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Trump and Iran

Scott McConnell asks [1] what we could expect from Trump on foreign policy, specifically on Iran:

The greater neoconservative goal, of course, is the prevention any American rapprochement with Iran, keeping the sanctions going till they have a president willing to start a war on the country. How does Trump fit into that?

I have tried to avoid writing about Trump as much as possible over the last few months, because it is generally a waste of time to attempt to analyze the policy views of an opportunistic demagogue, but since the question has been asked here I’ll try to answer it. As far as I can tell, Trump endorses the hard-liners’ position on the nuclear deal. He has characteristically denounced it in the most hyperbolic terms [2], he is preparing to share a stage [3] with the only other presidential candidate that can match him in demagogic rhetoric to repeat these denunciations, and two of the groups sponsoring the rally that Trump will attend are among the most fanatical hawkish organizations in the U.S. He has also repeated some of the most ludicrous and dishonest hawkish talking points about what the deal requires of the U.S. For instance, he recently repeated [4] the lie that the deal obliges the U.S. to defend Iran from an Israeli attack:

He then claimed that there’s something in the Iran deal saying if someone attacks Iran, “we have to come to their defense.” And so he interpreted that to conclude, “If Israel attacks Iran, according to that deal, I believe the way it reads… that we have to fight with Iran against Israel.”

This is complete and utter nonsense, so it doesn’t surprise me that Trump believes it (or at least claims to believe it). This is the sort of deliberate distortion of the deal’s contents that hard-line “pro-Israel” hawks like to indulge in. Rubio said something similar to this in his questioning [5] of Kerry earlier in the summer. It should tell us everything we need to know about Trump’s views on foreign policy that he buys into these lies and repeats them. There are all kinds of reasons not to trust Trump’s judgment, but his statements on the nuclear deal are sufficient to prove that his foreign policy judgment is horrible.

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13 Comments To "Trump and Iran"

#1 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 2, 2015 @ 9:52 am

If Trump accepts the Iran deal his candidacy has enormous potential to change the political equation for the better.

But Mr. Donald John Trump is one bewilderingly difficult guy to follow in an interview.

Where in fact does he come down on the issue of the Iran deal?

Excerpts re the Iran deal from a transcript of Donald Trump’s interview with Chuck Todd for “Meet the Press”:

DONALD TRUMP: …It’s like this horrible deal with Iran. This deal, if you had the right, you’d have the prisoners back years ago.

CHUCK TODD:
Iran would still get money. I understand –

DONALD TRUMP:
Can you believe that deal?…Why is Iran getting the money?

CHUCK TODD:
I understand a lot of people are critical of the deal. But could you, what deal can you come up with that wouldn’t give Iran money?

DONALD TRUMP:
Okay, I would have told them up front, “By the way –”

CHUCK TODD:
No sanctions relief?

DONALD TRUMP:
“We will never give you back your money. We will never give you back your $150 billion. You’re never getting that money back.” That’s number one. Number two, “Before we start negotiations, you have to give us our three prisoners.” Now, it’s four, okay? You know, when it started, it was three. Now, it’s four. “You have to give us back. Without question, you have to give them back.
“And you know what? You don’t want them. But we do. It’s psychologically good. And it’ll help us make a better deal together. That’s good for you.” Okay? But I would have told them up front, “You will never get your $150 billion back.” They are going to be such a wealthy, such a powerful nation.
They are going to have nuclear weapons. They are going to take over parts of the world that you wouldn’t believe. And I think it’s going to lead to nuclear holocaust. And I will say this. The people that negotiated that deal, namely Kerry and his friends, are incompetent.

CHUCK TODD:
What do you do on day one though? This is a deal — Secretary Gates basically says didn’t like the deal, thought the U.S. wanted the deal —

DONALD TRUMP:
Too much…No, they begged for it —

CHUCK TODD:
So bad negotiating tactic —

DONALD TRUMP:
And, by the way, they should have doubled up the sanctions —

CHUCK TODD:
And then he said, “Can’t pull out of the deal because of the international ramifications.” What do you say to that?

