Will Trump do a deal with Iran or try to Overthrow its Government?

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

For all his bluster about renegotiating the Joint Plan for Collective Action regarding Iran’s nuclear enrichment program, which the members of the UN Security Council plus Germany signed off on in summer of 2015, Donald Trump didn’t menace Iran itself during his campaign. He lamented Iranian influence in Iraq, but seemed to feel that the pro-Iranian government of Bashar al-Assad in Syria was better than a the Sunni fundamentalist regime likely to be erected by the country’s rebels.

Now we are hearing that Trump may choose Rudi Giuliani or John Bolton for secretary of state. Giuliani has taken money from the shadowy Mojahedin-e Khalq (People’s jihadis) or MEK, a Marxist Muslim group dedicated to using terrorist tactics to overthrowing the ayatollahs in Tehran. Bolton, one of the advocates for Bush’s Iraq War, urged bombing Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities (which would have released massive amounts of radioactive material on the major city of Isfahan).

So as usual with Trump, he is all over the place. The National Iranian American Council, which represents many Iranian-Americans, has some advice for him in a new report signed by 76 national security experts (I am among them).

NIAC argues that the nuclear deal with Iran was a positive, and reduced tensions in the Gulf. After all, instead of dickering, Dick Cheney and his crew had wanted a war on Iran.

Moreover, despite the skeptics, every evidence is that the agreement is a success. Iran has met all of its obligations. It concreted in its planned heavy water reactor at Arak, which could have been used as a breeder reactor to produce fissile material. It got rid of its stock of uranium enriched to 19.5%. It greatly reduced the number of centrifuges it runs. It accepted thoroughgoing inspections by the UN International Atomic Energy Agency.

NIAC observes that the deal had the added benefit of demonstrating that diplomacy can work with Iran, despite the inevitable attempts of Iranian hardliners to sabotage any improvement of Iran’s relations with the West and despite the deep suspicions of Iran’s clerical Leader, Ali Khamenei.

What that means is that a President Trump can also resolve further outstanding issues with Iran by using diplomacy. He says he is all about the art of the deal, so the biggest deals to be made are with Iran.

Moreover, despite the severe disagreements between Washington and Tehran on some issues, there are other matters where their interests overlap. The US frankly needs Iran to defeat ISIL, and if Trump wants to crush what is left of that organization, he’ll have no choice but to cooperate with Iran (just as Obama has, behind the scenes).

The new NIAC report looks at US-Iran relations with regard to the regional concerns such as the Syrian civil war, rebuilding a viable Iraqi state, stabilizing Afghanistan, the issue of the Saudi-Iran cold war, and energy security. It also covers human rights in Iran and the continued unilateral sanctions imposed by the United States (which are now costing American companies billions of dollars in lost business, and allowing European competitors to clean up.)

One area of urgent cooperation between a Trump administration and Iran will be putting Iraq back together again. Iraqi elites need to realize that they need constitutional reform to reconfigure political parties away from an ethnic basis, which divides the country rather than uniting it. Iraq’s army needs to be rebuilt with mixed units of Sunnis and Shiites. After ISIL is defeated, the pro-Iran Shiite militias need to be demobilized. If they remain standing forces beholden to Iran, it could destabilize Iraq again in ways that will disadvantage Iran.

NIAC is the most effective of the lobbies of Americans of Middle Eastern heritage. Its positions are judicious. They will be disregarded by the Giulianis and the Boltons. But those two don’t want to do a deal. Maybe Trump does. If so, he’d get a better backgrounder from NIAC on how to accomplish that than he would from anyone on his current team.

——-

Related video:

Euronews: “What will Trump’s presidency mean for the Iran nuclear deal?”

18 Responses

  1. Trump strikes me as a dummy that is easily manipulated by people he “trusts.”

    While I would hope he would try to “deal” with Iran, I anticipate he will go the war route fairly quickly. This is very possible because the congress critters in the last few decades have totally ignored their constitutional duties and have let administrations just kill whoever they want whenever they want.

