In his first address to the United Nations General Assembly Tuesday, President Donald Trump made a forceful case against Iran’s behavior in the Middle East and the merits of the 2015 nuclear deal negotiated by his predecessor Barack Obama.
President Donald Trump gives his first speech before the United Nations General Assembly's 72nd session in New York, Sept. 19.
Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton.
As a presidential candidate, Trump vowed to “rip up” the “disastrous” deal. Yet his administration has not taken any concrete steps to either renegotiate or pull the U.S. out. However, a key deadline looms in mid-October that has led to a flurry of speculation whether the Trump administration may make a major shift in strategy regarding the deal.
“The Iran deal is one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the U.S. has ever entered into to,” Trump declared to the international body filled with world leaders. “Frankly, that deal was an embarrassment to the U.S.”
The president took Iran to task for its destabilizing behavior in the Middle East, saying that Tehran “speaks openly of mass murder, death to America and the destruction of Israel,” while also exporting “violence, bloodshed and chaos” throughout the region.
Drawing on Trump’s muscular speech, in his own address to the world body, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has derided the agreement for years, said the Islamic Republic could become the next North Korea if the nuclear deal isn’t “fixed or nixed.”
“There are those who still defend the dangerous [Iranian nuclear] deal, arguing that it will block Iran's path to the bomb. That's exactly what they said about the nuclear deal with North Korea, and we all know how that turned out. If nothing changes, this deal with turn out exactly the same way,” Netanyahu warned.
Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior Iran analyst with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told JNS.org that Netanyahu “laid out the situation on Iran pretty well for his call to ‘fix it or nix it.’”
“There is a way to fix the Iran deal, and the way to do it is actually use the U.N. system and use Iran’s track record of bad behavior under the deal,” he said. “It’s the track record of being a maligned player in the region, which Trump and Netanyahu both referred to, to get this leverage with the Europeans to renegotiate it.”
Trump administration strategy
Last week, the Trump administration extended sanctions relief for Iran, but left open the possibility that it may not certify Iran’s compliance with the deal at the mid-October deadline.
However, administration officials, and even Trump on Twitter, has discussed the decertification of the Iran nuclear deal as an option. Under U.S. law, the president must certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is in compliance with the deal. If the president does not certify their compliance, Congress could reimpose sanctions that were originally lifted, effectively ending the U.S.’s participation in the agreement.
Ben Taleblu said there has been a remarkable amount of consistency within the administration on not telegraphing its options on Iran.
“Despite all the talk about decertification and the October deadline, they have also done a good job at cultivating the ambiguity and uncertainty of what actually will happen,” he said.
Ben Taleblu believes the Trump administration should leverage the uncertainty over what will happen in October to get European allies on board with their future policy, while also preventing Iranian President Hassan Rouhani from driving a wedge between the U.S. and Europe on the nuclear deal.
“Europe is already eager to engage with Iran on the business front. The Trump administration needs to prevent Europe from being wooed by Iran and reject the charm offensive by Rouhani,” he said.…