During a press conference on Thursday, Trump claimed that while the State Department has certified that Iran is in full compliance with the nuclear deal we signed, technically called the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), they’re violating the “spirit” by continuing to sponsor terrorism.
In the first reaction to Tillerson’s remarks from a senior Iranian official, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who tweeted that the United States should “fulfill its own commitments.”
Asked at a news conference in Washington whether he thought Iran was abiding by the nuclear agreement, President Donald Trump criticized the accord, saying it was a “terrible agreement” and Tehran was doing a “tremendous disservice” to the deal.
“Iran has not lived up to the spirit of the agreement and they have to do that,” Trump said, adding that the administration was “analyzing it very, very carefully” and would have more to say about it soon…In his tweet, Zarif also addressed Tillerson’s terrorism charge: “Worn-out US accusations can’t mask its admission of Iran’s compliance w/ JCPOA.”
But the agreement has nothing to do with terrorism, it has only to do with Iran’s nuclear proliferation program. Being in compliance means they are not — cannot — make any progress on acquiring nuclear weapons. So would Trump rather have a nuclear Iran sponsoring terrorism or a non-nuclear Iran sponsoring terrorism? If he can’t recognize the obvious answer to that question, we’re in more trouble than I thought.
The other factor here is the effect even talking about pulling out of the agreement has on the leadership in Iran. Even threatening to pull out of the deal strengthens the hand of the Islamic hardliners in the government and weakens the appeal of more moderate candidates. “See,” the hardliners can now say, “The United States can’t be trusted to keep its word. That’s exactly why we need to get nuclear weapons and elect people to office who won’t fall for such promises again.” And we will have handed them all the evidence they need for that position.
By any possible measure, what Trump is doing here, even if he ultimately does not pull out of the deal, is monumentally stupid.