Yesterday the president made another bizarre statement about Iran:
Just remember, the Iranians never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 29, 2019
Suffice it to say that Trump doesn’t doesn’t know anything about Iranian history. There doesn’t seem to have been anything that occasioned the president’s odd, inaccurate observation, but the comment tells us a few important things about him and his Iran policy. The line Trump uses here is lifted almost verbatim from an anti-JCPOA John Bolton op-ed from two years ago. It is presumably a line Bolton has repeated to Trump, and the ignorant president recycled it. The first thing we can conclude from this is that Trump buys whatever Bolton tells him about Iran, and he is so clueless that he has no way of knowing that he is being misled. The saying also sums up Bolton and Trump’s view of Iran perfectly: it is completely ignorant of Iran’s long history, it portrays Iran as weak but crafty, and it fits their zero-sum view of diplomacy in which one side wins and the other side loses.
The point of Bolton’s 2017 op-ed was to ridicule defenders of the nuclear deal and to urge Trump to kill the deal. Ever since Bolton joined the administration, Trump has been following Bolton’s recommendations to do just that. If Trump is echoing Bolton’s moronic talking points, that suggests that the president is preparing additional provocations to attack the nuclear deal. Perhaps that will take the form of canceling the sanctions waivers that facilitate cooperation on civilian nuclear projects. Those waivers come due for renewal later this week, and Bolton has been one of the leading advocates for canceling them. The AP reports:
The U.S. faces a Thursday deadline to decide whether to extend or cancel sanctions waivers to foreign companies working on Iran’s civilian nuclear program as permitted under the deal.
Canceling these waivers would be another serious blow to the deal, and it would take away one of the only real benefits that Iran gets from remaining in the agreement. Jarrett Blanc notes that Trump can’t cancel the waivers and still pretend to care about proliferation:
1/ Keeping Arak and Fordow limited to the purposes agreed in #JCPOA is an unambiguous non-proliferation achievement. @realDonaldTrump says this is about proliferation. Pulling the waivers will prove that he is lying or not in control of the policy. https://t.co/P0O6Z8fkVV
— Jarrett Blanc (@JarrettBlanc) July 27, 2019
If Trump cancels the waivers, he would be reconfirming that all of his rhetoric about wanting to talk to Iran is just hot air, and he would be proving beyond any doubt that Bolton sets policy when it comes to Iran.