As Biden tries to undo one of Trump’s most damaging acts, restoring the Iran deal will be difficult

As Biden tries to undo one of Trump’s most damaging acts, restoring the Iran deal will be difficult

A CNN list of executive orders during President Joe Biden’s first 100 days shows that just under half—24 out of 50—were devoted to reversing policies of Donald Trump. Those reversals ranged from environmental rules to labor laws to how the nation responds to the coronavirus, and they effectively put the brakes on policies that were causing active harm. However, there is one big area where Trump seriously damaged the nation where attempts at reversal are bound to be seriously complicated: foreign policy. Repairing the damage done through Trump’s courting of dictators, insulting allies, and acting arbitrarily out of personal pique will take more than signing an order.

And when it comes to putting back in place one of the most important and complex accomplishments of the Obama administration—the six-party agreement to prevent Iran from developing and manufacturing nuclear weapons—a lot of fence-mending, confidence-raising, and serious repair will have to be done.  

The most shocking move that Donald Trump made when it came to foreign policy wasn’t when he stepped away from the Paris Agreement on climate, or even when he threatened to cut off NATO. It was when Trump unilaterally “withdrew” from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran. Because that action signaled that an agreement negotiated in good faith by multiple nations, both allies and competitors, could simply be ended by the United States without cause. Paired with Trump’s refusal to abide by existing trade deals, it was a flat declaration that the word of the United States was worthless, and that deals with the United States were subject to the whim of whoever took office.

Fixing the Iran agreement requires first repairing the damage Trump did to international trust in America. And that’s a challenge.

During his campaign, Trump frequently used the Iran agreement as an example of the kind of “terrible deal” made under Obama. Though the plan had garnered international praise and demonstrably resulted in a removal of enriched nuclear material from Iran as well as a halt to Iran’s nuclear weapons program, Trump insisted that it was “a disaster” and that it would result in “a nuclear holocaust.” For this he provided no evidence, which would become a trend.

Despite certifying that Iran was in compliance with the agreement in both April and July 2017, Trump refused to issue a notice that Iran was still in compliance in October of that year. Despite making multiple claims that Iran was somehow in violation of the agreement, neither Trump nor anyone in the White House ever presented any evidence as proof. Instead, the State Department under Mike Pompeo argued that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was somehow in violation of U.S. law—something that everyone had simply failed to notice until then. 

In response to shocked warnings that the U.S was simply breaking a treaty, and that this would have long-term international consequences, Pompeo had the State Department issue a statement that the agreement wasn’t an agreement, or a treaty, it simply “reflected political commitments” between the “Iran and the P5+1”—where the P5+1 includes the United States along with the U.K., France, Russia, Germany, and China. The fact that everyone involved in the deal certainly considered it an international treaty, that there were no provisions in that treaty for withdrawing unless provisions of that treaty were violated, and leaders of every nation involved warned the United States that withdrawing would both increase the international risk and irrevocably damage the United States’ reputation did not stop Trump from simply walking away.

Following the dissolution of the treaty, Iran repeatedly ramped up its production of enriched nuclear material, making it clear it was doing so in response to the U.S. breaking the treaty and imposing sanctions. The increased tensions between the U.S. and Iran came to a head in January 2020 when, during a response to the U.S. assassination of a Iranian general and suspected terrorist, a back and forth confrontation broke out that didn’t end until after Iran mistakenly shot down a civilian airliner.

Exactly why Trump seized on the Iran deal as something that had to be destroyed—other than it simply representing another sign of President Obama’s successful terms in office—was never quite clear. Certainly Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu made numerous not only unproven, but disproven claims about Iran violating the treaty, and John Bolton (and his moustache) hated the agreement. But the biggest reason that Trump was out to ice the Iran agreement may be because his friend Saudi dictator Mohammed bin Salman hated how the deal allowed Iran to operate within the world. For Saudi Arabia, ending the Iran deal was a part of keeping Iran isolated, and tipping their balance in the Middle Eastern power game. To that end, Saudi lobbyists pushed Trump to dismiss Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who had been reluctant to end the deal, and replace him with Pompeo.

As NBC News reports, indirect talks are now underway in Vienna as the U.S. feels its way back toward the possibility of renewing the deal. Putting things back in place would presumably require a return of international inspectors, a surrender of the nuclear material that Iran has acknowledged producing since Trump’s withdrawal, and a dropping of U.S. sanctions imposed since the treaty was broken.

On the one hand, that’s not quite square one, because the shape of a final agreement is now well understood. All the evidence of past inspections, and the statements from other nations involved, indicate that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was working. There’s no reason to do anything a whole lot differently than it was done the first time.

On the other hand, getting everyone back to the table is likely to require that the U.S. recommit to the process, make it clear that this is in fact a full commitment to an international treaty, and perhaps agree to penalties for any party who withdraws from the deal absent evidence of a breech.

That would likely mean getting a treaty not just past Iran, Russia, and China, but past Republicans in the Senate who still want to use Iran as a means of table-pounding about terrorism and as a touchstone to bolster supposed “pro-Israel” positions. It’s not going to be easy.

But, after the accomplishments of the first 100 days, it doesn’t seem wise to bet against Biden.

From Daily Kos at Read More. This article is republished from DailyKos under an open content license. Read the original article at DailyKos.

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