Just when world public opinion feared the US and North Korea were on the brink of nuclear war, the new axis of evil times (North Korea, Iran, Venezuela) yield a dramatic plot twist; President Trump is adamant the real threat is the Iran nuclear deal.
Enter a brand new, major international crisis deployed out of the blue with inbuilt war potential.
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a.k.a., the Iran nuclear deal, works, and Tehran is complying. So says the IAEA (eight separate certifications of compliance since the deal was struck in Vienna in 2015). So says the EU, Russia and China. So says even Trump's military troika -- Tillerson/McMaster/Mattis.
Not Trump. Because, in his speechwriter's mind-boggling words, no deal is possible with a "sinister," "fanatical regime," the "leading state sponsor of terrorism," in cahoots with al-Qaeda (check out this pearl; "Iranian proxies provided training to operatives who were later involved in al-Qaeda's bombing of the American embassies in Kenya, Tanzania.") Not to mention "some people" even believe Iran is going illegally nuclear with the help of North Korea. That's straight out of season 6 of Homeland.
As much as it may be drenched in newspeak, the plot twist does not have much to do with "decertifying" -- in fact reneging -- the JCPOA. The White House admitted as much in a statement; "The United States' new Iran strategy focuses on neutralizing the government of Iran's destabilizing influence and constraining its aggression, particularly its support for terrorism and militants," as well as denying "the IRGC funding for its malign activities."
Enter, predictably, a new sanctions avalanche. The House Foreign Affairs Committee is preparing a new round of sanctions on Iran's ballistic missile program. The Senate unanimously passed a Hezbollah sanctions bill less than two weeks ago. Earlier this year the House voted 419-3 and the Senate 98-2 to pass the Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, post-JCPOA, also including North Korea and Russia (much to the ire of EU companies doing business with Russia). The Treasury Dept. has already added the IRGC to its anti-terrorism sanctions list "for providing support to a number of terrorist groups, including Hezbollah and Hamas, as well as to the Taliban."
On the JCPOA, Trump passed the ball to Congress. De facto reneging the deal leads to a 60-day period for Congress to decide whether to restart JCPOA-related sanctions. Trump essentially wants Congress to make sure anything Tehran does, even outside the JCPOA, triggers automatic re-slapping of sanctions. It's unclear whether he has sufficient Congress support for such a gambit.
US allies will also be "encouraged" to reach what for all practical purposes is a non-denial denial renegotiation. This can be easily interpreted as unilateral extorsion. It's not gonna happen -- as the EU, Russia and China have made abundantly clear. Washington then will be de facto pulling out of the JCPOA. Or, in Trump's words, following the advice of the spectacular incompetent rabid neocon US ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, the deal "will be terminated."
Crucially, "fix it or nix it" as applied to the JCPOA -- a major narrative in the Beltway -- happens to be the exact fervent wish of Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. The House of Saud's King Salman may have wasted no time to congratulate Trump in a phone call for his "visionary" Iran strategy. Emirati ambassador to Washington, Yousef al-Otaiba, is obviously gloating. But this is most of all about Israeli warmongering on Iran, as the same Return of the Living (Neocon) Dead are furiously spinning.
So much "malign behavior"
Now for what the adults are saying.
EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini set the record straight; "It is not a bilateral agreement. It does not belong to any single country and it is not up to any single country to terminate it."
Earlier, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov diplomatically mused how the termination could be legally implemented; "The deal was also approved by a UN resolution."
Last month, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif said certification itself is not part of the JCPOA but a "US internal procedure... The only authority that has been recognized in the nuclear deal to verify [compliance] is the IAEA."