When President Donald Trump convened his national-security team last week to discuss whether to attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, his top advisers dissuaded him from launching missile strikes, The New York Times reported. This comes as a relief, but that such a move was even under consideration is cause for alarm.
The scorn now being heaped upon the president’s Iran policy—which has manifestly failed to stop that country’s nuclear-weapons program—may animate the president’s interest in taking dramatic action before his term expires. Trump’s critics have even speculated that when the president recently bounced his top Pentagon officials, it was out of a desire to attack Iran. I still doubt the connection, but, regardless, this commander in chief has the authority to do a lot of damage in his remaining days in office—no matter who else is in the room with him. And attacking Iran’s nuclear facilities would be disastrous.
Four years ago, President Trump campaigned on withdrawing the U.S. from Barack Obama’s antiproliferation agreement with Iran—officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action—under which Iranians received relief from economic sanctions in exchange for stopping a variety of nuclear-development activities for up to 15 years. Although American intelligence agencies were unanimous that Iran was in compliance with the agreement, Trump argued that it was “a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made … the Iran deal is defective at its core.” The U.S. pulled out in 2018. The other parties to the agreement—China, Russia, France, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, in addition to Iran—denounced Trump’s move, while Iran’s rivals Saudi Arabia and Israel praised it. Iran continued to abide by the agreement’s terms, Russia and China provided Iran with its benefits, and Europe created a payment system that allowed companies investing in Iran to skirt continuing restrictions on transactions conducted in dollars.