President Donald Trump’s Tuesday decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal left his predecessor fuming, politicians scrambling and a handful of allies singing his praises.
The treaty, negotiated by former President Barack Obama, lifted economic sanctions on the Islamic Republic in exchange for a cessation on nuclear weapons development. Seven countries, including the United States, worked for nearly two years to piece together an acceptable accord.
America’s about-face and ability to negotiate with the often-hostile Iranian regime is considered one Obama’s biggest foreign policy achievements.
However, in an 11-minute White House address, President Trump blasted the deal as worthless and ‘one-sided.’
“This was a horrible one-sided deal that should never, ever been made,” said Trump. “It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will.”
The announcement, reports the New York Times, ‘drew a chorus of opposition from European leaders, several of whom lobbied him feverishly not to pull out of the agreement and searched for fixes that would satisfy him.’
It also ‘drew a rare public rebuke by Mr. Obama,’ who insisted the withdrawal risks an erosion of American credibility.
“In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one administration to the next,” said Obama. “But the constant flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.”
Aside from Iran, President Trump has used the United States’ membership in NAFTA to threaten Canada and Mexico. He’s also tried renegotiating trade deals with China, raising tariffs, and adjusting military strategy in the Middle-East.
An analysis from The Washington Times notes that the commander-in-chief’s take on Iran isn’t unexpected. Trump has been an outspoken critic of the Iran deal since 2016, when he was still a candidate campaigning for the Oval Office. What’s surprising, said one White House official, is how long it took Trump to finally scrap the accord.
The Post’s source said that Trump had, in fact, broached the subject several times after his inauguration. Aggressive lobbying from European leaders persuaded the president to hold out for over a year as his overseas counterparts tried to present terms he might find more favorable.
But for Donald Trump, the bottom line seems to have stayed static since 2016, with the president determined to follow through on his promise.
The effort could be taken as a continuation of another longstanding Trump administration policy – the habitual and compulsive axing of President Obama’s legacy.
Trump’s timing on Tuesday could prove confounding to scheduled negotiations with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un. Critics of the commander-in-chief have charged that Trump’s sudden abandonment of Iran shows the U.S. won’t stand by its word.
Others, like national security adviser John R. Bolton, say it sends a powerful message to the nuclear-armed dictator.
“The message to North Korea,” said Bolton, “is the president wants a real deal.”
He also hit back against allegations that shredding the Iran treaty showed a lack of political integrity, saying, “Any nation reserves the right to correct a past mistake.”
Bret Stephens of the New York Times made a similar argument, recounting how unpopular Obama’s Iran negotiations were at the time. Scarcely a fifth of Americans, writes Stephens, approved of the plan to lift sanctions. Obama pushed the deal through executive power because, even in a Democratic-controlled Congress, opposition to it was so strong that it would never have passed the Senate.
Scraping a weak Obama-era policy, claims Stephens and the like-minded, lets the administration lay terms for a better deal.
No matter what Trump’s end-game may be, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has yet to offer any significant reaction. Instead, he declared that Iranians will continue to abide by the terms of the accord, criticizing Trump for his history of backpedaling U.S. policy.