President Donald Trump minced no words in announcing May 8 our withdrawal from the nuclear agreement with Iran. He said, "It is clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and rotten structure of the current agreement." Trump added the deal "is defective at its core. If we do nothing we know exactly what will happen." Trump also announced he would initiate new sanctions against Iran and that any country helping Tehran obtain nuclear weapons would also be "strongly sanctioned."
His announcement carries important message to three distinctly different parties.
Obviously, the first recipient of Trump's message is Tehran. It now understands U.S. appeasement regarding its nuclear arms program is no longer on the table. President Obama assured us that giving up so much in the 2015 deal would improve our relations with Iran and that it would prevent Tehran from having nuclear weapons. He was wrong on both assertions. And, foolishly, Obama's deal failed even to ensure, through verification, exactly how far the Iranians had already progressed in their nuclear arms progam – raising the question if we do not know the deal's starting point for their progress, how do we know when a violation has occurred? Add in the fact Obama also released billions of dollars in frozen assets to a nation known as the leading state sponsor of terrorism, and it does not take a rocket scientist to conclude that money not only was committed to funding Iran's nuclear program but also to funding global terrorist activity as well.
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The second recipient receiving a message from Trump's nuclear deal withdrawal is North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un. This message is very timely, coming just before he and Trump are to meet to discuss denuclearization of Pyongyang's arms program. In pursuing nuclear weapons, the programs for North Korea and Iran have, like Siamese twins, been connected at the hip. Whenever testing has occurred in North Korea, Iranian observers have been present to watch and take notes. Based on our withdrawal of the Iran deal, Kim now knows he has no guarantee the Siamese twins' relationship will continue to generate the financial assistance he has been receiving from Iran if it becomes isolated by a new Trump Middle East doctrine looking to reel in Tehran's adventurism – both of a nuclear and terrorist nature.
But the third message Trump sent out by his decision is one that probably has devastated its recipient. That message goes to former Secretary of State John Kerry who had been quietly and secretly meeting with French and German leaders as well as the foreign minister of Iran to convince the Europeans not to withdraw and undoubtedly advising Iran to hang tough. Kerry seems to be suffering from the "Michelle Obama Affliction," unknown ever before to befall a former first lady of the land, but evidenced by her assertion she is our "forever first lady." Kerry appears to suffer from a strain of this affliction, believing he is our "forever secretary of state." Our withdrawal from the deal should be a wake-up call he is not.
While there undoubtedly will be critics lining up to attack Trump for withdrawing from the nuclear deal, they need to recognize that despite the long journey Obama and Kerry took to negotiate it, they allowed one simple requirement to escape them that delegitimizes their entire effort. Iran's mullahs, for some unknown reason, while claiming the agreement is in force, never signed it. One can only wonder why. As the terms of the deal clearly pave the way for a nuclear-armed Iran, contrary to what Obama asserted in 2015, one possible theory does exist.
In 2006, Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei, issued a fatwa – a ruling on Islamic law issued by a recognized authority – claiming that it was un-Islamic for Iran to develop nuclear weapons. Both Obama and other leaders have cited this as some sort of reassurance to the American public we had nothing to fear from Iran except fear itself as nukes were religiously banned. While it is unclear on its face whether this fatwa represented true Iranian intentions, more likely it was issued to give the West a false sense of security, especially since, today, we know Tehran has a nuclear arms program. However, if some of the leadership harbored second thoughts about such weapons development being un-Islamic, there may have been some collective hesitancy about signing off on an agreement allowing it.
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However, for anyone who might suggest a U.S. withdrawal violates the agreement, no legal authority in the world would suggest an agreement that was never signed by both parties could be violated by either party mentioned therein.
Ironically, and unsurprisingly, while the nuclear deal with Iran represented the greatest foreign policy disaster of Obama's tenure, it represented the greatest foreign policy success during that same time frame for Iran. With Trump's decision now to withdraw from it, the fortunes for both countries have been reversed.