Chief editors at leading US daily The New York Times say the US administration of President Donald Trump stands to lose by possibly withdrawing from a multilateral nuclear deal with Iran and manufacturing a “nuclear crisis” with the Islamic Republic.
In its Sunday edition, the paper’s editorial board laid out a forceful argument about why the Trump administration should refrain from a unilateral pullout from the Iran deal, which was struck in 2015, when the administration of former president Barack Obama was in office.
Trump started bashing the Iran deal when he was campaigning for presidency in 2016. Since winning the presidential election in November that year and taking office in January 2017, he has repeatedly threatened to pull the US out of the deal but has grudgingly refused to do so on temporal benchmarks related to the deal.
According to reports, Trump has largely been held back by a team of advisers described within the US as the “committee to save America,” a reference to their purported ability so far to prevent Trump from making reckless decisions. That circle has included Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and — until recently — national security adviser H. R. McMaster and secretary of state Rex Tillerson.
Trump has dismissed McMaster and Tillerson over policy disagreements, including on the Iran deal, and has replaced them with Iran hawks Mike Pompeo, as secretary of state, and John Bolton, as national security adviser. Both are known to strongly oppose the Iran deal in particular and diplomacy in general.
The editorial said Trump and “his new hard-line team of national security advisers” will lose their standing as a credible negotiating partner in potentially upcoming talks with North Korea if they scrap the Iran deal.
‘Without a shred of evidence’
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which is tasked with monitoring Iranian compliance with the deal, has in nine consecutive reports confirmed complete Iranian adherence to its contractual commitments.
The Times editorial pointed to that fact, and cited “American diplomats and military officers” as also affirming the deal’s “efficacy.”
Trump “has claimed, without a shred of evidence, that Iran is out of compliance, and has complained that Iran is still building ballistic missiles, arming Hezbollah and supporting President Bashar al-Assad of Syria. None of these concerns were supposed to be prevented by the deal,” the editorial board wrote.
“He has demanded that Britain, France and Germany fix what he calls ‘flaws’ in the pact by May 12, presumably so he will have someone else to blame when it falls apart.”
US President Donald Trump has waived nuclear-related sanctions against Iran, according to the White House.
The Iran deal debate has gained new significance amid reports that Trump may meet with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un in an attempt to strike a deal that would see Pyongyang give up its nuclear weapons.
The Times contrasted Iran and North Korea to make a point that it would be harder to negotiate with Pyongyang.
“Although Iran never had a nuclear weapon, the agreement required months of talks and two years of technical and political negotiations. Now consider North Korea, with 20 to 60 nuclear weapons, and facilities for producing plutonium and enriching uranium,” it said.
‘Why would Kim trust Trump?!’
In potential talks with Kim, according to the editorial, Trump would want North Korea “to freeze nuclear and missile testing, halt the production of nuclear weapons fuel and the deployment of nuclear weapons and put an Iran-like verification system in place.”
“But why would Mr. Kim agree to any of that if the Americans walk away from the Iran deal? Why would Mr. Kim, or any future adversary for that matter, assume Mr. Trump is negotiating in good faith?” it asked, rhetorically.
The paper said that there was still hope a deal could be struck with North Korea but that that opportunity was in peril.
“That possibility will be squandered […] if the American president escalates a manufactured nuclear crisis with Iran at the very time he is trying to defuse one with North Korea,” it said, concluding.
North Korea may want to strike a deal with the United States. Can Pyongyang be confident that US President Donald Trump will not break American promises?
The Trump administration has already been violating the Iran deal by discouraging European business with Iran and refusing to offer reassurance to European banks that renewed cooperation with the Islamic Republic would not subject them to unilateral US penalties.
US allies France, Germany, and the United Kingdom — all of them parties to the Iran deal — have warned Trump against withdrawal, as have Russia and China, the other parties.
On March 14, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi said Iran had notified Europe that if the US withdraws from the Iran deal, so will Iran.