Today, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will meet with Donald Trump at the White House and push the U.S. to withdraw from the nuclear accord with Iran. Netanyahu will present an argument that Trump already has come to accept: America’s adherence to the nuclear deal cannot solely depend on Iran’s compliance with the agreement, but also whether Iran’s other policies challenge US national interests. It’s a more honest argument compared to the slogans Netanyahu has used in the past. But it is also a line that fundamentally contradicts Netanyahu’s central message of the past decades: That Iran’s nuclear program constitutes an existential threat to Israel.
The Trump administration has desperately sought a pretext to quit the nuclear deal and shed the limits the deal imposed on the US’s ability to pursue aggressive policies against Iran – even if it also sheds the limits the deal imposed on Iran’s nuclear activities. The latest idea is to use the Congressional certification – due every 90 days – where the president has to report to Congress on whether Iran is complying with the deal or not. But unlike the reports by the International Atomic Energy Agency – who is tasked to oversee the implementation of the nuclear deal – the president’s report to Congress goes beyond the nuclear issue: Trump must also report whether the suspension of sanctions against Iran is “appropriate and proportionate to the measures taken by Iran and vital to US national security interests.”
The Trump plan – as telegraphed by several administration officials – is to certify that Iran is in compliance with the deal (Trump has no leg to stand on to claim otherwise – both the IAEA and the US intelligence services haveconsistently reported that Tehran is living up to its obligations), but to argue that the deal and its sanctions relief nevertheless is unjustified due to Iran’s policies in the region that are anathema to US national security interests.
In her by now infamous presentation at AEI – riddled with falsehoods and lies – Ambassador Nikki Haley argued that the nuclear deal was “designed to be too big to fail” and that an artificial line was drawn “between the Iranian regime’s nuclear development and the rest of its lawless behavior.” The push to keep the deal, Haley argued, was put above all other concerns about Iran’s policies. As such, the deal is constraining America’s ability to act aggressively against Iran, much to the chagrin of hawks such as Haley and her neoconservative allies at AEI.