Trump and the Iran Deal: Expect the Unexpected?

The Israeli propaganda machine is working overtime in the run-up to the May deadline for Trump’s decision on recertifying the Iran deal. So what did all that buildup to Netanyahu’s big announcement amount to? Less than nothing, i.e., documents that prove what we already knew – that Iran did have a nuclear program prior to 2003. As our own intelligence agencies long ago concluded, they discontinued it and haven’t restarted it since then. Oh, but then why did the Iranians keep all these thousands of documents, the Israelis ask. Doesn’t this in itself portend a future weaponization program?

Well, no, it doesn’t, but then again I doubt whether the Israelis mean to be all that convincing: they’re just signaling to President Trump exactly what’s expected of him, which raises the question: could someone who glories in his own unpredictability once again do the exact opposite of what’s expected of him? The Bolton and Pompeo appointments, the latter’s visit to Israel, and Trump’s rhetorical opposition to the deal all signal he’s going to decertify. Yet what’s changed since the last two deadlines, both of which passed without a formal rejection of the JCPOA?

One thing that’s changed is the situation on the Korean peninsula, where the prospect of an historic agreement to end the Korean war and rid the region of nuclear weapons is in the works – thanks, in large part, to the Trump administration, i.e. the President himself. By agreeing to an unprecedented meeting with the North Korean leader, Trump is banking on a big “win” – indeed, a history-making one. Yet this is a recent development, one set in motion by the Koreans, to be sure, and eagerly endorsed by President “Fire and Fury,” who, in the space of a few months, has taken us from the brink of war to the Age of Aquarius.

The salient point is that the anti-Iran deal rhetoric preceded the Korean breakthrough – and the President can hardly let the former derail the latter. Trump’s critics carp that his fusillades targeting the Iran deal as “the worst deal ever” are bound to make Kim Jong-un draw back, and yet a) we haven’t seen any evidence of this, and b) that possibility may motivate Trump to draw back from decertifying Iranian compliance with the JCPOA.

Bibi’s performance, complete with the usual dorky visual aids, may not have been all that effective as hasbara, but then again it was really aimed at an audience of one: Donald J. Trump. Which makes one wonder….

While everyone is assuming Trump has decided to nix the Iran deal, do the Israelis have some inside knowledge that this assumption may be unwarranted?  If the decision not to recertify is in the bag, then why the elaborate propaganda campaign seemingly aimed at a single person?

The administration has successfully straddled the fence on this issue so far, and despite appearances the Israel lobby is not pleased with the one American politician who’s wildly popular in Israel. Moving the US embassy to Jerusalem is a symbolic gesture that ultimately means nothing: what has the lobby hopping mad, however, is the President’s extreme reluctance to get dragged into Syria. The recent Israeli air strikes against Syrian targets are a provocation designed to accomplish precisely that: Bibi knows that any war between Israel and Iran will see the Americans involved after the first few hours. They may start the war, but we’ll be the ones to finish it – or so the Israelis would like to believe.

While every alliance is a tripwire, our “special relationship” with Israel is indeed a unique case in that a relatively weak protectorate is issuing the global hegemon its marching orders. Historically and logically it’s supposed to be the other way around. This odd geopolitical malady showed its first symptoms during the Reagan administration, and really metastasized in the Bush II era. Whether Trump’s “America First” brand of rather inconsistent “isolationism” is the right medicine to cure or even ameliorate the more obnoxious symptoms remains to be seen: count me as skeptical. However, the last thing this administration needs is another war in the Middle East, and of that I’m sure the President and his political advisors are well aware. And so the surface appearances of a White House in perfect lockstep with the Israelis are belied by the fundamental conflict at the base of the relationship.

This dissonance is bound to be underscored by the contrast between what the Trump administration appears to promise the Israelis and what is actually delivered. A US Embassy moved to Jerusalem? Sure, why not? How about a US invasion and occupation of Syria? Will Bibi take a rain check on that?

French President Macron reportedly failed to persuade Trump that the Iran deal could be renegotiated, and the Iranians have said they won’t agree to it in any case, and yet I find it hard to believe that Trump will resist the deal-making temptation. That way he can have it both ways, rejecting the JCPOA while holding out the possibility that it can be “fixed.” Whether this involves officially decertifying Iran’s compliance with the agreement is the key question, because that will automatically trigger the reimposition of sanctions.

They said Trump would start World War III on the Korean peninsula – and instead, he’s inaugurating what could end up being the emergence of a radically transformed North Korea into the international community.

They said Trump would shut down the opposition, abolish the First Amendment, and establish a fascist dictatorship. Here it is over a year later and none of those things has happened.

For months they’ve been telling us Trump will end the Iran deal and start us on a very short march to war in the Middle East – but what if they’re wrong about that, too?

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].