During his State of the Union address on Tuesday, President Donald Trump claimed that his decision to pull the US out of the Iran nuclear deal and reimpose sanctions on the country has put immense pressure on the Iranian regime and stifled its regional ambitions, as well as slowed its ability to obtain a nuclear weapon.
“My administration has acted decisively to confront the world’s leading state sponsor of terror: the radical regime in Iran,” Trump said Tuesday night in front of Congress. “To ensure this corrupt dictatorship never acquires nuclear weapons, I withdrew the United States from the disastrous Iran nuclear deal. And last fall, we put in place the toughest sanctions ever imposed on a country.”
But his belief that he has single-handedly thwarted all of Iran’s designs just isn’t true — according to his own administration.
First, while the sanctions have put some additional pressure on the Iranian regime, European countries such as Germany and France have not only refused to follow the US in reimposing sanctions on Iran but have actually created a workaround that allows them to continue doing business with the country despite US sanctions. That could substantially blunt the economic impact of the Trump administration’s sanctions.
In fact, a new report released Monday from the Pentagon’s inspector general finds that “US sanctions re-imposed on Iran in August and November 2018 have had limited effect on Iran’s ability to operate in Syria,” where the country is helping to fund and arm proxies to prop up Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad.
The report does say that additional sanctions could hinder Iran, but as of now, the impact has been minimal at best.
Second, Trump has long argued that the Iran nuclear deal wouldn’t have stopped the country from getting a nuclear weapon and that staying in the deal actually would have led it to acquire nuclear weapons in “just a short time.”
But according to a report issued by top US intelligence officials last week, Iran’s “continued implementation” of the deal — even after Trump pulled the US out of it — “has extended the amount of time Iran would need to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from a few months to about one year.”
What’s more, the report warns that “Iranian officials have publicly threatened” to “resume nuclear activities that the [nuclear deal] limits — if Iran does not gain the tangible trade and investment benefits it expected from the deal.”
So not only has Trump’s pressure on Iran not accomplished what he wanted it to, his decision to pull out of the nuclear deal could actually push Iran to try to pursue a nuclear weapon.
Put together, this means that Trump’s victory lap on Iran during the State of the Union address was based a lot more in fantasy than in reality.