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By John Ubaldi
Columnist, In Homeland Security
Each president since Jimmy Carter has had to deal with Iran at some point during their presidency. President Trump is no different, especially since Trump stated that he would remove the United States from the Iran nuclear deal if elected. He did precisely that last year.
History of the Iran Nuclear Deal
America levied punitive sanctions on Iran, which had a crippling affect upon the Iranian economy. The subsequent plummeting of oil prices squeezed Iran’s economy, forcing Tehran to negotiate with the Obama administration, the P5+1 (the five permanent members of the United Nations security council plus Germany) and the European Union. The resulting legislation would become the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), commonly referred to as the Iran nuclear deal.
The nuclear deal lifted sanctions and unfroze assets, giving Iranian leaders billions in much-needed revenue. Iran then used the extra cash to support its proxy forces and its continued aggression throughout the Middle East.
Flaws in the Iran Nuclear Deal
Many international and national security experts highlighted various flaws in the deal, including President Trump. The president was concerned with many elements of it, such as:
- When will inspectors be allowed into suspected sites – and which sites?
- What are the consequences for Iran’s violations?
- What does “snapback” mean with regard to re-imposing sanctions if Iran violates the agreement?
There were other contentious issues surrounding the nuclear deal, including the likelihood of the proposed conventional weapons ban and the removal of the ballistic missile ban. Additionally, the agreement was set to expire after 15 years, so Iran can then decide which direction to proceed with regard to its nuclear weapons program.
President Trump Removes the US from Nuclear Agreement
In May 2018, President Trump removed the U.S. from the Iran nuclear agreement when he commented, “The deal allowed Iran to continue enriching uranium and, over time, reach the brink of a nuclear breakout. The deal lifted crippling economic sanctions on our end in exchange for very weak limits on the regime’s nuclear activity and no limits at all on its other malign behavior, including sinister activities in Syria, Yemen, and other places all around the world. In other words, at the point when the United States had maximum leverage, this disastrous deal gave this regime — and it’s a regime of great terror — many billions of dollars, some of it in actual cash.”
In 2018, the Trump administration placed crippling sanctions on Iran. In April 2019, the U.S. listed the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a terror organization and soon afterward announced it would end sanction waivers for any country importing Iranian oil.
US Intelligence Shows Iranian Belief in US Action
Recent intelligence gathered by the United States showed that Iranian leaders firmly believed an attack by the U.S. was imminent. This belief prompted various possible counterstrikes against U.S. forces.
The United States responded to these provocative moves by the Iranian regime by moving its own military forces into the region and withdrawing U.S. diplomats from Iraq.
The intelligence gathered on Iranian intentions came from U.S. Central Command, headed by General Kenneth McKenzie, Jr. He recommended that the Trump administration send additional forces to the Middle East/Persian Gulf region to counter the Iranian threat.
Difficulties in Fighting a War with Iran
Many experts have speculated that the United States is preparing for war with Iran, using the invasion of Iraq as an example. However, there are some glaring differences between the Iraq invasion and any potential conventional invasion of Iran.
The first aspect is geography, which greatly plays to Iran’s advantage. All of Iran’s major cities are located deep inside the interior of the country; the nation’s rugged terrain gives a strong advantage to Iran and places a huge liability on the U.S.
Other monumental challenges facing potential U.S. invaders include the buildup locations for troops. During the invasion of Iraq, Kuwait was the staging area. Iraq was relatively flat and defended by a ragtag army in disarray after a decade of crippling sanctions. But that scenario will not be replicated in Iran.
On Tuesday, Trump officials — including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan — briefed the U.S. Senate about the Iranian threat. The classified meeting reportedly focused on the seriousness of the threat while also defending the intelligence that prompted America’s proactive military deployments. However, the meeting left most lawmakers asking one big question: Is a US-Iran war is on the cards? We will find out in the coming months.