By Todd Royal
Historian Stephen Kotkin said in Foreign Affairs, “The arc of history bends towards delusion.” Nowhere is that more clearly seen than in the delusional prognostications experts and policymakers have taken towards President Trump leaving the Iran nuclear deal, otherwise known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). National security, foreign policy, and realist balancing are under assault by emotions and groupthink instead of careful, factual analysis. This was on open display in the Obama administration’s bad deal, which was long on promises but short on verifiable claims of denuclearization by the Iranian regime. Examining Iran’s behavior after the documents were signed and the fallacies that it took for this deal to take place will show the Trump administration made the correct decision, “leaving the horrible Iran nuclear deal.”
Let’s build a case as if we were in a court of law as to what Iran is guilty of and why the United States (US) should never re-negotiate the JCPOA with the governing Mullahs. Consider how two former British officers who commanded coalition and British troops in Iraq and Afghanistan reported for the Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs how Iranian-supplied weapons killed hundreds of American and British soldiers via the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRG), Hezbollah, and Shia militias. These actions also fueled insurgencies across the Middle East, particularly in Yemen and Syria.
Even more devastating, top Iranian official c admitted in an early June released interview:
“That Iran knowingly helped al-Qaeda terrorists – including some of the 9/11 attackers – travel secretly through the Middle East. Their movements were under the complete supervision of Iranian intelligence.”
President Obama would have known this since it was a main accusation leveled against Iran in the 9/11 Commission Report.
In mid-June, Iran’s foreign minister, Abbas Araghchi warned, “In the coming weeks a potential withdrawal from the deal would take place,” and the deal is in “the intensive care unit,” in light of the US decision to unilaterally withdraw from the JCPOA.
Then Business Insider reported this in late June:
“Iran’s supreme leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) just torpedoed his country’s best chance to get off the terror financing blacklist by opposing joining the global anti-money laundering convention, which is the Financial Action Task Force, that was established by a G-7 Summit in Paris in 1989.”
This suggests that Tehran doesn’t want to prevent money laundering or stop being the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism. To exit this blacklist, an action plan drawn up by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) would need to be signed, one that includes the UN Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism Financing, which has 132 signatories with 188 parties involved that went into effect in 2002. The Supreme Leader in Iran has just thumbed his nose at the former administration’s nuclear deal, the UN, and cutting off the IRG and its terror-supporting proxies.
According to the Washington Post editorial, Obama took lying to new heights with the Iran Deal, secret side agreements negotiated by the Obama administration between Iran and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were never reported to Congress when the nuclear accord was delivered to Capital Hill. Members of Congress only found about these secret agreements when they were in Vienna for a meeting with the IAEA. The Obama administration also secretly sent a plane loaded with $400 million to Tehran the same day Iran released four American hostages (post JCPOA signing) and two more secret flights followed that carried another $1.3 billion in cash.
Even more damning is a recent revelation that the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations revealed in a new report released in May:
“The Obama administration secretly tried to help U.S. banks convert $5.7 billion in Iranian assets, after promising Congress that Iran would not get access to the U.S. financial system.”
President Obama and his administration continued lying to Congress by, “granting a specific license that authorized a conversion of Iranian assets worth billions of U.S. dollars using the U.S. financial system.” Furthermore, officials from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), encouraged U.S. banks to convert the funds, but both banks approached declined over, “reputational and legal risks associated with doing business with Iran.” This was after former Treasury Secretary Jack Lew testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July 2015 over the Iranian accord that “Iran will continue to be denied access to the U.S. financial and commercial market.” Now imagine if Trump had done any of this related to Russia collusion narrative? There would have already been calls for his impeachment. Meanwhile, the former administration gets off freely while lying to the American people, Congress, allies, and exceeding the mandate of the JCPOA.
Ben Rhodes, the former deputy national security advisor, was the biggest advocate in misleading the American public over the deal when he said this in an interview given to The New York Times magazine:
“The way in which most Americans have heard the story of the Iran deal presented — that the Obama administration began seriously engaging with Iranian officials in 2013 in order to take advantage of a new political reality in Iran, which came about because of elections that brought moderates to power in that country — was largely manufactured for the purpose for selling the deal.”
Foreign Affairs even called Rhodes an “a-hole” after this interview went public while condemning his lack of experience in diplomatic or international affairs.
The case I’ve laid out is only the tip of the iceberg. Wall Street Journal reporter Jay Solomon’s book, The Iran Wars: Spy Games, Banks Battles and the Secret Deals That Reshaped the Middle East gives a devastating account of the weakness and chaos this deal unleashed on the Middle East, the European Union, and NATO.
Maybe President Obama wanted to be known as a peace-President or ideological emotions overtook sound realist judgment and the quest for a “legacy-making agreement.” But in reality the deal was an untruthful foreign policy disaster sold to a war-weary American public when it is clear that Iran never had any intention of moderating its belligerent behavior. Financial rewards have been pocketed to sow discord in the Middle East and double down on proxies’ illicit behavior that was encouraged all for the sake of a nuclear deal. No rational expert, analyst or voter can trust the former administration’s diplomacy with Iran when it was, “nothing more than a stimulus package for jihadists.”
Trump was correct leaving the JCPOA.
*Todd Royal, M.P.P. is the Managing Partner for Energy development, Oil & Gas, and Renewables for Ascendance Strategies, a global threat assessment and political consulting firm that is based in Los Angeles, California