Trump Move to Decertify Iran Nuclear Agreement, Would be a Clear Danger to U.S. and World

Posted Oct. 11, 2017

MP3 Interview with David Swanson, author, journalist and campaign coordinator with Roots, conducted by Scott Harris


Through his own words during the presidential campaign and more recent remarks before the United Nations, Donald Trump is expected to take steps that could kill the international nuclear agreement with Iran that some observers assert is the most important nuclear anti-proliferation pact this century. Trump has indicated he will decertify the agreement that President Obama and five other world powers negotiated with Iran in 2015. The deal, strongly opposed by Republicans, conservatives and Israel, suspended Iran’s nuclear weapons program and in return lifted internationally observed economic sanctions.

If Trump decertifies the agreement, the issue moves to Congress, which opens a 60-day period for debate. If Congress votes to re-impose sanctions against Iran, it would effectively withdraw the U.S. from the nuclear agreement. While Trump says Iran violates the “spirit” of the agreement, the U.N.’s International Atomic Energy Agency maintains that Iran is in compliance, a determination shared by the other signatories to the deal – Russia, China, France, Britain and Germany. Trump’s Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson have both indicated they support maintaining the agreement with Iran.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with David Swanson, author, journalist and campaign coordinator with Here, he talks about his group's current campaign opposing any congressional move to kill the international Iran nuclear weapons agreement and what’s at stake if the agreement is terminated. [Rush transcript]

DAVID SWANSON: If you look for a consensus among those in power even within the Trump administration, as well as the Congress, as well as the major media outlets and the academic political talking heads, there's a widespread consensus among U.S. nationalists that it's a good deal and should be stuck with, and it's one of the few things that's gone right in recent years and there's no reason to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. But, Trump apparently thinks that the national interest is whatever suits him personally. And that's a problem.

But it's not clear what he's trying to do because, as you say, he's passing this to Congress. He's chosen not to refrain from waivers that he had to renew that if he had not, would have created new sanctions in the form of renewing old sanctions on Iran. Rather, he's chosen to, as everyone is predicting by the deadline of Oct. 15, announce that he decertifies the agreement. This is, of course, after months of the White House very openly seeking to find some way to claim that Iran was violating the agreement. And in the absence of that, Trump is simply going to announce that it's decertified. But that really doesn't change anything other than rhetoric. Congress, as you say, then has to decide whether it wants to impose new sanctions.

From the point of view of people in Iran, the United States is already you know, failing to live up to its side of the bargain in terms of sanction relief. The question is whether yet more sanctions are going to be imposed and whether this sort of rhetoric, any substantive new sanctions, or other steps that have been announced – including Trump's intention to declare the Revolutionary Guard, the Iranian military, a terrorist organization. Whether any of these things successfully provoke Iran to withdraw from the agreement, or provoke Iran into launching a war, both seem to be the intention of numerous parties in Washington, D.C.

BETWEEN THE LINES: What's the motive here, do you think? Is this just a hollow campaign commitment that Trump made while he was speaking before adoring crowds during the election campaign, that he was going to get rid of this "embarrassing" deal, the "embarrassing" agreement with Iran? Is this really what we're dealing with on that level?

DAVID SWANSON: I think that's a big part of it, and certainly the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with whom Trump has now started a public insult match believes that Trump is still living in a reality TV show. And he appears to be. And the fact that the United States Congress recognizes that and has not impeached him and removed him from office is extremely disturbing. At least to me, and I think it should be, to everyone.

But there are people in the Pentagon, high-level officials who talk fairly openly, if anonymously, to journalists these days about the Cold War with Russia being motivated by weapons sales and by bureaucratic inertia and you know, the future of NATO and the future of the Army.

If you look at Iran, the one thing that Iran is in the United States is incredible war propaganda. I mean, it's better than Russia; it's better than ISIS. A couple of years ago, Gallup did a poll, December 2013 in 65 nations. And in the vast majority of them, the answer to "What is the greatest threat to peace on earth?" was the "United States government." But in the United States, the answer was "Iran." That is a high value to the biggest industry in Washington, D.C., and that is weapons making.

BETWEEN THE LINES: And David, looking down the road, if the Republican-controlled Congress does impose new sanctions on Iran and abrogates the U.S. part in this nuclear weapons treaty, what is the danger for future tension and conflict between the United States and Iran?

DAVID SWANSON: The real danger, of course, is of war. And we're dealing with a White House that has a clear interest in war. It's increasingly threatening war, even nuclear war on North Korea, as well as Iran, as well as Venezuela and other parts of the world. And North Korea has nuclear weapons. Iran does not. And the lesson that the world is going to learn is going to be disastrous if the United States attacks another country that has very publicly disarmed itself of any nuclear weapons, as was the case with Libya.

But this is going to be a war to make Iraq and Afghanistan look like child's play. It's going to be horrific if the United States attacks Iran.

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