Previous posts in this discussion:
PostTrump's Withdrawal from Iran Deal: The US is Not Omnipotent (Istvan Simon, USA, 05/16/18 4:13 am)
I read with great interest my WAISer friends' opinions on the withdrawal from the Iran deal and would like to offer my perspective:
1. I believe that there are elements of truth in all WAIS contributions so far on this subject. Trump campaigned on the mantra of repealing the Iran deal. I think that one of the main reasons that he delivered on this stupid idea was to fulfill a campaign promise and to reverse most of President Obama's accomplishments, as David Krieger correctly pointed out. Contrary to David and others, I do not believe that it will lead to war with Iran, nor that Iran will restart its nuclear program as a result. Rather, the most likely outcome will be a lesson to Trump and his supporters, a lesson they have not learned with past wars, the Iraq war in particular. The lesson is that the United States is not omnipotent, and that we cannot impose our will on the rest of the world, certainly not in the arrogant way Trump has been doing. The most likely consequence of Trump's move is a further isolation of the United States from our true and best allies, Europe, Canada and Australia, and closer ties to Israel and Saudi Arabia. I certainly consider Israel one of our best allies and a vital one for both our national security and our economic security. I cannot say the same for Saudi Arabia.
2. I consider Saudi Arabia at best a partner of the United States, not a true ally, and on the longer term, looking past the Trump presidency, a partner whose importance will decrease gradually to our economic security and that of the world, because the century of oil as the main source of energy is the 20th century not the 21st. The world is inexorably moving towards renewable forms of energy, and all oil producers will see their strategic importance decrease gradually in the next decades.
3. It is surprising to me that no WAISer commented on the proximate cause of Trump's decision to leave the Iran deal. The connection is so obvious that it is really surprising that it was missed by my WAIser friends.
Prime Minister Netanyahu gave a very impressive presentation that proved without a shadow of a doubt that Iran cheated and lied about not pursuing nuclear weapons in its nuclear program. The presentation was based on massive evidence of Iranian documents and files that the Israeli secret service Mossad had obtained.
I never had any doubts that Iran was cheating and lying about its nuclear program. Iran's objective was always the development of nuclear weapons, not the "peaceful" use of nuclear energy. As one of the largest oil producers in the world, this purported motivation was always ridiculous, even bizarre. Iran clearly does not need nuclear power, not now and not in the next 50 years either. So Iran lied about its nuclear program, and this has now been confirmed and proved conclusively by Israel.
Netanyahu's presentation and its timing, on the other hand, was aimed at Trump, and very likely coordinated with the United States. This is indicated by several facts. Netanyahu gave the presentation first in English, and only second in Hebrew. Clearly, this was aimed more at the world in general, and the United States in particular, less to the Knesset. It had been well publicized that Trump would make his decision of the Iran deal in the next few days. So the timing of Netanyahu's presentation was clearly to give support and political cover to Trump. And it worked.
4. But lost in the presentation was the fact that the intelligence was about the origins of the Iran nuclear program, not its current status. According to CNN it has been revealed that the most recent documents in possession of Israel date back to 2005. They therefore shed no light on the current more recent policies of Iran, after it had signed the nuclear deal.
It seems unlikely to me that Iran simply abandoned its goals of developing nuclear weapons with the Iran deal. Indeed the main defect of the deal has always been that it applied only to the next 14 years, after which Iran could if it so chose restart its nuclear program. But 14 years is a lot better than 0, so the Iran deal was important and a great accomplishment. Its abandonment by the United States is stupid and will harm, not advance the national security of the United States and likewise, harm the national security interests of Israel as well.
5. What are the likely consequences of Trump's decision?
5a. It gave Kim Jong Un an excellent argument not to give up his nukes. I never thought that Kim Jong Un would give up his nukes, and so the summit between Trump and Kim Jong Un will fail to achieve this objective, and this would have happened anyway, even without this stupid decision of president Trump. But the decision certainly will reinforce Kim Jong Un's determination to keep his nukes.
5b. Will Iran restart its nuclear program? I don't believe so. The Iran accord is an International accord, signed not only by Iran and the United States, but by all the permanent members of the UN security council, plus Germany. None of the five other signatories will follow the United States, so the deal continues intact. If the United States re-imposes sanctions on Iran, they will fail, because none of our international partners will follow us. So Iran will simply most likely continue with the accord, now with the other 5 signatories, and Trump's move will simply isolate the United States internationally. Besides, Iran has become over the years an expert on smuggling and evading sanctions.
5c. What about Israel? Netanyahu and part of the Israeli public will feel reassured by the decision by Trump. They viewed President Obama with suspicion regarding the defense of Israel, and so the move by Trump will be viewed favorably bu many in Israel. But over the longer term it is clear that little will change in the Israel-Iran relationship. Since as I analyzed above, the national security interests of the United States will be harmed by the decision, it follows that the national security interests of Israel will also be harmed to some extent.
5d. What about Saudi Arabia? Trump's decision will be applauded by Saudi Arabia, the main enemy of Iran in the Middle East. All the wars in the Middle East are basically wars between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and about the dominance of the Shia or the Sunni in Islam. So, while Saudi Arabia will applaud the decision, it will have little effect on the rift between Iran and Saudi Arabia, because it will have little effect on Iran's position in the region.
JE comments: I am confused by Istvan Simon's point 4. If Netanyahu's intelligence is current only through 2005 (or even 2015), what connection does this have to the Obama deal? Also, regarding 5b: US trade with Iran is minimal. The real "teeth" in Trump's withdrawal will come from secondary sanctions--the ability to embargo non-US companies that continue to trade with Iran.