    There are still a lot of bruised egos in Washington that are angry that Iran threw out the USA puppet and has successfully ignored the USA boycotts for decades. Unfortunately these bruised egos VASTLY overestimate the USA military capability against Iran (even after the massive defeats the USA has suffered since Vietnam).

    Iran has been extremely paranoid about a USA attack and for the last 30+ years has built a very deadly, multi-layer defensive structure that will kill LOTS of Americans if we attack. Any attack on Iran will cost the USA huge amounts of blood and treasure and the USA will eventually have to withdraw in defeat.

    This is assuming that Russia and/or China don’t come to Iran’s defense. If Russia and/or China enter the war, the USA is completely toast and will no longer be a world power.

    Iran is NOT the weakling that the dummies in Washington think it is. It has excellent defensive weapons designed to make the lives of invading Americans short and meaningless. Iran has carefully chosen weapons that have 3X to 100X the “bang for the buck” that American weapons have, meaning that Iran can spend a lot less and still be able to defeat the USA.

    Attacking Iran would be vastly more deadly for the USA than the Vietnam war and the Afghan wars combined (remember we are still dying and losing in Afghanistan).

    The USA has reached the limits of its military power so dealing is a better option, but as we have repeatedly seen USA egos can not accept reality so they continue to waste what little wealth we have left, on more wars.

    This next war will NOT end well for the USA.

    If the people in the flyover states are unhappy with their lot in life now, BOY will they be unhappy after trumper gets the USA defeated in Iran.

    • Your very much over-stating irans capabilities, even though hawks like to buikd it up irans armed forces and military spending isnt that significant.

  2. Trump has said he will keep a close eye on Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA. The threat being that he will tear up the agreement if they renege on their part in any way, or if he persuades himself that’s what they are doing. That should more or less satisfy everyone, at any rate keep them on the starting line. I doubt Trump will try to ‘put Iran back together again’. He’s much more likely to seek hard nosed deals, keeping Bolton and others snarling like rottweilers while he negotiates. Same principle really. I further doubt he has the slightest interest in humanitarian issues, even at home and certainly not abroad, there’s no profit in them.

  3. I just read that Sheldon Adelson is a huge supporter of John Bolton and is pushing for Bolton to be in a position of power.

    So much for draining the swamp, a term that will take on new meaning if Sarah Palin is picked to head up the EPA.

  4. It seems to me that no one knows what Trump plans to do, not only regarding Iran, but with many other issues as well. All of us, including myself, are merely speculating. So let me add my two cents to the pile of speculations.

    Suppose Trump isn’t as dumb as he lets on. He knows that on any issue that he wants to make serious changes to the status quo policies on, he will generate heavy opposition.

    But he won’t be able to proceed on anything until he is actually sitting in the Oval Office, two months from now. If he tips his hand now, he gives his opposition those two months to strategize and organize themselves to thwart his aims.

    So he sends out a lot of contradictory, and mostly false signals that are all over the place to keep everyone guessing. Only after January 20, when he starts making his actual appointments, many of whose names have not previously been suggested, will his actual goals start to clarify themselves.

    Antoinetta III

    • This comments remind me of one I made about Obama some time ago, seeing him as a smart outsider who’d finesse the various players all (so very obviously) out to manipulate him. Especially after the Generals early on boxed him in on with their ‘options’ in Afghanistan, it seemed he’d learned his lesson and go all rope-a-dope with the Usual Suspects. (Maybe that’s what happened, at least in FP, where he’s endeavored with some success not to do any stupid s–t.)

      Another poster memorably derided my thinking, that Obama was playing some sort of 3-dimensional Vulcan Chess with those guys. It occurred to me that I wasn’t wrong, but that he was more right.

