- President Donald Trump reversed a personal pledge made by President Barack Obama when he decided to withdraw the US from the Iran deal.
- Decisions made unilaterally can just as easily be undone unilaterally.
- The US withdrawing from the deal is largely a good thing.
The argument is straightforward: If our leaders can unilaterally rip up international agreements to which the US is a party, why would any nation trust us enough to engage in any future diplomacy?
The answer traces back to the deal’s inception. Sen. Ben Sasse, a Republican from Nebraska who has been one of the president’s most prominent critics on the right, put it best in his statement after Trump’s announcement:
“Today is a reminder that if you live by the Presidency, you die by the Presidency. We ought to be clear about this: Donald Trump isn’t ripping up a treaty; he’s walking away from Barack Obama’s personal pledge. Two and a half years ago, President Obama made a bad deal with Iran without support from Congress, and today President Trump is pulling out of President Obama’s personal commitment, and he doesn’t need Congress’s support to do so. American foreign policy makes lasting progress when it is led by the President, approved by Congress, and presented honestly to the American people.”
While President Barack Obama was forcefully shoving the deal down our throats, his administration failed to shore up a reasonable level of domestic support. In fact, nearly half of Americans disapproved of the deal in the summer of 2015.
Perhaps this is because Americans, unlike the Obama administration, were not blinded by an overwhelming desire to prove that they had found a “solution,” even if it was a nonviable one. What’s on display now is the same kind of willful ignorance that led the foreign-policy establishment to conclude at the time that the deal – an agreement based heavily on trusting Iran’s words and intentions – was a good one.
A video has already surfaced of Iranian politicians burning a paper US flag in their parliament while chanting “Death to America” in the wake of Trump’s announcement.
Pundits on the left are treating Trump’s decision as a calamity, as if it will guarantee a nuclear Iran. That is not the case. In The New York Times, Bret Stephens made the case that the administration is actually now in “a strong position to negotiate a viable deal.”
The goal, he explained, “is to put Iran’s rulers to a fundamental choice”:
“They can opt to have a functioning economy, free of sanctions and open to investment, at the price of permanently, verifiably and irreversibly forgoing a nuclear option and abandoning their support for terrorists. Or they can pursue their nuclear ambitions at the cost of economic ruin and possible war. But they are no longer entitled to Barack Obama’s sweetheart deal of getting sanctions lifted first, retaining their nuclear options for later, and sponsoring terrorism throughout.”
Stephens is right about the choice now facing Iran, which explains why our Middle Eastern allies, Israel and Saudi Arabia, have celebrated Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal. Americans across the political spectrum should follow suit.
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