Donald Trump playing into hands of Iranian hardliners
For months there’s been speculation President Donald Trump was about to torpedo the Iran nuclear deal.
The multinational agreement took years to negotiate and is designed to restrain Iran’s ability to make the enriched uranium it needs to build the bomb.
It was, said the Obama administration and its European allies, the best way of preventing a nuclear arms race in the most volatile region on Earth, the Middle East.
Even Israel, opposed to the idea throughout its negotiation, agreed that undoing it once it had been signed would be counterproductive and dangerous.
It is now clear Mr Trump is not going to scupper the deal. He may still refuse to certify it but that is largely for domestic political consumption to look tough in front of his base of supporters.
Power to destroy the deal lies in Congress, which could reimpose sanctions on Iran. That would kill the deal but there is no sign of that happening.
However, the new strategy the Trump administration is unveiling will finish off the US-Iranian detente that began under President Barack Obama. This is no surprise. It had begun already.
But it sketches out, in broad outlines, what that will mean: strengthening ties with Iran’s rivals in the region; cutting funding and support for Iran’s regime and military wing, the IRGC; countering the threat of Iran’s ballistic missiles and terrorist activity.
And so on.
The danger is that this plays into the hands of America’s enemies in the Iranian regime. It is a gift to hardliners who thrive on the threat of US aggression towards Iran and whose influence and power in the country and across the region is now likely to become stronger.
It will play well though in Mr Trump’s dwindling political base. He promised a hard line on Iran and is now to some extent delivering.
And with support apparently dropping even in his heartlands this will be a much needed political boost.
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