The Mask Is Off: Trump Is Seeking Pretext for War with Iran

By Trita Parsi | (FPIF) | (Originally published in Lobelog) | – –

“Trump is committed to finding a way to claim Iran has violated the nuclear accord, regardless of the facts — just as Bush did with Iraq.”

Something extraordinary has happened in Washington. President Donald Trump has made it clear, in no uncertain terms and with no effort to disguise his duplicity, that he will claim that Tehran is cheating on the nuclear deal by October — the facts be damned.

In short, the fix is in. Trump will refuse to accept that Iran is in compliance with the international pact and thereby set the stage for a military confrontation. His advisers have even been kind enough to explain how they will go about this. Rarely has a sinister plan to destroy an arms control agreement and pave the way for war been so openly telegraphed.

The unmasking of Trump’s plans to sabotage the nuclear deal began a few weeks ago when he reluctantly had to certify that Iran indeed was in compliance with its end of the deal. Both the U.S. intelligence as well as the International Atomic Energy Agency had confirmed Tehran’s fair play. But Trump threw a tantrum in the Oval Office and berated his national security team for not having found a way to claim Iran was cheating.

According to Foreign Policy, the adults in the room — Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis, and National Security Adviser H. R. McMaster — eventually calmed Trump down, but only on the condition that they double down on finding a way for the president to blow up the deal by October.

Prior to the revelation of Trump’s Iran certification meltdown, most analysts and diplomats believed that Trump’s rhetoric on Iran was just that — empty talk. His bark was worse than his bite, as demonstrated when he certified Iran’s compliance back in April and when he renewed sanctions waivers in May. The distance between his rhetoric and actual policy was tangible. Rhetorically, Trump officials described Iran as the root of all problems in the Middle East and as the greatest state sponsor of terror. Trump even suggested he might quit the deal.

In action, however, President Trump continued to waive sanctions and admitted that Iran was adhering to the deal. As a result, many concluded that Trump would continue to fulfill the obligations of the deal while sticking to his harsh rhetoric in order to appease domestic opponents of the nuclear deal — as well as Trump’s allies in Saudi Arabia and Israel.

But now, assessments are changing. The tangible danger of Trump’s malice on the Iran deal — as well as the danger of the advice of the “adults in the room” — became further clarified this week as tidbits of the reality TV star’s plans began to leak.

How to Wreck a Deal

Recognizing that refusing to certify Iran would isolate the United States, Trump’s advisers gave him another plan: Use the spot-inspections mechanism of the nuclear deal, they suggested, to demand access to a whole set of military sites in Iran. Once Iran balks — which it will, since the mechanism is only supposed to be used if tangible evidence exists that those sites are being used for illicit nuclear activities — Trump can claim that Iran is in violation, blowing up the nuclear deal while shifting the blame to Tehran.

Thus, the advice of the adults in the room — those who are supposed to restrain Trump — was not to keep the highly successful nuclear deal that has taken both an Iranian bomb and war with Iran off the table. Rather, they recommended killing it in a manner that would conceal Trump’s malice and shift the cost to Iran.

According to The New York Times, the groundwork for this strategy has already been laid. Senate Foreign Relations Chair Bob Corker (R-TN) calls this strategy “radical enforcement” of the deal. “If they don’t let us in,” Corker told The Washington Post, “boom.” Then he added: “You want the breakup of this deal to be about Iran. You don’t want it to be about the U.S., because we want our allies with us.”

This is a charade, a rerun of the machinations that resulted in the Iraq war. It doesn’t matter what Iran does or doesn’t do. If it were up to Trump, he’d never have accepted that Iran was in compliance in the first place. He admitted as much to the Wall Street Journal. “If it was up to me, I would have had them [the Iranians] non-compliant 180 days ago.”

Sounding supremely confident of the “radical implementation” strategy, Trump added that “I think they’ll be noncompliant [in October].” In so doing, he further confirmed doubts that the process is about determining whether Iran is in compliance or not. The administration is committed to finding a way to claim Iran has violated the accord, regardless of the facts — just as George W. Bush did with Iraq.

Potential for Backfire

But Trump’s confidence may be misplaced on two levels.

First, abusing the inspection mechanisms of the deal may prove harder than Trump has been led to believe. The inspections are the cornerstone of the deal, and Iran’s ability to cheat on the deal is essentially non-existent as long as the integrity and efficiency of the inspections remain in tact. But if Trump begins to abuse the mechanism to fabricate a conflict, he will end up undermining the inspections regime and actually enhance the ability of those in Iran who would like to pursue a covert nuclear program. Precisely because of the commitment of Europe and others to non-proliferation, they are likely to resist Trump’s efforts to tinker with the inspections.

Second, by revealing his hand, Trump has displayed his duplicity for all to see. That includes the American public, whose anti-war sentiments remain strong and are a key reason they supported the nuclear deal in the first place.

The American public knows the Iraq playbook quite well. Trump’s own supporters remain enraged by the disastrous war with Iraq. They know how they got played. It’s difficult to imagine why they would allow themselves to get played again by a president who has left little doubt about his intent to deceive.

Trita Parsi is the president of the National Iranian American Council and author of Losing an Enemy – Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy.

