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Iran nuclear deal took years to put together and 12 minutes to tear up with 'mixture of bombast, threats and lies'

‘The damage this man has done is very grave indeed’

Kim Sengupta
Diplomatic Editor
Tuesday 08 May 2018 22:11 BST
Donald Trump withdraws from nuclear deal with Iran

Donald Trump tore up the Iran nuclear agreement, which had taken years of painstaking negotiations and made the world a safer place, with a statement of 12 minutes, which was a mixture of bombast, threats and lies.

Mr Trump’s decision to sabotage the deal was expected, but any hopes that he may listen to his Western allies, his military and intelligence chiefs, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the secretary-general of the UN disappeared as he announced that not only would the US renege on its international agreement but impose new sanctions on Iran.

Mr Trump claimed: “Iran’s bloody ambitions have grown only more brazen.” This was despite the fact that the overwhelming numbers of those involved in observing the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), including the head of the US military and his own defence secretary, had stressed that Iran was strictly abiding by its obligations.

The US president was keen to use inflammatory language: “Powerful sanctions will go into effect, if the regime continues its nuclear aspirations it will have bigger problems than it had ever had before.”

There was an echo of this in his threat to North Korea of “fire and fury... like the world has never seen before”. But since the announcement of his meeting with Kim Jong-un and sycophantic Republicans maintaining that he should be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, Mr Trump was keen to play up his role as world statesman. He stated, halfway through his Iran diatribe, that Mike Pompeo, his newly appointed secretary of state, was on his way to Pyongyang to arrange the talks.

It would, of course, be interesting to learn how the North Koreans would feel about giving up its nuclear weapons in a deal with a Trump administration which has just reneged on an international agreement.

Mr Trump’s decision to leave the Iran agreement was broadly met with dismay internationally. Theresa May, Angela Merkel and Emmanuel Macron issued a joint statement speaking of their “regret and concern”, and pledging that their countries will stick to it, even if America does not. Iran has already received promises of support from other signatories, Russia and China.

Britain is in a difficult position with the government presenting the US as one of the saviours of its post-Brexit economy. Defiance of Washington over Iran may come at a cost, with a US president who had even threatened countries which votes against America’s World Cup bid for 2026. Jacob Rees-Mogg, who could replace Theresa May as leader of the Conservative Party (such is the state of politics in this country), wrote with moist-eyed adoration last week about how Mr Trump would be the UK’s “greatest friend” after it leaves the EU.

Mr Trump’s decision was lauded by the Saudi-led Sunni bloc, which sees Shia Iran as a mortal enemy. The US president has made it clear that he expects his actions against Tehran to be acknowledged by the Saudis and their allies buying billions of dollars of US arms, despite their economies being in difficulty, and they will oblige.

The decision was also celebrated by Benjamin Netanyahu who declared that Mr Trump’s decision was brave. The Israeli prime minister, who is under investigation by police in his country on three corruption cases, put on a show last week of documents to “expose” Tehran’s bad intent. But what he produced was widely dismissed internationally as old material – issues examined by the IAEA three years ago.

Iranian president Hassan Rouhani: Donald Trump is 'not loyal to international commitments'

Mr Netanyahu’s claims are contradicted by the Israeli military’s chief of staff, Lieutenant General Gadi Eisenkot who has stressed: “Right now the agreement, with all its faults, is working and is putting off realisation of the Iranian nuclear vision by 10 to 15 years.”

Twenty-six former senior officials from Israel’s military and intelligence services, as well as the head of the country’s Atomic Energy Authority, have sent an urgent message to Washington stating: “The consensus among the military and intelligence services around the world – including Israel’s own defence community – is that the pact is working.”

In the US, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, General Joseph Dunford, have come out publicly to point out that Iran is fulfilling its obligations, as had the defence secretary James Mattis who has praised the rigorous UN inspection regime with regards to Tehran’s nuclear programme.

General Mattis had been one of the voices for caution on Iran, along with former secretary of state Rex Tillerson and ex-national security adviser Lieutenant General HR McMaster. Now Mr Tillerson and Lt Gen McMaster have gone, in the extraordinary churn of the Trump administration, to be replaced by two men who are particularly aggressive on Iran, Mike Pompeo and John Bolton.

Mr Bolton, like Mr Trump a Vietnam draft dodger, has in the past advocated bombing Iran. Shaul Mofaz, a former Israeli defence minister and chief of staff, revealed that Mr Bolton, while US ambassador to the UN, pressurised Israel to bomb Iran. Mr Mofaz declined, saying: “I don’t think it is a smart move.” Mr Pompeo was in Israel for Mr Netanyahu’s presentation, and declared that it was proof “beyond any reasonable doubt” that the “Iranian regime was not telling the truth”.

Mr Bolton has been remarkably quiet on Iran since coming into office. But he has spoken about North Korea, another country he has wanted to bomb, suggesting that it should follow the path of Libya in giving up its nuclear programme voluntarily. Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, though his country was coming in from the cold under the deal, was overthrown, thanks to US and Nato bombing, and lynched.

Mr Bolton, who is far brighter than Mr Trump, and appears to think that talks with Kim Jong-un are a waste of time, may have been mischievously ensuring that the US president does not get his Nobel Peace Prize after all.

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