My first thought when I watched this was “Buy gold.” My second thought was “Nah, he’s always saying goofy tough-guy stuff that doesn’t really mean anything.” Then I remembered that he basically threatened to nuke North Korea on Twitter five days ago.
Now where am I going to put all this gold?
This is most likely a comment about Iran and the looming decertification of the nuclear deal. There will be a political “storm” over that, of course, but read the fine print on what Trump has planned. He’s not tearing the deal up, exactly. He’s preparing to declare that it’s not in America’s national security interests. Once he does that, it’s on Congress to decide how to react. In a way, it’s a punt.
The goal is to allow the president to demonstrate contempt for the agreement and broadcast a new level of toughness toward the Iranian regime — without triggering the international chaos several of his advisers warn would follow from a total withdrawal from the 2015 deal…
Congress requires the president to certify Iranian compliance with the deal every 90 days. International inspectors and Trump officials like Dunford say that Iran is meeting its technical obligations. But Trump must also declare whether the agreement remains “vital to the national security interests of the United States,” and he is unlikely to do so.
Under the law, Congress would then have 60 days to decide whether to reimpose sanctions lifted by the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, in return for limits on Iran’s nuclear program.
Reimposing sanctions on Iran would cause America’s European allies to freak out, as they don’t want to cut any lucrative new economic ties they’ve made with the country since the deal took effect, and it would risk Iran restarting its nuclear program full throttle. If that happens suddenly Trump has a two-front burgeoning nuclear threat to deal with in Iran and North Korea. How does he keep his campaign promise to tear up the deal while not technically tearing up the deal? The answer comes in two steps: First he’ll decertify it and then, instead of recommending full reinstatement of sanctions that were lifted under the nuclear deal, he’ll endorse some narrower measures. The Weekly Standard suggests a few: “designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps a terrorist organization, slapping Iranian companies and organizations with new non-nuclear sanctions allowed under the JCPOA, insisting on making permanent the ‘sunset clauses’ that only temporarily restrict Iran’s nuclear program and testing, and demanding thorough and complete inspections of Iranian facilities to ensure compliance.” The odds of Iran agreeing to permanently end their program are about the same as North Korea agreeing to give up its weapons, I’d guess, but naming the IRGC a terrorist organization and imposing targeted sanctions on other groups might be enough to placate Republican hawks in Congress.
Just one minor question: What if Iran reacts to decertification by declaring that that constitutes breach of the agreement and it starts ramping up uranium enrichment in response? Iran’s foreign minister was asked about that a few days ago and vowed that the country would never renegotiate the terms of the deal — but he also wouldn’t commit to walking away from it if Trump decertifies it. He said the regime will wait to see what Congress and the European countries do. If Europe sticks with it for its own financial reasons, Iran might too. Instead of tearing up the deal, Iran might strike back at the U.S. with “targeted” measures of its own, like increasing military ties to North Korea. Maybe that’s the “storm” Trump has in mind here.