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President Trump reshuffles the Iranian Nuclear deck with an eye on North Korea

Written By | May 9, 2018
Iranian Nuclear Deal, Iran

WASHINGTON, DC:  Donald Trump has repudiated the much maligned JCPOA Iran nuclear deal, sending former Obama officials and their comrades in the Islamic Republic into fits of anger and vituperation. The reality is that as Trump reshuffles the Iranian Nuclear deck, he is turning the tables and overturning the applecart in the turbulent Middle East with an eye on results much like he is getting with North Korea.

The Iranian North Korean comparison

One year ago Trump was threatening nuclear annihilation of North Korea in language that was consistently called dangerous and unhinged by his critics. Today his tactics and approach, combined with a willingness for serious diplomacy, have brought Kim Jung Un to the negotiating table.

Yesterday Trump withdrew from a fundamentally flawed deal in the most Churchillian speech of his Presidency. He laid out a roadmap for Iran to follow if it wants a peaceful existence amongst the nations of the world.

Call it the North Korea deal, or the Korean strategy. The fact is the world’s leading sponsor of state terrorism, who funds Hamas, Hezbollah, Houthi rebels in Yemen, and props up Bashir Assad in Syria, has been at war with America since 1979.

Democrats, the McCarthyite Media, and the Ghost of Baghdad Bob

The Iranian history of violence against America

The Iranians, working with Hezbollah, blew up the Marine barracks in Beirut. They twice blew up our Embassy in Lebanon. The blew up the Israeli civic center in Buenos Aires, Argentina. They blew up the barracks at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia.

They openly supported Al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan.

They killed thousands of Americans during the Iraq war with roadside bombs, and in supporting Shiite militias. They actively engage in war crimes in Syria and are complicit in chemical gas attacks.

They are in active pursuit of nuclear weapons, continue to develop ballistic missiles, and threaten peace and security throughout the region. They refuse to allow nuclear inspections at the most important military facilities in their country. There is no verifiable procedure to enforce these inspections.

Iranian behavior, from bad to worse

They have used the billions of dollars given them and the release of sanctions to fuel war efforts and a defense buildup since the agreement. Their behavior has gotten worse, not better. 

Their efforts to destroy Israel have become more strident, not less. The Iranian Revolutionary Guard is rising, strengthened, more threatening. Their desire to spread hegemony to the Mediterranean is manifest. They have directed none of their windfall towards improving the lives of ordinary Iranians.

The entire premise of the Iranian deal was faulty. It has been now proven so by Iranian behavior. By not addressing these issues, by lifting sanctions, by signing a deal that was meaningless, Obama and Kerry made matters worse. They emboldened Iran. They accelerated tensions and conflict.

Former President Obama’s silent Coup d’Etat conspiracy unraveling

Trump offers Iran a different course

Now Trump offers a different course. Now Iran knows America is serious. Iran knows there will be consequences. Iran knows sanctions will return.

And despite what they say publicly now, Iran knows they will have to come to the US and renegotiate the deal. Ballistic missiles must be dealt with. Yemen and Syria, and Lebanon and Gaza must be dealt with. Nuclear inspections must be meaningful.

Failure to do so will be disastrous for Iran. Failure to come to terms with the United States will lead to the destruction of the regime. The decimation of the leadership.

You can’t blame Iranian President Rouhani and the mullahs for being upset. They were given a sweet deal. A deal everyone knows was flawed.  They couldn’t believe they pulled it off.

But Barrack Obama is no longer President. Donald Trump means what he says. His threats of consequences are very real. The sanctions are very real. 

Iranian realities in a changing world order

Iran is already indicating that they will abide by the deal with their European and Russian and Chinese partners while making squeaking noises about restarting their nuclear program.

The fact that they are talking this way indicates that Trump’s action is win/win for the United States. Iran will continue to follow the protocols of the deal currently in place.

They will also come to the table to pursue follow up deals regarding the outstanding issues of ballistic missiles,  aggressive behavior, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and meaningful nuclear inspection.

Hardliners will be no more galvanized than they would have otherwise. So called moderates don’t really exist in any meaningful sense of the word. Indeed, hard line Iranian factions and the Iranian Revolutionary Guard brought this on themselves with outrageously aggressive behavior.

It gives us leverage that Trump pulled out. It re-institutes sanctions against the most destabilizing terrorist entity in the world. An entity that has not been seriously challenged. Now it will be. Now Iran will know what it is up against and will take it seriously.

Why Trump will get results

Nobody took Barack Obama seriously. They knew he was a pushover. They knew they could get away with practically anything, even chemical weapons attacks.

Trump’s hardline approach will not only get their attention. It will force them to address it. After some bluster they will have to address it in the same way that Kim Jung Il is now. They will come to the negotiating table.

Trump left the door wide open for Iran to actually rejoin the family of nations in a meaningful way. To have an Iran at peace with its neighbors. To be an active trade partner in the international community.

None of that can happen while Iran develops ballistic missiles. None of that can happen while Iran sponsors terror and war from Gaza to Beirut to Damascus to Sana and around the globe. Those terms are immutable. Those were always the terms and behavior necessary to be treated like a normal nation state.

All Trump has done is return the world to the normal moral state of affairs, and demand standards of Iran, and North Korea, that are unconditional and deliverable. In exchange they get to survive, grow, and prosper as functioning societies. It’s that simple, and that complicated.

