A real leader explains why Trump’s Iran deal sabotage is ‘a serious mistake’

Former U.S. President Obama gestures as he arrives on stage prior to delivering a speech, in Paris, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017.  Former U.S. President Barack Obama is ending a five-day international trip in Paris, where he is lunching with French President Emmanuel Macron and scheduled to give a speech to business leaders. (Thibault Camus/AP Photo)

Former U.S. President Obama gestures as he arrives on stage prior to delivering a speech, in Paris, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. Former U.S. President Barack Obama is ending a five-day international trip in Paris, where he is lunching with French President Emmanuel Macron and scheduled to give a speech to business leaders. (Thibault Camus/AP Photo)

Trump voters hired a fact-free demagogue to run the country because they wanted to “shake things up.” They sure got their wish, because his latest shakeup stokes the risk of war by triggering a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

I’m tempted to explain why the scandal-soaked saboteur’s withdrawal from the 2015 Iran deal is such a potential disaster. I’m tempted to explain at length why he’s wrong to break America’s word on a pact that’s supported by 63 percent of the American people, a pact that’s endorsed by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Secretary of Defense, the current Secretary of State, the former Secretary of State, the former national security adviser, and all of our western allies.

I suppose I could point out that Trump’s Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coates, and his then-CIA director, Mike Pompeo, have both told Congress that there’s zero evidence of Iranian breaches of the agreement. I suppose I could parse Trump’s Tuesday announcement, most notably his predictable litany of lies, especially his characterization of the deal as “a giant fiction” (he’s talking about himself again).

And I suppose I can simply repeat what I wrote here three years ago, when I pointed out that the deal featured “international inspections, cuts in the centrifuges that are used to make nuclear fuel, cuts in the stockpile of nuclear material, and advanced warning — roughly a year — if Iran were to try to dump the deal and produce enough fuel for one bomb.” I warned that if we were to renege on the deal, “we’d likely wind up with nothing — no international inspections, no curbs on nuclear fuel — no leverage.” Which is where we are now, because, naturally, Trump has no Plan B.

But instead today, I’ll yield the floor to someone far more knowledgeable than I, someone better positioned to explain the stakes for America and the world. We don’t hear from him often, but given the fact that he’s viewed favorably by 63 percent of the American people, he certainly has the creds. And how refreshing it is, for a change, to hear from a real leader, someone who can articulate in complete sentences, with intelligence and reason and a dearth of tribal bile.

On Facebook yesterday, this was President Barack Obama:

“There are few issues more important to the security of the United States than the potential spread of nuclear weapons, or the potential for even more destructive war in the Middle East. That’s why the United States negotiated the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) in the first place.

“The reality is clear. The JCPOA is working — that is a view shared by our European allies, independent experts, and the current U.S. Secretary of Defense. The JCPOA is in America’s interest — it has significantly rolled back Iran’s nuclear program …Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies, and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one Administration to the next. But the consistent 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.

“Debates in our country should be informed by facts … (T)he JCPOA has worked in rolling back Iran’s nuclear program. For decades, Iran had steadily advanced its nuclear program, approaching the point where they could rapidly produce enough fissile material to build a bomb. The JCPOA put a lid on that breakout capacity. Since the JCPOA was implemented, Iran has destroyed the core of a reactor that could have produced weapons-grade plutonium; removed two-thirds of its centrifuges (over 13,000) and placed them under international monitoring; and eliminated 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium — the raw materials necessary for a bomb. So by any measure, the JCPOA has imposed strict limitations on Iran’s nuclear program and achieved real results.

“(T)he JCPOA does not rely on trust — it is rooted in the most far-reaching inspections and verification regime ever negotiated in an arms control deal. Iran’s nuclear facilities are strictly monitored. International monitors also have access to Iran’s entire nuclear supply chain, so that we can catch them if they cheat. Without the JCPOA, this monitoring and inspections regime would go away.

“Iran is complying with the JCPOA. That was not simply the view of my Administration. The United States intelligence community has continued to find that Iran is meeting its responsibilities under the deal, and has reported as much to Congress. So have our closest allies, and the international agency responsible for verifying Iranian compliance — the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) …

“Some of the most important and intrusive inspections codified by the JCPOA are permanent. Even as some of the provisions in the JCPOA do become less strict with time, this won’t happen until ten, fifteen, twenty, or twenty-five years into the deal, so there is little reason to put those restrictions at risk today.

“Finally, the JCPOA was never intended to solve all of our problems with Iran. We were clear-eyed that Iran engages in destabilizing behavior — including support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel and its neighbors. But that’s precisely why it was so important that we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Every aspect of Iranian behavior that is troubling is far more dangerous if their nuclear program is unconstrained …

“Because of these facts, I believe that the decision to put the JCPOA at risk without any Iranian violation of the deal is a serious mistake. Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East. We all know the dangers of Iran obtaining a nuclear weapon. It could embolden an already dangerous regime; threaten our friends with destruction; pose unacceptable dangers to America’s own security; and trigger an arms race in the world’s most dangerous region. If the constraints on Iran’s nuclear program under the JCPOA are lost, we could be hastening the day when we are faced with the choice between living with that threat, or going to war to prevent it …

“Going forward, I hope that Americans continue to speak out in support of the kind of strong, principled, fact-based, and unifying leadership that can best secure our country and uphold our responsibilities around the globe.”

That would have been swell material for Trump’s briefing book, but, as we know, the poser doesn’t read. All he would’ve needed was one sheet of paper, with these words scrawled in crayon: “The deal was Obama’s.”

And thanks to his petty spite, which he has indulged in defiance of American majority sentiment, we’ve ratcheted up the risk of war. So much winning!

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