goals of preventing a nuclear Iran – with Trump saying that he will make sure that the Islamic Republic does not get a nuclear weapon “ever.”

Missed in all of this are some hugely important developments, including what didn’t happen.

One of Netanyahu’s primary goals over the last two years, which brought him to bruising, public fights with the Obama administration, has been blocking or repealing the Iran nuclear deal. He called the deal an historic mistake.

Trump the candidate ran unequivocally on a “rip it up” (the Iran deal) message, calling it the worst deal in history.

There were hints once Trump was elected and his nominees started to be asked about the Iran deal that change was afoot.

Change is now official: the deal is here to stay. It is now both Trump’s and Netanyahu’s policy.

They may not like the deal, they may not have made it, and they may enforce it more aggressively than the Obama administration, but attempts to “rip it up” are officially over.

Yet that is not the biggest development from Wednesday.

The biggest development was the absence of the two leaders announcing any concrete steps to change Iran’s behavior other than a strong-sounding but vague promise by Trump that he will never let Iran get a nuclear weapon.

Trump’s aggressive rhetoric and implied threats may be enough to make Iran observe the deal’s limits on its nuclear program in the coming years.

But the biggest worry has always been: what happens in January 2026 and 2031 when aspects of those limits start to expire?

The problem is that Trump can’t guarantee Iran will not legally “walk-out” to a nuclear weapon at that future date because he will not be president. Even if he is reelected, his second term would end in January 2025. It’s simple math.

If Israel and the US were really making Iran their top issue, they could have made some concrete announcements about joint efforts to define what they would do to respond to Iranian minor violations of the deal, defined Iranian major violations and detailed specific efforts to make limits on Iran’s nuclear program permanent.

At the very least, as a near-term measure, they could have suggested, as former IDF intelligence chief Maj. Gen. Amos Yadlin has suggested, some concrete moves at the UN to ban Iranian missile tests, after Iran carried out such tests on multiple occasions recently.

Currently, the Iran nuclear deal does not impact such tests and other UN resolutions only “call on” Iran to avoid such tests, but do not ban them.

Or they could have announced wider sanctions against Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, which is said to be under consideration, or moving new US military assets to the region as a show of strength.

There were no concrete new moves or rolling out of new processes announced.

To date, the Trump administration has not even announced whether and to what extent it is communicating directly with Iran as the Obama administration did – or just through the press.

Many hawks on the Iran issue are so thrilled with the stronger tone from Trump that he is already getting high marks.

But as is always the case with Iran, the devil is in the details, and Wednesday’s meeting surprisingly had none.

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