      In business, especially the Big-Ego, Super-Entrepreneurial milieu he inhabits, one operates out of power, constantly dancing and looking for an opening to strike, not unlike a boxer. Trump has never used that metaphor, but he has spoken of attacking in negotiations from a position of power, pressing on every front, making up new ones as possible, never giving on any point until you get the deal you want. Great article on the psychology he has demonstrated over the years from Dan McAdams at Northwestern link to theatlantic.com

      Anyway. His appointments will be telling, but established advisors (Kushner et al), more so than people like Christie, who he will certainly throw under the bus whenever it becomes expedient. Compared to his his own role, none of these other guys even register. In an joint appearance some months ago, Trump’s contempt of Christie was palpable. Trump may be an actor, but that was no act.

      Ultimately, it seems to me, for The Donald its all about The Donald. He’s going to be doing this thing by Zen, just like he has run his businesses. For better or worse, and the odds given his preparation and those posed against him, are for far, far worse.

      Whatever the case, as McAdams holds, he’s the type to swing for the seats, better thinking be damned, so we need to hold onto our own.

    • This comments remind me of one I made about Obama some time ago, seeing him as a smart outsider who’d finesse the various players all (so very obviously) out to manipulate him. Especially after the Generals early on boxed him in on with their ‘options’ in Afghanistan, it seemed he’d learned his lesson and go all rope-a-dope with the Usual Suspects. (Maybe that’s what happened, at least in FP, where he’s endeavored with some success not to do any stupid s–t.)

      Another poster memorably derided my thinking, that Obama was playing some sort of 3-dimensional Vulcan Chess with those guys. It occurred to me that I wasn’t wrong, but that he was more right.

      In business, especially the Big-Ego, Super-Entrepreneurial milieu he inhabits, one operates out of power, constantly dancing and looking for an opening to strike, not unlike a boxer. Trump has never used that metaphor, but he has spoken of attacking in negotiations from a position of power, pressing on every front, making up new ones as possible, never giving on any point until you get the deal you want. Great article on the psychology he has demonstrated over the years from Dan McAdams at Northwestern link to theatlantic.com

      Anyway. His appointments will be telling, but established advisors (Kushner et al), more so than people like Christie, who he will certainly throw under the bus whenever it becomes expedient. Compared to his his own role, none of these other guys even register. In an joint appearance some months ago, Trump’s contempt of Christie was palpable. Trump may be an actor, but that was no act.

      Ultimately, it seems to me, for The Donald its all about The Donald. He’s going to be doing this thing by Zen, just like he has run his businesses. For better or worse, and the odds given his preparation and those posed against him, are for far, far worse.

      Whatever the case, as McAdams holds, he’s the type to swing for the seats, better thinking be damned, so we need to hold onto our own.

    • This comment reminds me of one I made about Obama some time ago, seeing him as a smart outsider who’d finesse the various players all (so very obviously) out to manipulate him. Especially after the Generals early on boxed him in on with their ‘options’ in Afghanistan it seemed he’d learned his lesson and would go all rope-a-dope with the Usual Suspects. (Maybe that’s what happened, at least in FP, where he’s endeavored with some success to not do any stupid s–t.)

      Another poster memorably derided my thinking, that Obama was playing some sort of 3-dimensional Vulcan Chess with those guys. It occurred to me that I wasn’t wrong, but that he was more right.

      In business, especially the Big-Ego, Super-Entrepreneurial milieu he inhabits, the Players (as they fancy themselves) operate out of power, constantly dancing and weaving, looking for an opening to strike, not unlike a boxer. Trump has never used that metaphor, but he has spoken of attacking in negotiations from a position of power, pressing on every front, making up new ones as possible, never giving on any point until you get the deal you want. Great article on the psychology he has demonstrated over the years from Dan McAdams at Northwestern link to theatlantic.com

      Anyway. His appointments will be telling, but established advisors (Kushner et al) more so than those like Christie, who he will certainly throw under the bus whenever it becomes expedient. Compared to his own role, none of these other guys will even register. In an joint appearance some months ago, Trump’s contempt of Christie was palpable. Trump may be an actor, but that was no act. And when it gets right down to it, outside of (maybe) his immediate family, nobody really registers that highly.

