Analysis & Opinions - Bloomberg Opinion

Trump's Iran Plan Does Too Much and Too Little

| Oct. 13, 2017

Aiming to fulfill a campaign promise, the president misses the real threat: Iran's efforts to destabilize the Middle East.

President Donald Trump’s advisers are at pains to emphasize that Friday’s speech on Iran policy was an effort to lay out a comprehensive strategy to tackle the malign behavior of the Tehran regime, not just an announcement that the president had refused to certify Iran’s compliance with the 2015 nuclear deal. Their frustration that the headlines missed the forest for the trees is understandable -- given the need for an Iran policy, not simply an Iran nuclear strategy, which was essentially the approach of the Barack Obama administration.

But Trump’s advisers only have the president -- and not the media -- to blame. The Iran nuclear deal has long been the focal point of the president’s rhetoric and was the centerpiece of the speech. And the decertification of the deal was one of the few tangible actions outlined by the president.

This focus on decertifying the Iran deal, reached between the U.S., five other major powers and Iran -- is not just a distraction from the bigger picture: Iran’s destabilizing activities in the region. In fact, it also undermines U.S. efforts to execute a strategy aimed at reducing Iran’s influence. While decertification brings with it an array of costs, it brings no obvious benefits.

The main motivation for decertifying the deal seems to be the need to scratch a high-priority presidential itch. As the world knows, while the International Atomic Energy Agency and other entities have judged that Iran is complying with the nuclear deal, Trump is uncomfortable certifying it every 90 days, as required by Congress. His refusal to do so today must give the president a certain amount of satisfaction, given how unequal he perceives the terms of the deal to have been. And he has a point. But the decertification is not linked to the rest of a more comprehensive strategy in any way; none of the steps laid out in the speech require the president make such a determination before they can be taken.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: O'Sullivan, Meghan.“Trump's Iran Plan Does Too Much and Too Little.” Bloomberg Opinion, October 13, 2017.