President Trump announced Tuesday the United States is pulling out of the “one sided,” “horrible” and “disastrous” Iranian nuclear deal. He also said the United States would institute “the highest level of economic sanctions” against Iran, and sanction any nations that help Iran pursue nuclear weapons. This is one of the best decisions of his presidency.
Of course, many on the Left are in a state of shock and meltdown. They fear Trump’s action risks alienating our allies and other world powers, and stirring up uncertainty or even war with Iran. But by withdrawing from the current Iran deal, Trump is actually opening the door for better deals with Iran and North Korea.
The Iranian Regime Is in a Weaker Position
I’ve previously argued the Iran nuclear deal has been a bad deal for the American people and the rest of the world because it has done little to keep Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Also worth emphasizing is that the current deal has failed the majority of Iranian people too.
The 2015 deal gave the Iranian economy an initial boost largely due to increased oil exports. Iran’s real gross domestic product grew an estimated 12.5 percent in the first year following the implementation of the deal. But economic growth has been falling since then and the International Monetary Fund estimates that Iran’s GDP will grow about only 4 percent this year.
Rather than using the gain from the increased oil exports to improve the livelihood of ordinary Iranian people, the Iranian government has been spending the oil revenues to boost their own corrupted agencies, such as the Revolutionary Guards, and to help support terrorist groups and rogue regimes in Syria, Yemen, and Lebanon. Funding from Iran is the main reason that the Middle East is a much more dangerous and destabilized place today.
Iran’s economy is in terrible shape right now. Iran’s currency has lost almost half of its value against the dollar since last September. Capital flight has been a problem because an estimated $30 billion of capital left Iran in the first quarter of 2018 alone. A BBC analysis shows average annual household budgets in Iran have fallen 15 percent. The middle class has been hit the hardest, and they saw their household budgets fall 20 percent. Prices of basic goods such as eggs, bread, and meat are rising more than 10 percent a year, and unemployment is at about 12 percent.
Rather than blame the West like they did before, the Iranian people know exactly who to blame for their falling standards of living. In December 2017 and January 2018, Iranian people poured into the streets, initially to voice economic grievances and protest government corruption. As the protests expanded to more Iranian cities and involved more people, they shifted their focus from economic demands to demand fundamental political reform in Iran.
These Iranians reject their government’s policy of supporting terrorists in countries like Syria while ignoring economic hardship at home. They call for the Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to step down and for “death to the Revolutionary Guards,” a powerful military force loyal to him. This two-week protest was the largest in Iran in the last decade and was eventually crushed by the authoritarian government. But Iranian people continue to protest in other ways.
Many brave Iranian women posted pictures and videos of them removing mandatory headscarves, which is considered a criminal offense in Iran. The Wall Street Journal also recently reported there have been hundreds of outbreaks of labor unrest in Iran:
Teachers went on strike in central Iran’s city of Yazd. Steelworkers and hospital staff walked off the job in the southwest city of Ahvaz. Railway employees protested near Tabriz. And a bus drivers union in Tehran battled the private companies that control many city routes.
These workers are not only against their employers but also Iran’s government, because the Iran deal failed to live up to its promise of economic salvation for the majority of Iranians.
With so many domestic grievances to deal with and the United States’ return to economic sanctions, Iran is not in the position to play hardball. That is probably why, immediately after Trump’s announcement, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said Tuesday his government remains “committed” to a nuclear deal with Europeans, Russia, and China. Rouhani also said Iran would be ready to step up its uranium enrichment, but that sounds more like a face-saving bluff than a real threat. I believe Iran’s domestic instability and falling economy will force its authoritarian government back to the negotiation table. Thus, we have an opportunity for reaching a much better deal.
The Effects On North Korea
During his announcement about withdrawing from the deal, Trump also said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is en route to North Korea to help prepare for the upcoming U.S.-North Korea summit. Trump’s tough stand on Iran should be a warning shot to North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong-un. Kim has scored a propaganda coup for his recent summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. But in truth, just like Iran, Kim comes to the negotiation table in a weak position. Other than having nuclear weapons, his country’s economy is in shambles due to years of poor management and economic sanctions.
So far, Kim has followed the same playbook his father and grandfather used — making empty and vague promises and hoping to coerce the United States and its ally, South Korea, to provide near-term economic relief. By showing that he is able and willing to break from past historical norms and seek only bold actions, Trump is letting Kim know that his old playbook won’t work. In the words of Pompeo, “We are not going to head down the path we headed down before and we will not relieve sanctions until such time as we have achieved our objectives.”
If Kim really wants peace and economic prosperity, he’d better be prepared to make real and significant compromises when he meets with Trump. Thus, by withdrawing from the current Iran nuclear deal, Trump opens the door to negotiate better deals with both Iran and North Korea.