Donald Trump made no secret of his disdain for the nuclear agreement the Obama administration, along with several other countries, made with the Iranian government. In the campaign, he blasted the deal regularly, saying it had “catastrophic” implications for the security of the U.S., Israel, and the entire world. But while his Republican opponents in the primaries were vowing to tear the deal to shreds on their first day in office, Trump positioned himself as the man who could make a pact more favorable to the West.
“Negotiating from a position of strength is important,” Trump wrote in a 2015 op-ed. “Having the will to follow through is fundamental. A Trump presidency will force the Iranians back to the bargaining table to make a much better deal. A Trump presidency will make America great again.”
Of course, Trump wrote that before Obama handed nearly $2 billion to Tehran in exchange for Americans being unjustly held in Iranian prisons. Now, in many ways, the worst aspect of the deal is already behind us. It’s done. We’ve filled Iran’s coffers with enough money to strengthen the Islamic regime and fortify terrorist groups all over the Middle East for years to come. And there is still significant uncertainty as to whether or not the terms of the deal will actually prevent Iran from developing a nuclear weapons program.
In Tehran, Iranian leaders are scoffing at the idea that Trump can do anything about the nuclear agreement. At the University of Tehran on Tuesday, President Hassan Rouhani said that while Trump might try to block the deal, his actions would be in vain.
“Do you think the United States can rip up the JCPOA (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action nuclear deal)?” Rouhani asked. “Do you think we and our nation will let him do that? Some man is elected in the U.S. – whatever plans he has, it will be revealed later. Yes, he may desire many things. He may desire to weaken the nuclear deal. He may desire to rip up the deal. Do you suppose we will allow this?”
At this point, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to scrap the deal and Trump understands that. He will consult with Republicans and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to determine how to make the best out of a bad situation.
But the Iranians may soon realize that they aren’t dealing with the Obama administration anymore; nor, frankly, are they dealing with your average Republican president. Trump has already demonstrated that he will not be held to foreign policy norms just because they are norms. He was elected to shake things up, and that’s what he’s going to do.