The 10/13/2023 episode of Real Time with Bill Maher featured a smart discussion and some disagreement between two sharp fellows, Center for International Policy executive vice president Matt Duss and Center for Humane Technology cofounder and executive director MTristan Harris. On this one point, the tweeter and Harris are wrong and Duss is right (well, left really, but right):
Even on Bill Maher, they admit Trump's foreign policy was superior to Biden/Obama foreign policy— Eric Abbenante (@EricAbbenante) October 14, 2023
"We should have maintained the pressure campaign on Iran that the Trump administration started. That was rolled and dialed back by the Biden administration." pic.twitter.com/DrK77CA4wP
In an article on the Foreign Policy website in May, postdoctoral research scholar Jane Darby Menton reminds us
Five years ago on Monday, then-U.S. President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), a 2015 multilateral agreement that imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. Although both the Trump and Biden administrations promised to find a better solution, the Iran nuclear crisis has only gotten worse. Economic pressure and external sabotage have not stopped Tehran from steadily increasing its uranium enrichment capabilities. Today, the regime is only weeks, if not days, away from the ability to produce enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, should it choose to take that step.
Menton explained "the deal rolled back Iran's nuclear capabilities n two main ways," by "removing stockpiles of fissile material" and "by impeding future activities." "Part of the JCPOA's strength," she notes, "came from Iran accepting limits that are harder to reverse," including "surrendering access to equipment and materials."
While praising "the comprehensiveness of the Iran deal's monitoring and verification program" Menton concedes "some of the JCPOA's limitations, including its failure to address Iran's other concerning behaviors at home and abroad."
However, because of withdrawal by the Trump Administration from the deal with Iran
In the past five years, the prospects of peacefully resolving the Iran nuclear crisis have gone from bad to worse. Tehran is once again on the precipice of breakout, and addressing proliferation concerns through diplomacy has only gotten harder. In addition to the technical hurdles, political conditions have deteriorated significantly. Trump’s withdrawal undermined confidence in the reliability of U.S. commitments. Engaging with Iran has only gotten more complicated since 2021, when the Hassan Rouhani government was replaced by the hard-line Ebrahim Raisi administration, which is more skeptical of diplomacy with the West. Meanwhile, consensus among the rest of the deal’s original signatories (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, China, Russia, Germany, and the European Union) has eroded, and Iran has deepened and diversified its ties with other autocracies, including Russia.
Whenever a Republican presidential candidate endorses Israel in its campaign against Hamas- or even if he is a little ambivalent- the Biden Administration's policy toward Iran must be condemned. Doing otherwise evidently is disqualifying, a little like GOP candidates in the past always promoting lower taxes or deregulation.
They are wrong. Of course, Iran has armed Hamas, probably helped train their militants/terrorists, and possibly knew of, or encouraged, the invasion of Israel. Further, I dislike commending the Obama Administration- which negotiated the deal- because BHO is generally overrated and extraordinarily overrated among Democrats. However, withdrawal took the shackles off Tehran, allowing them to proceed with their program of nuclear enrichment.
It made the world, especially the Middle East, less safe. Yet, it has been a political winner for Republicans, who are rarely if ever asked about the consequences of discouraging nuclear weapons development by Iran.
This is a fail by the media but especially by the Democratic Party. The latter has a choice of strategy: 1) defend and celebrate the deal; or 2) turn the tables on the GOP by asserting that Iran has been emboldened by the Trump Administration's withdrawal and the world made much more dangerous.
Voters already are grumpy, negative about wars abroad, inflation, an increasingly dangerous world, high interest rates, transsexual students playing in women's sports, Trump, Biden, Trump and Biden. You may recall that many pundits believed (and I thought plausible) that the relatively sunny Tim Scott would emerge as Trump's chief rival for the nomination. Instead, his campaign has nearly burst into flames.
Most probably buy the GOP slander that the $6 billion of unfrozen by the Biden Administration is taxpayer money, rather than Iranian money unfrozen by the Biden Administration and held in a bank in Qatar to be distributed for human purposes. And so, the way to a voter's heart on Iran is not to be positive and boastful, but to warn about the possibility of nuclear war if Republicans have their way.
It's impossible to determine now what the major issues will be in twelve months. However, Democrats need to be ready to strike back at the GOP and if foreign affairs is a factor in the next election cycle, Iran will be on the lips and in the social media platforms of Republicans.