Via Foreign Policy in Focus

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Related video added by Juan Cole:

Democracy Now! “Is Trump Trying to Sabotage the Nuclear Deal to Lay Groundwork for War With Iran?”

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8 Responses

  1. Who are those in Iran who, “would like to pursue a covert nuclear program?” No legitimate official in Iran has been shown to pursue such a goal. I presume Parsi is implying that these people want to build nuclear bombs. In fact, there has never been evidence that Iran after the Shah pursued nuclear weapons. Read Gareth Porter’s book, “Manufactured Crisis …”

    On another point, this article completely ignores the response of the other parties in the deal. The statement of non-compliance discussed here is only between the American president and Congress. The formal evaluation of Iran’s compliance can only be made by the IAEA. Thus, Trump’s hallucinations have no impact on the the formal evaluation of the JCPOA.

    • They are hard line opponents of the relatively liberal regime. It may not be that they actually want to pursue a nuclear program, but they don’t like being inhibited from doing so, especially by the US. You are quite right about the JCPOA. Obama claimed credit for it but it was initiated by Europeans and chaired by the EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs. The US simply agreed to the final terms like all the others. The US approach to a multitude of foreign policy issues is complicated by this attitude of having to be the boss while every one else must do their bidding. That others no longer click their heels is making for these belligerent threats. Trump’s attitudes and behaviour are so dangerous and so absurd that the next US president could find it relatively easy to adopt a more realistic role in the world.

  2. There are some nuclear engineers in Iran who want to pursue a covert nuclear weapons plan. Some of them have written about them. They were stopped by the Iranian government, every time.

    Trump’s erratic and dangerous behavior is, well, dangerous. If the IAEA certifies that Iran is in compliance and Trump attempts to claim that it is not, I have no doubt Iran will go to the UN Security Council and request support from Russia and China.

    And they’ll get it.

    The US military is mostly not crazy enough to start World War III over a ginned up phony attempt to invade Iran, so I think that would be the end of that…

  3. Why Trump wants to start a war with Iran is beyond me. Perhaps he needs a war to distract from his failed agenda, who knows and who cares, but he ought not to be permitted to start a war with anyone.

    Iran may not be the most progressive country, but really its a fairly civilized country. At times is appears to me it is better run than China and Russia, and a whole host of other countries around the world. Almost all countries in the world have political prisoners and when it comes to executions, well the U.S.A. is right up there with the worst of them.

    leave Iran alone. let them go about their business. As a citizen of Canada I have never considered them a threat to world peace.

    • Israel and Saudi Arabia are worried they will not survive if there is a strong country in the region and they are probably correct since both countries are unstable for the long term.

      But the instability of Israel and Saudi Arabia is because of basic flaws in the country, not because of Iran.

      Israel could become a lot more stable by negotiating with the Arabs and giving up lots of land, water and cash for compensation, but Israel’s greed and hubris is huge and is unlikely to change unless outside forces make them. Internally, Israel is a mess and getting worse by the day.

      Saudi Arabia is also a mess internally. The deal with the devil the Sauds made with the very extreme religious sect and the way they have managed their society has enured a bad future for KSA. Some of the new leadership is trying to moderate the problems, but the paths they have chosen are not going to improve things enough to prevent a social collapse over time.

      Iran is strong and getting stronger so even if he USA attacks, Iran should be able to recover much quicker than the USA will after the USA gets humiliated in defeat.

  4. As cunning plans go it suffers from one significant flaw: the USA can’t turn up at Tehran’s doorstep with a gaggle of inspectors and demand to be let in.

    The JCPOA is quite clear on that: it is the IAEA who must demand those snap-inspections, and even if it does there are two stipulations:
    1) The IAEA must inform Iran of the reasons for its demand and
    2) All IAEA inspectors must be from countries with whom Iran has diplomatic relations.

    Taken together they preclude Trump from simply demanding that the IAEA do his bidding, and also precludes him from demanding “US inspections” of those sites.

    Trump is going to be taken aside by his advisors and told “err, sorry, but the Brits, the Frenchies, and the German’s don’t agree, and without them on-board the IAEA is not going to agree to act as your shill”

    Sure, he can just go ahead and declare that Iran is “non-compliant” regardless.

    Sure, he can and probably will.

    But he can’t do that *and* still lay the blame on the Iranians.

    Not without solid evidence of an Iranian violation which he simply does not possess.

  5. It would be consistent with recent history if Trump declared Iran in non compliance and then create the evdence that they are in non compliance. Much of the media that people actually watch or read will repeat this created evidence over and over again. A few will cast doubt on the evidence. The tide of propoganda will support the president. The emplooyees of the main stream media are prepared to obey any order to disemminate any claim made by the US government no matter how foolish it is. The low level workers want to keep their jobs. The department heads want to get a promotion and the network heads have been vetted for their loyalty.
    Once consent has been manufactured the military is in a position to give the orders to do anything that it wants. As the contractor from Syria said in his/her comment here a few days ago. There is not any order that the members of the US military are not prepared to carry out.
    IF the Pentagon wants a war with Iran they can easily make it happen.

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