Home Donald Trump Trying to Understand the Desire to Kill the Iran Deal

Trying to Understand the Desire to Kill the Iran Deal


On the Iran nuclear deal, I’ve tried to make a good faith effort to judge whether there could be any GOOD reasons to scuttle it.

With Trump, I have difficulty seeing even a glimmer of a good reason for his nixing the deal. It does fit into his general predilection to generate conflict, to blow things up.

But there’s another element that gets mentioned, and I’m left wondering: is it possible that the main reason that Trump has it in for this deal that it was one of Obama’s achievements? Is it possible that he is so obsessed with Obama, and his desire to obliterate his works and defeat him personally, that he would make such a decision on so petty a basis?

Of course, there are others who wanted the deal scotched– in particular those actors in the region who feel most threatened by Iran in a general way, not just with respect to their potential nukes. Israel and Saudi Arabia are most prominent among them. Maybe Trump’s decision has something to do with those alliances, and was not just about obliterating Obama’s legacy.

But then there’s the question of why those nations would want Trump to kill the deal.

From following the Israeli discussion of the deal, I get the impression that there’s a division of sorts between the political leadership in the government, and many of Israel’s national security professionals. Netanyahu has been a perpetual opponent of the deal, but some of the national security people, while conceding the agreement is not perfect, think that on balance it increases Israel’s security.

And, while I acknowledge that I may not understand the shortcomings of the agreement, it is my impression that the nuclear deal is on balance helpful to Israel (and for the same reasons, I would guess, benefits Saudi Arabia). That impression rests in part on my recollection that the Israelis believed that Iran having a nuclear weapon represented an existential threat to their national survival — that is something that the Israelis have been focused on since the mid-90s — and my understanding that this deal looks pretty reliable to put off that day for at least a decade.

So why would Netanyahu and the Saudis lobby for killing the deal, when it does seem to be working well to at the very least DELAY something they dread?

On television the other evening, that question was posed to one of the main Obama people involved in getting this agreement enacted. Ben Rhodes, former Deputy National Security Advisor, answered that he suspected that they want the deal gone because they think that the termination of the deal will, in time, lead to the eruption of war between the United States and Iran. Which they would like, presumably, because destroying the current regime in Iran is something they deeply wish for, and would love to have the U.S. take on the job. 

It is not about the nukes per se, in other words, according to Rhodes, but rather about having the issue of the nukes provide the occasion for leading a superpower to rid them of the greatest threat that they face.

Having heard Rhodes’ speculation about their motivations, I am left wondering: could really be true that they are up for gambling with the Iranian nuclear situation in the hope that there’d be another huge conflict in the region to destroy a government that menaces them?

It’s not as though our recent experience of wars — Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria — has shown them to be highly effective tools for solving problems. (Rather, they’ve generated altogether new problems, and have not even gone well as wars.)

Would it not be reckless in the extreme to make such a bet, hoping for a war that is likely to make the world — and their part of it in particular — even more of a mess than it already is?

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