The Most Dangerous Thing Trump Could Do

The president is scheduled to make an announcement today at 2:00 pm about whether he will decline to waive sanctions on Iran and unilaterally violate the terms of the agreement that halted their nuclear weapons program. I suppose there is some symmetry to the fact that it will come one day after the NRA announced that Oliver North will be their next president. The move functions as a reminder that the United States has a long and sordid history with the country of Iran.

In terms of the modern era, it all started back in 1953 when the United States teamed up with Britain to implement “regime change” via a coup of the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Iran, Mohammad Mosaddegh, and installed Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, the last Shah of Iran, as the ruling monarch. After a brutal reign of 26 years, largely supported by the U.S. both overtly and covertly, the Shah was overthrown in the 1979 Iranian Revolution.

It was mostly students supporting of the Iranian Revolution who held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days at the American embassy in Tehran. They were released the very day that Ronald Reagan was sworn into office on January 20, 1981.

Four years later, after the U.S. supported Saddam Hussein in his war against Iran, the Reagan administration was secretly selling arms to Iran (which was the subject of an arms embargo) and using the money to fund the Contras in Nicaragua (something Congress had specifically forbidden). Those efforts were mainly the brainchild of Lt. Colonel Oliver North, a member of the national security council at the time.

I say all of that to demonstrate why the people of Iran have very good reason to not trust the United States, which is something the Obama administration took into consideration during the negotiations over the nuclear agreement.

Clearly, [Obama] added, “part of the psychology of Iran is rooted in past experiences, the sense that their country was undermined, that the United States or the West meddled in first their democracy and then in supporting the Shah and then in supporting Iraq and Saddam during that extremely brutal war. So part of what I’ve told my team is we have to distinguish between the ideologically driven, offensive Iran and the defensive Iran that feels vulnerable and sometimes may be reacting because they perceive that as the only way that they can avoid repeats of the past.

Now we have Trump poised to betray the slivers of trust that were developed during those negotiations. The president’s new spokesperson, Rudy Giuliani, has acknowledged that Trump joins the hawks in being committed to regime change once again in Iran, which is the underlying reason for why they oppose the agreement. When/if Iran restarts their nuclear weapons program, they have an excuse to launch a military intervention and overthrow the current government. Of course, the rest of us know how those kinds of plans have turned out in the past.

I’m not going to make any predictions about what Trump will do today. He is managing to be unpredictable, as advertised, but word is leaking that he will announce that the U.S. plans to reimpose sanctions and violate the terms of the agreement. At this point, President Hassan Rouhani of Iran is basically saying good riddance to the U.S. if that is what happens.

“We are not worried about America’s cruel decisions … We are prepared for all scenarios and no change will occur in our lives next week,” Rouhani said Monday in a speech broadcast live on state television and reported by Reuters. “If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal. What Iran wants is our interests to be guaranteed by its non-American signatories … In that case, getting rid of America’s mischievous presence will be fine for Iran.”

Donald Trump has done a lot of despicable things as president. But short of actually launching a nuclear weapon, nothing will be as dangerous to the course of world events in the future as an announcement that the U.S. will violate the Iranian nuclear agreement. Rather than taking a small step to resolve our issues with that country, he will alienate the United States from the rest of the world and add to the mistakes we’ve made in the past. I doubt we’ll ever get another chance for peace with Iran.

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly.