FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Breaking the Iran Deal: The Delusion of Victory

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has undoubtedly been sipping champagne these days in celebration of his successful effort to lobby Donald Trump over the Iran nuclear deal. Netanyahu’s crude interventions to change US policy had been rebuffed by President Obama, but in Trump Netanyahu found a similarly singleminded partner who cannot see the long-term security problems that rejecting the nuclear deal will surely bring. Netanyahu praised Trump’s decision by saying that “the deal actually paves Iran’s path to an entire arsenal of nuclear bombs, and this within a few years’ time.” But he has yet to say—and cannot say—how US withdrawal will change that assessment.

Trump’s rejection of the nuclear deal actually may turn out to be a serious blow to the security of Israel and the entire Middle East. First, by further embittering Iran’s relations with the US and Israel, Trump’s decision makes a military confrontation more likely than ever, whether or not Iran proceeds to reactivate its nuclear-weapon program. Iran might retaliate for Israeli air attacks inside Syria or for Mossad’s intelligence missions inside Iran—such as the one that seized documents on Iran’s past nuclear program and was used by Netanyahu (and Trump) to make the case for Iran’s untrustworthiness. Netanyahu might now believe he has US backing to attack an Iranian nuclear site—an objective he has sought for some time and which now, at a time when his administration is wracked by a corruption scandal, he might find timely to carry out.

Second, if Iran’s supreme leader does decide to restart a nuclear-weapon program, it not only would give Washington and Tel Aviv the excuse they need to attack Iran. Saudi Arabia would also be tempted to intervene on their side—and build its own nuclear weapon in the process, as its foreign minister said on CNN (May 9). The minister blamed Iran for all the troubles in the region and claimed to have the backing of the other Arab countries. Thus, we could wind up with a “Sunni bomb” to rival Iran’s and Israel’s bombs. And there’s no evidence that the Trump administration would stand in the way of Saudi Arabia’s going nuclear.

Third, we have to consider the catastrophic consequences of a US-Israel-Saudi Arabia confrontation with Iran simultaneously with ongoing fighting elsewhere in the Middle East. Syria is already the new frontier of Israel-Iran confrontation. Wars rage in Yemen, Iraq, and Afghanistan. Total destruction of cities, massive refugee outflows, use of chemical weapons, and huge civilian casualties show us what to expect from a wider regional war.

Fourth, Iran has Hezbollah at its disposal for disrupting Israeli life in the Occupied Territories. What that move would mean for Israeli-Palestinian relations, which are already badly frayed since Trump’s decision on Jerusalem, can only be guessed.

Fifth, the US pullout from the Iran deal puts it at loggerheads with European allies, who have vowed to try to save the deal. Their efforts will further isolate Israel.

In short, while Trump and Netanyahu may think they have shown great courage in pushing Iran to the wall and defying Western allies, they have actually demonstrated extraordinary, even criminal, shortsightedness. They have assumed that an Iran weakened economically and pressured externally is a welcome development. In this, they have committed two cardinal sins of strategic planning: underestimating the opponent’s will to resist, and failing to ask “what next”? And what’s next will not be a case of unanticipated consequences.

More articles by:

Mel Gurtov is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest.

June 25, 2018
P. Sainath
A Long March of the Dispossessed to Delhi 
Sheldon Richman
What Does Trump Have Against Children?
Lance Olsen
Caught in a Trap of Our Own Making: Climate Change, Blame, and Denial
Seth Sandronsky
A Safe Black Space
Kary Love
Crying Children and Due Process of Law
Gary Leupp
Why It Just Makes Sense for the U.S. to Withdraw from the UNHRC
John Laforge
Kings Bay Plowshares Action Names the Trident with Blood
Mel Gurtov
After Singapore, Is Iran the Next US Target?
Kent D. Shifferd
A Different Perspective on Peace
Uri Avnery
Two Souls
Laura Flanders
National Suicide Point?
Ludwig Watzal
The Death of Felicia Langer
Weekend Edition
June 22, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Karl Grossman
Star Wars Redux: Trump’s Space Force
Andrew Levine
Strange Bedfellows
Jeffrey St. Clair
Intolerable Opinions in an Intolerant Time
Paul Street
None of Us are Free, One of Us is Chained
Edward Curtin
Slow Suicide and the Abandonment of the World
Celina Stien-della Croce
The ‘Soft Coup’ and the Attack on the Brazilian People 
James Bovard
Pro-War Media Deserve Slamming, Not Sainthood
Louisa Willcox
My Friend Margot Kidder: Sharing a Love of Dogs, the Wild, and Speaking Truth to Power
David Rosen
Trump’s War on Sex
Mir Alikhan
Trump, North Korea, and the Death of IR Theory
Christopher Jones
Neoliberalism, Pipelines, and Canadian Political Economy
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Why is Tariq Ramadan Imprisoned?
Robert Fantina
MAGA, Trump Style
Linn Washington Jr.
Justice System Abuses Mothers with No Apologies
Martha Rosenberg
Questions About a Popular Antibiotic Class
Ida Audeh
A Watershed Moment in Palestinian History: Interview with Jamal Juma’
Edward Hunt
The Afghan War is Killing More People Than Ever
Geoff Dutton
Electrocuting Oral Tradition
Don Fitz
When Cuban Polyclinics Were Born
Ramzy Baroud
End the Wars to Halt the Refugee Crisis
Ralph Nader
The Unsurpassed Power trip by an Insuperable Control Freak
Lara Merling
The Pain of Puerto Ricans is a Profit Source for Creditors
James Jordan
Struggle and Defiance at Colombia’s Feast of Pestilence
Tamara Pearson
Indifference to a Hellish World
Kathy Kelly
Hungering for Nuclear Disarmament
Jessicah Pierre
Celebrating the End of Slavery, With One Big Asterisk
Rohullah Naderi
The Ever-Shrinking Space for Hazara Ethnic Group
Binoy Kampmark
Leaving the UN Human Rights Council
Nomi Prins 
How Trump’s Trade Wars Could Lead to a Great Depression
Robert Fisk
Can Former Lebanese MP Mustafa Alloush Turn Even the Coldest of Middle Eastern Sceptics into an Optimist?
Franklin Lamb
Could “Tough Love” Salvage Lebanon?
George Ochenski
Why Wild Horse Island is Still Wild
Ann Garrison
Nikki Haley: Damn the UNHRC and the Rest of You Too
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail