President Donald J. Trump’s reckless, undiplomatic, and egocentric announcement to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear accord may represent one step towards a larger goal within his administration of effecting regime change in Tehran.
This is not some conspiracy theory, but a legitimate fear one hears from U.S. allies, rights groups, nuclear experts, and Iranian-Americans – a fear heightened by both the decision itself and the vitriolic style in which this commander-in-chief delivered it.
National Iranian-American Council (NIAC) President, Dr. Trita Parsi, for one, sensed the disturbing tone in Trump’s remarks were indicative of something more than simply violating the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which, by the way, in exchange for sanctions relief, has ensured the peaceful nature of Iran’s nuclear program since 2015.
“His speech at the White House was a war speech,” Dr. Parsi told me on Tuesday evening. “I think it is very difficult to reach a conclusion other than that Trump is setting the stage for a military confrontation with Iran.”
It is hard to believe Trump is capable of any long-term thinking on any issue, but the cabal of hawks in his cabinet certainly are, especially his National Security Adviser John Bolton and his new Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who happened to meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu shortly before Bibi distorted stale intelligence in an internationally-televised address last week that prepped the field for Trump’s performance.
Hence why, perhaps, Dr. Parsi perceives Trump’s cryptic speech as a possible harbinger of destruction on a mass scale.
“If in nine months from now there is a war between the United States and Iran, with disastrous consequences for the region, we should remember that this war started today with this specific decision Trump chose to make,” Dr. Parsi said. “This is completely a crisis of choice.”
One of the core aims of Dr. Parsi’s organization, founded in 2002, is to not only ensure Iranian-American civil liberties are protected at home but that human rights are also upheld in Iran. Which is why he found it contemptible that Trump, during his speech, tried to claim solidarity with the Iranian people.
In an earlier statement, Dr. Parsi cited Trump’s Muslim ban and Bolton’s support for the Mujahedeen Khalq (MEK) – a terrorist group that wants to topple the regime – as examples that expose the cynicism of the president’s sudden apparent urge to bond with Iranians.
In fact, nearly all of the Trump administration’s stated reasons for exiting the agreement are either so void of logic or based on such outrageous lies that a Boltonesque grand scheme to undermine Tehran seems much more plausible as a primary driver.
For starters, as noted by the NIAC, Iran remained compliant under the conditions of the JCPOA as verified by the IAEA in 11 reports since January 2016 – a factoid Pompeo even admitted during his confirmation hearing.
Since the White House could not find fault there, Trump in his speech tried to claim that the IAEA inspections regime was inadequate. However, as Senator Robert Menendez observed, the Trump administration has proposed no better alternative.
“The President must immediately send his national security team to Congress to explain… how his Administration will continue long-standing U.S. policy to prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapon outside of the JCPOA without partners,” Menendez said in a Twitter post on Tuesday. And this is coming from a lawmaker who strongly opposed the deal in the first place.
However, the real explanation might be even simpler – yet darker – because it resides in the soul of this narcissist of a president. During his historic announcement – clips of which he retweeted several times – Trump himself allowed the world to easily play armchair psychologist.
“Today’s action sends a critical message: The United States no longer makes empty threats. When I make promises, I keep them,” Trump boasted.
At the end of the day, it is all about Donald the Dealmaker-in-Chief’s ego, his desperate need for constant spectacle and his desperate need to be the center of the universe at all times. The geopolitics of the situation is actually irrelevant – something Senator Dianne Feinstein took note of.
“Everything [former] President [Barack] Obama has done, this president wants to undo,” Feinstein tweeted after Trump’s decision. “An agreement that prevents Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon is one thing that should never be undone just to satisfy a campaign promise.”
Feinstein later tweeted that Trump’s obsession with fulfilling this particular campaign promise has also diminished U.S. credibility and standing in the world.
It is worth noting that Trump’s raw megalomania also drove other key foreign policy decisions – from bombing Syria to escalating the war in Afghanistan. Not to mention, exiting the Iran deal had the added virtue of conveniently diverting attention from the Russia probe and Stormy-Gate.
A president that makes such monumental decisions based on caprice and selfish whim is more threatening to global security than the mullahs in Iran will ever be. Ironically, it is fair to wonder if Iranian leaders having access to weapons of mass destruction is any more dangerous than Trump having access to the codes of the world’s largest nuclear arsenal – codes that a former missile launch official once said are “the length of a tweet.”