Netanyahu takes aim at Iran deal
President Trump said he had been proven “100 percent right” about the failings of the Iran nuclear deal this week after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu revealed a huge cache of stolen Iranian documents, claiming it showed Tehran had covered up its past nuclear weapons program. During a theatrical speech in Tel Aviv, Netanyahu pulled a curtain away from shelves stacked with copies of files that he said Israeli spies had seized from a government warehouse in Tehran. He said the 55,000 pages—which date back to the early 2000s—include “incriminating” evidence, for example one presentation outlining plans for the production of five nuclear warheads. A fierce opponent of the 2015 deal, Netanyahu said Iran “lied big-time” when it claimed during the agreement’s negotiation that its nuclear program had always been entirely peaceful.
The presentation came 13 days before Trump was to decide whether to stay in the Obama-era pact, which offered Iran sanctions relief in exchange for curbs on its nuclear program. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the material showed that the deal was not built “on a foundation of good faith.” But many former U.S. officials said the documents were all but irrelevant, because international inspectors have found no evidence Iran continued its bomb work after 2009. The three European nations that helped negotiate the deal—France, Germany, and the U.K.—and have lobbied Trump to keep it alive appeared unimpressed with the revelations. “The Iran nuclear deal is not based on trust about Iran’s intentions,” said British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson. “Rather, it is based on tough verification.”
What the columnists said
Netanyahu’s show-and-tell session should render the deal “null and void,” said Bret Stephens in The New York Times. We can’t expect the mullahs to be faithful to the deal when they were “faithless to it at the beginning.” The Europeans argue that the agreement has kept Tehran from racing toward a bomb. But this deeply flawed pact lets Iran “amble toward a bomb” and use sanctions relief to fund its militancy in Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. Trump should follow his gut, scrap the deal, and punish Iran’s lies with punitive sanctions backed by the “threat of military force.”
Yes, Iran is destabilizing the neighborhood, said Max Boot in WashingtonPost.com. But the deal was only ever intended to “stop the actual development of nuclear weapons.” In that regard it’s been a success. U.S. intelligence agencies say the agreement has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a bomb from a few months to a year. That hardly justifies Trump’s claim that it’s the “worst deal ever.”
That won’t weaken Trump’s determination to “flex his dealmaking prowess and outshine Obama,” said Vali Nasr in TheAtlantic.com. But if the president tears up the agreement and orders Tehran to make a deal or else, Iran will likely restart uranium enrichment and “seek protection under its own nuclear shield.” At that point, another costly war in the Middle East might be the only way to stop Iran from getting a bomb—“the very trajectory that the candidate Trump railed against.”