Hold on Iran: Regime Change is Coming to Washington
With last week's announcement that John Bolton will soon be joining Mike Pompeo in the Trump administration, US adherence to the Iran nuclear deal looks doomed.
Both Bolton, who is to become national security adviser, and Pompeo, the new Secretary of State-designate, have forcefully opposed the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and are likely to recommend that the US stop waiving nuclear-related sanctions when the next deadline arrives on May 12.
But officials in Tehran who may be arguing that Iran should also quit the JCPOA if the US does, should hold onto their centrifuges. The Trump administration is in trouble and the Republican majorities on which it depends in Congress are looking almost as endangered as the Iran nuclear deal.
Along with hundreds of thousands of other Americans, this writer took part on March 24 in a historic demonstration in Washington, D.C. against gun violence. The “March for our Lives” was focused on achieving common-sense laws that would make it much harder for people who should not have guns to get them. Assault-style weapons and large capacity magazines would also be banned for civilians. But the chief slogan at the rally had a much broader if unstated target, the Republican Party, which has aligned itself with the gun-loving National Rifle Association.
“Vote them out!” the marchers yelled, looking toward November midterm elections. The speakers, all teenage survivors of gun violence, vowed to register to vote upon turning 18 and to mobilize their peers to do the same.
A wave is coming in November that will likely shift the House of Representatives and possibly the Senate, too, to Democratic control. Even if only the House flips, the prospects for Trump’s removal rise. Special counsel Robert Mueller is assembling a mountain of evidence implicating the president for obstruction of justice at a minimum as well as possible coordination with Russia and other crimes. Meanwhile, former Trump paramours and alleged victims of sexual harassment are also bringing cases against him that could require him to testify and possibly perjure himself as Bill Clinton once did.
These threats to Trump are mounting at a time when his popularity remains stuck at about 40 percent. Younger voters are overwhelmingly turned off by him and by his party. According to a recent poll, 67 percent of voters aged 18-34 want to see the Senate switch to Democratic control. Another survey showed that liberals in this cohort outnumber conservatives by 57 to 12 percent. Without drastic change by Republicans, the party’s future looks bleak.
In terms of foreign policy, the US consensus among both Republicans and Democrats favors diplomacy over military action and rejects views put forward by unrelenting hawks such as Bolton. A veteran of three previous Republican administrations, Bolton strongly advocated for the Iraq war on what turned out to be false accusations that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. He has also called for bombing both North Korea and Iran. But Americans are tired of the wars we are still in—in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq as well as parts of North Africa. The last thing they want is another conflict in the Middle East.
Even if the Trump administration walks out of the Iran deal, it is not a foregone conclusion that it will seek to enforce renewed sanctions against foreign companies that continue to do business with Iran. Twenty years ago, Congress passed similar secondary sanctions—the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act—threatening penalties against foreign companies investing in Iran’s oil and gas sector. Europe cried foul and the sanctions were never implemented. That could well be the outcome in May.
For the past few months, Britain, France and Germany have been negotiating with Washington a package of sanctions on non-nuclear matters such as Iran’s missile program and regional interventions. The E3 should now put all of its diplomatic energy into a plan to combat a unilateral US abrogation of the JCPOA and to encourage Iran to stay within the agreement.
In its bullying attitude toward the rest of the world, the Trump administration is isolating the US and alienating a majority of Americans. This is an increasingly interconnected globe where cooperation, engagement, diplomacy and commerce are the keys to lifting all peoples. The US president and his incoming advisers, in their “America first” and zero sum mentality, are out of step and on the wrong side of history.
Iranians, who have suffered a great deal at the hands of the United States and its allies as well as their own government, should be patient and stick with the JCPOA even if the US pulls out. Regime change is coming in Washington—probably sooner than in Tehran. And the outcome should benefit people in both countries.
Photo Credit: Wikicommons