The Trump administration on Monday took another important step toward unwinding the disastrous Iran deal by ending the waivers that allowed many countries to continue purchasing oil from the terrorist regime, but now President Trump should take the final step to kill it off for good.
It’s been nearly a year since Trump made the wise decision to announce that the U.S. was leaving the Iran deal negotiated by the Obama administration, but at the same time, he left many avenues open that have allowed the deal to be kept alive so that it could be resurrected by a future Democratic president.
The major (and valid) gripe about the Iran deal from the Trump team was that it handcuffed the U.S. in conducting foreign policy in the Middle East, because as long as the U.S. was bound by it, national security decisions throughout the region were shaped by the interest of preserving the deal. Meanwhile, it allowed Iran to continue to rake in tens of billions of dollars to help it fund terrorism and destabilizing actions across the world, to increase its strength as a conventional threat, and to preserve the long-term ability to go nuclear.
Though Trump, in announcing he was pulling out of the deal, promised to put “maximum pressure” on Iran, the administration has stopped short of doing that.
Last November, after a six-month transition period, Secretary of Treasury Steven Mnuchin and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced a new round of sanctions against Iran, but still offered concessions on three main fronts. The Treasury and State Departments announced waivers from oil sanctions to China, India, Italy, Greece, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and even Turkey. Additionally, the administration stopped short of completely disconnecting Iran from the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication system, a network through which global banks communicate that is crucial to accessing international markets. Finally, and most surprisingly, the administration granted waivers allowing foreign firms to continue “civil” nuclear work with Iran’s Arak, Bushehr, and Fordow facilities. Though the State Department released a statement claiming these facilities would “continue under the strictest scrutiny to ensure transparency and maintain constraints on Iran,” allowing this to continue merely perpetuates the global connection to Iran’s nuclear program, thus keeping it more entrenched.
Those committed to the Iran deal, including Europeans, ex-Obamaites, and the Democratic foreign policy establishment, know that they cannot convince Trump to embrace the deal. But what they’ve been hoping for is that the embers of the Iran deal are at least kept alive during the Trump administration, so that it can be brought back to life when Democrats regain power. That’s why it’s important to snuff it out entirely.
Earlier this month, Trump took the long-overdue step of designating Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard, which plays a key role in the Iranian economy, as well as in its efforts to quash internal dissent, fund terrorism, and foment instability throughout the Middle East. And now, on Monday, the administration is taking the significant step of ending the oil waivers to other countries, which which, if properly enforced, should have a further debilitating effect on the fragile Iranian economy. All of this is good news that is heading in the right direction.
But as long as proponents of preserving the Iran deal can cling to the supposedly “civil” nuclear cooperation, they can bring back the deal. That’s why it’s so important that Pompeo take the additional step of ending all of this nuclear cooperation.
Ending the Iran deal is one of the highlights of Trump’s foreign policy legacy. If the administration does not follow through, then his legacy could be quickly undone by his successor with the stroke of a pen. Trump should not enable any sort of zombie Iran deal to remain in place, and should instead act to obliterate it.