Obama weakness led to feckless foreign policy

It was the Obama approach that was morally corrupt. Allowing the decimation of 600,000 Syrians, currying favor with the butchers in Iran to any extreme, not responding to chemical gas attacks, not responding to ISIS for years, projecting weakness constantly.

Obama officials apparently no longer think politics ends at the water’s edge. After screwing up the Middle East and appeasing the mullahs, they are actively conspiring with foreign governments in opposition to President Trump. 

They are siding with Iran over their own government. John Kerry apparently thinks he is still Secretary of State. John Brennan never fails to viciously assail his own President, constantly, publicly, in the most unseemly manner. They are deluded malignant actors, knowingly doing harm to their country and the cause of real peace.

A path to the future Churchill would be proud of

Trumps speech was in the image of Winston Churchill, with all the attendant moral clarity. But he offered a legitimate path forward. Iran must, and probable will, seize this as an opportunity. They will have to.

Just as Kim Jung Il is about to insure his survival by giving up his nuclear weapons program, ending the Korean War, and launching a new era of development, investment, and stability for North Korea in the next 20 years. 

Beside the bluster and threats, Kim developed his nuclear program as much for ensuring his own domestic survival over his internal factions and enemies as to actually use them against the west.

Now he has the chance to seize history in a way his father and grandfather could never accomplish. Now he can rise on the world stage with the President of China and the President of the United States. He can ensure the survival of his family and regime,  and open a new era for North Korea.

An agreement with North Korea as a template

In the model of China, and with investment from South Korea, China and Japan, North Korea can look a lot more like China in 10 years. Defacto unification will inevitably follow. 

Political integration is a future question, but not an improbable one. Kim and his sister will presumably preside over the transition. Kim allies would be rewarded with China style incentives in commercial ventures.

The United States would get a verifiable agreement and a dismantling of North Koreas entire program.  It seems clear from the pre-summit preparations, the South Korean, and two Chinese summits, that the deliverables are being set in stone.

The studied debut of Kim Jong Un on the world stage after decades of isolation far exceeds his wildest expectations, vaunting him to a level that Kim Il Sung and Kim Jung Il could ever attain. The price of a denuclearized North Korea is Kim’s survival, but with that assured, he no longer needs the program, either internally, or externally.

Iran has a choice between negotiation and suicide

Similarly, Iran now has a choice to make. They have been running unchecked for more than a decade, Now they know they will be opposed. Now they know Trump is serious. His threats are serious.

It is no coincidence that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu and Russian President Putin coordinate their relationship regularly, including just yesterday. Russia’s interest regarding Syria and Iran only stretch so far.

It is no coincidence that Iran first stopped their nuclear program after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. They were certain they were next. With the election of Obama, they resumed the program in earnest.

The American, Israeli, Saudi, Jordanian, Egyptian, UAE coalition of advanced military capability is a functional reality that Iran has not faced before. American bases in Qatar, Turkey  and Kuwait, and the American naval and submarine forces in the Persian Gulf and Mediterranean are not a mirage.

It doesn’t hurt that the Houthi leader in Yemen was recently assassinated. Houthi forces in Sana have been routed in a series of setbacks. Israeli airstrikes have taken out Iranian command posts in Syria.

Iran could cause some damage with a limited strike in the Persian Gulf, or try to start a war with Israel, but they would be anihhilated in response. Sanctions will take hold soon, further strangling the domestic economy. Oil revenues will dry up. The value of the currency has dropped 35% in recent months.

Trumps action will bring peace, not conflict

Domestic unrest will continue in a society that is sick of the mullahs. The Iranian people want to be a part of the world community. Demonstrations that once were only in Tehran are all across the country. In Isfahan, and Shiraz, and Khorramshahr. Among the working class, as well as the elites.

Trumps action will force them to the table. By Iran complying with the nuclear deal in the interim negotiations it’s a win/win for Trump. The Europeans will the be the fulcrum over which they will be bent. America will get a strengthened agreement, along the lines of North Korea.

A dismantled program can lead to a free Iran. That threatens the mullahs, and the IRG, but the alternative is a society and economy in collapse. Regime change is a hopeful outcome but can’t necessarily be expected.

The ruling elites can choose their own survival, stave off disaster, and reach a new deal with the US that lifts sanctions, opens investment, and allows access to the banking system.  That’s what they want. It’s the tradeoff Kim Jung Un is taking.

The End Game: a future for Iran in the community of nations

Still there is the messianic nature of the regime. The 12th Mahdi. The desire for war and confrontation. I’m not sure that will ultimately carry much weight when faced with total annihilation. Iran has gotten away with what they have accomplished thus far because they knew they could get away with it. Not any more.

They know we are serious. They know the American, Israeli, Saudi coalition is real. They can live among the community of nations or be crushed by it. That is the choice at hand. That is what Trump has created.

A year ago North Korea looked very much the same way. A year from now I’m quite sure Iran may find themselves cutting a deal for their own survival. 

Like North Korea, it involves coming to grips with the new reality of America and Trump and taking advantage of it to create a new future for Iran,  compared to the alternative of suicidal conflict.

By pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal, Trump has confronted Iranian adventurism and assured a safer world, and a better future for all.  Wiser heads in Tehran will soon prevail if they know whats good for them.


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L.J. Keith

LJ Keith is a non-partisan commentator taking aim at all aspects of governmental domestic and foreign policy and the American socio-political landscape with an eye toward examining the functional realities of the modern age, how they can be understood, and what context to view the changing face of life in America and its place in the world at large.