Former President Barack Obama, calling the decision “misguided,” pointed out in a statement that Defense Secretary James Mattis is among the experts who believe the Iran deal was working. Obama wrote that debates in our country “should be informed by facts,” and proceeded to point out that the agreement he negotiated has indeed rolled back Iran’s nuclear program, has the most far-reaching verification and inspection ever negotiated in an arms control deal, and was never intended to deal with all of the problems Iran presents to its neighbors and the world.
But it is clear that Trump is now more comfortably surrounded by like-minded advisers, chiefly National Security Adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — even though at his recent confirmation hearing, then-CIA Director Pompeo acknowledged Iran has been complying with the nuclear deal. And on Tuesday night, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Bob Corker, R-Tenn., was still appealing to the president not to implement all of the sanctions.
The president and his Middle East allies, chiefly Saudi Arabia and Israel, clearly believe that with Iran’s economy teetering, cutting off its economic lifeline will eventually topple the regime. They are also betting that Tehran is too afraid of a U.S./Israeli joint military strike to resume covert nuclear activity.
They may be right. But it is just as plausible that by violating a U.N. Security Council resolution, the Trump White House has created an irreparable breach with Europe over Iran, and will find little support in the Security Council for any military action in the region.
More than any previous Trump decision — including opting out of the Paris climate accords and the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal with Asia — withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal will forever define Donald Trump’s foreign policy, and may well complicate his ambitious goals in North Korea.