US President Donald Trump has made Iran a top priority for his presidency. Recent moves to pressure the intelligence community look a lot like the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
The dust seems to have settled. The force of the fiery rhetoric at the UN has subsided. It’s now business as usual. Now that President Trump is done with his heroics at the General Assembly, he might well be able to direct his energies to the task he’s been contemplating getting done since becoming president. ‘Mission Iran’ it is. Annihilation (sort of), regime change, abandonment of the nuclear deal, or a missile strike. Any of these would do just fine for the POTUS.
But, US Defence Secretary Jim Mattis might have just muddied the situation for the American President. In response to a question during a House of Representatives hearing on Tuesday, Mattis said regarding Iran’s compliance, “I believe that they fundamentally are. There have been certainly some areas where they were not temporarily in that regard, but overall our intelligence community believes that they have been compliant and the IAEA also says so.”
In his maiden address to the UNGA, Trump termed the nuclear deal with Iran to be one of the worst ones the US has ever signed.
He said: “We cannot let a murderous regime continue these destabilizing activities while building dangerous missiles, and we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.” If that wasn’t enough for some of the right-wing ‘enthusiasts’, Trump surely had more in store.
“Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me,” he added. So, you can’t really blame ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu for being so ecstatic at that point.
There’s a reason why Trump’s remarks regarding the JCPOA didn’t go down well with certain experts and stakeholders of the deal. Whether Trump was actually unaware or he was just playing to the gallery remains unsure. But, here’s the thing.
The United Nations Security Council (UNSC), nuclear arms control experts, the International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA), and US and Israeli intelligence have all concluded recently that Iran is doing all it needs to do in regards to its commitment vis-a-vis the nuclear deal.
Why the brouhaha, then?
Former US Assistant Secretary of State Chas Freeman summed it up well when speaking to a Russian state funded news agency: “It is evident that President Trump has no strategy for dealing with Iran. He is playing to his domestic base and the Israel Lobby without considering the probable reactions of Iran or the other parties to the JCPOA.”
Ever since his campaign trail, President Trump seems to be on a collision course with Iran.
After his speech at the UN, it’s evident that the POTUS is slowly, but surely, going down that dangerous warpath. More damning are the reports that emerged last month about the White House ‘pressurizing’ the US intelligence community to unearth evidence that could find Iran directly in contempt of the nuclear deal.
David Cohen, a former deputy director of the CIA, termed such ‘pressurizing’ as “disconcerting.” He also added that “If our intelligence is degraded because it is politicised in the way that it looks like the president wants to do here, that undermines the utility of that intelligence all across the board.”
When President Bush decided to invade Iraq based on all the fabricated evidence, there were still calls for him not to engage the US militarily in the Middle East. Did he pay heed to those calls? Well, the rest, as they say, is history.
Back then, it was the WMDs. Now, it’s the noncompliance with regards to the nuclear deal. Evidence didn’t matter then. And, considering Trump’s animosity towards Iran—and his Secretary of Defence General Mattis’ career-long obsession with Iran—any evidence from official sources is likely to be snubbed this time around, too.
The American President’s continued belligerence towards Iran can be catastrophic. Differences with Iran are likely to persist for long, but warmongering won’t help one bit. Respecting evidence from official sources is always the safest best. President Bush ignored it. Now, the onus is on President Trump to avoid that trap.
All eyes are now set on October 15. With a 60-day window to play with, the American Congress will have the option to re-impose sanctions on Iran. This, unfortunately, will then make the nuclear deal fall apart. But, let’s hope American lawmakers will make the right call.
Irrespective of how things pan out, an Obama-era diplomatic victory shouldn’t serve as a precursor for another escalation in the Middle East.
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