In a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu last week, President Trump reportedly said that unless our allies in the Iran nuclear deal were willing to make “significant changes” in the construct of the agreement, the U.S. would pull out of the deal altogether.
According to Axios, two senior Israeli officials say that Netanyahu was promised that the U.S. would be inflexible when it came to negotiating with France, Germany, and the U.K. on the text of the contract. Until now, Trump told the Israeli prime minister, the other partner countries had only offered “cosmetic changes” to the agreement that he has not found acceptable.
“The bottom line: Trump stressed that if his demands are not met,” reports Axios, “the U.S. will withdraw from the deal.”
That the president is getting ready to change his approach to the Iran deal was further corroborated by Mike Pence.
In a speech to AIPAC in Washington, the vice president said, “President Trump has called on the Congress and our European allies to enact real and lasting restraints on Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile ambitions. Earlier this year, the President waived sanctions to give our lawmakers and our allies time to act. But make no mistake about it: This is their last chance. Unless the Iran nuclear deal is fixed in the coming months, the United States of America will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal immediately.”
Trump has given a deadline of May 12 for our international partners to come up with an agreement better than the existing JCPOA. It is perhaps significant that his planned talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un are scheduled to take place on or around that date. Trump could feel that tearing up the Iranian agreement will give him a stronger hand when negotiating with Pyongyang. Kim will realize right away that Trump is not interested in giving North Korea the same kind of loosey-goosey, “just wait to build your nukes later on” type of deal that Obama gave Tehran. Nor is he likely willing to part with billions of dollars to prop up Kim’s starving regime.
What happens if we scrap the agreement? It’s too unpredictable to say. Iran could go back to work on their nuclear program immediately, which would leave Trump with another potential crisis on his hands: Launch a war against Iran…or stiffen economic sanctions to the point that Iran has no choice but to come crawling back for a deal more favorable to the U.S.? With both North Korea and Iran potentially building up an arsenal, Trump will have his hands full.
But that’s still better than taking the “head in the sand” approach of his predecessors.