      Ultimately, it seems to me, for The Donald its all about The Donald. He’s going to be doing this thing by Zen, just like he has run his businesses. It will be for better or worse, and the odds given his preparation and those posed against him, are for far, far worse.

      Whatever the case, as McAdams holds, he’s the type to swing for the seats, better thinking be damned, so we need to hold onto our own.

  5. It has been reported that President Bush was not even aware that there were Shia, Sunni and Kurds in Iraq. He seemed to think they were just all Iraqis. Then, he pointedly ignored the State Department and deliberately picked people for post invasion Iraq who were totally clueless about the region, much less the country. This has all been clearly documented. Trump seems to be even more of a know nothing and so far he seems to prefer people based on their loyalty instead of their knowledge or experience. Whatever his proclivities, it’s not comforting to me that he will be making decisions set on a base of ignorance.

  6. I see visions of 2003 all over again where another ignorant president depended on neocons to commit one of the great blunders in modern times. In this militarist arena, though I’m at least heartened by his ‘affection’ for Putin, as well as climate change, where I’m even more frightened what he might do, I feel like we’re looking over the abyss. I can even see us becoming a pariah and a second-rate nation.

    • The USA is not going to be a second-rate nation. It’s big and rich and resourceful. But the world is a bigger place than any one country can control. Iran is much bigger than Iraq and has a uniting nationalism that didn’t exist in Iraq. Any attempt to invade Iran would cost the US more than Iraq and Afghanistan together, neither of which has worked out well. You didn’t win in Vietnam which was much weaker.

  7. Despite Iran’s assistance in overthrowing the Taliban, despite Iran’s vital support of the Bonn conference, despite Iran’s support of the 2002 Arab League peace initiative, despite Iran’s generous 2003 Proposal, despite Iran’s [having allowed a member of parliament for its] Jewish population, despite Iran’s adherence to the 2015 nuclear accord, despite the Islamic Republic having never launched an aggressive war of conquest against another country…, Bolton and his like-minded Neocons reason that Iran can never be trusted and the only rational US policy is regime change and, therefore, war.
    Why was Obama able to reach a Nuclear deal with Iran? He accepted Iran’s right to enrich uranium (for nonmilitary purposes) and he treated Iran with respect.
    link to detailedpoliticalquizzes.wordpress.com

  8. Dick Cheney and fellow neocon in congress sanctioned themselves out of any leverage with Iran and let it go at that. It was Obama’s treasury vigorous enforcement, third party arm twisting and using Daesh and al qaeda as pressure groups against Iran and her allies that did most damage to Iran.

  9. Lord help us all if Bolton or Giuliani get the nod. There “seems” to be a push to look beyond those two. But given the coterie of advisors who surrounded him during his campaign, I’m not expecting the second coming of Gen. Marshall.

    Juan, on a separate note, can you do a reality check on this tory that’s breaking this morning. Saw this over at the WSJ and wasn’t quite sure what to make of it:

    link to wsj.com

    The head of the United Nations agency that oversees the Iranian nuclear deal warned Tehran on Thursday to stick to the accord after it was found for the second time to have breached one of its terms.

    The International Atomic Energy Agency said last week that Iran had stockpiled slightly more than the allowable 130 metric tons of heavy water. Spent fuel can be taken from the heavy water to produce plutonium for a nuclear weapon.

    Details of the violation emerged the day after Donald Trump’s election as U.S. president. During the campaign, Mr. Trump talked about tearing up the July 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and the U.S. and five other world powers. Since election day, he hasn’t commented publicly on the agreement.

    I’m hoping that it’s a one off and doesn’t represent a desire by conservatives within the regime to game the system. That would only hand Drumpf the excuse he needs to rip up the treaty and then bomb their plants to smithereens.

    • It seems like I heard Iran is exporting that heavy water, which is allowable and it’s never been a secret, nor has it been objected to on that basis. It seems to me this sort of alarmist, planted ‘news,’ is what we have come to expect from the WSJ.

Comments are closed.