As expected, Trump announced that he would refuse to certify that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear weapons agreement we and five other nations signed with that country last year. This despite the fact that the UN and his own cabinet officers and intelligence agencies have certified that they are in full compliance.
The administration asked Congress to attach new caveats that could either alter the pact or lead to its rupture. Sounding frustrated and angry, Trump also threatened to unilaterally withdraw from the seven-nation accord if his concerns are not met.
“We will not continue down the path whose predictable conclusion is more violence, more terror and the very real threat of Iran’s nuclear breakout,” Trump said in remarks delivered at the White House.
As usual, his claim is the precise opposite of reality. Withdrawing from the deal makes it more likely — a lot more likely — that Iran will develop nuclear weapons (or that we’ll go to war to prevent them from doing so, likely with Israel involved, which would spark a region-wide war). But while making bold and false declarations, he’s also being a coward taking this route because he isn’t scrapping the deal entirely, just throwing it into Congress’ lap so he can avoid responsibility for whatever they decide to do.
Thankfully, even some Republican legislators seem to think it’s a bad idea to scuttle the deal. One of them is Sen. Bob Corker, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has been the target of Trump’s juvenile twitter attacks recently. He could help prevent the imposition of news requirements or sanctions on Iran, which might save the deal from being scrapped and prevent Iran from restarting its nuclear weapons program. And he’s not exactly on Trump’s side these days.
This half-hearted action by Trump is a result of having been told by the generals whose favor he wants to curry so badly that the deal is a good one and a necessary one. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Chief of Staff John Kelly and National Security Adviser HR McMaster all support the deal. The Washington Post reports that Trump was “livid” about this and “threw a fit” over their rejection of his ridiculous position. But he was hemmed in and he knew it. So the generals came up with this idea as a way for Trump to save face without actually destroying the deal by passing the buck to Congress.
Trump really has a thing for generals and I suspect he thinks having them around gives him credibility, but that only works if he actually listens to them. But he had painted himself into a political corner and those generals offered him a way out that makes him look like a fool to any rational person, but not to his base.