DONALD TRUMP:
I would –Okay, I’ve heard a lot of people say, “We’re going to rip up the deal.” It’s very tough to do when you say, “Rip up a deal.” Because I’m a deal person. And when I — When I make deals — Let me tell you. But I will police that deal. You know, I’ve taken over some bad contracts. I buy contracts where people screwed up and they have bad contracts.

CHUCK TODD:
But you have to abide by it.

DONALD TRUMP:
But I’m really good at looking at a contract and finding things within a contract that even if they’re bad. I would police that contract so tough that they don’t have a chance. As bad as the contract is, I will be so tough on that contract.

CHUCK TODD:
So the deal lives in a Trump administration —

DONALD TRUMP:
Well, the deal — It’s very hard to say, “We’re ripping up.” And the problem is by the time I got in there, they will have already received the $150 billion. Do you know if the deal gets rejected they still get the money? Which is something I found out a week ago. I couldn’t believe it. If the deal gets rejected, they still get all of this money. Iran is going to be unbelievably powerful and unbelievably rich. And Israel’s in big trouble. Israel is in big trouble. Obama has really let Israel down.

CHUCK TODD:
So you believe the Saudis are going to get a nuclear weapon? You believe Egypt’s going to after nuclear weapons —

DONALD TRUMP:
I think other people will arm with nuclear weapons, yes, based on this deal. Because if you look at it, Iran will end up being nuclear. Even if it’s not within the next fairly short period of time. And the whole thing about 24 days. First of all, the 24 days doesn’t start immediately. There’s a whole big deal before the clock starts ticking, right? So the 24 days could be much longer than that. In 24 days plus numerous weeks, you can do anything.

CHUCK TODD:
If you get evidence they’re working on a nuclear weapon, you order air strikes immediately?

DONALD TRUMP:
Yeah, I don’t want to really say. I would be so tough you wouldn’t believe. But I don’t want to really say…

[6]

#2 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 2, 2015 @ 9:55 am

From the same “Meet the Press” interview I find it particularly worrisome that Trump cites John Bolton as one of his two or three “go to” guys for military advice.

CHUCK TODD:
Who do you talk to for military advice right now?

DONALD TRUMP:
Well, I watch the shows. I mean, I really see a lot of great — you know, when you watch your show and all of the other shows and you have the generals and — And you have certain people that you like —

CHUCK TODD:
But is there a go-to for you? You know — every presidential —

DONALD TRUMP:
Yeah, probably there are two or three. I mean, I like Bolton. I think he’s, you know, a tough cookie, knows what he’s talking about. Jacobs is a good guy —

CHUCK TODD:
Do you mean Ambassador John Bolton —

DONALD TRUMP:
Yes. I think he’s terrific —

SWEET JESUS!!!

#3 Comment By collin On September 2, 2015 @ 10:30 am

Well, I think it is literally impossible for Trump to actually directly answer a question. Every single time he answers the question he goes off in four different tangents. For all he hates the deal, Trump is still one of the more dovish Republican candidates of the 17! That is scary thought right there. (And speaks volumes of Rand Paul’s Primary run as well.)

#4 Comment By cfountain72 On September 2, 2015 @ 10:41 am

“he recently repeated the lie that the deal obliges the U.S. to defend Iran from an Israeli attack”

How the _____ does anyone get that interpretation?! I guess Trump should actually, you know, umm, READ the deal before commenting on it further, or attending a moronic rally against it.

Peace be with you.

#5 Comment By icarusr On September 2, 2015 @ 12:28 pm

“It should tell us everything we need to know about Trump’s views on foreign policy that he buys into these lies and repeats them.”

There is no evidence that he “buys into” any of the lies he utters or repeats. It’s safe to say that the only thing he “buys into” is his own mythology.

#6 Comment By Junior On September 2, 2015 @ 2:42 pm

“I have tried to avoid writing about Trump as much as possible over the last few months, because it is generally a waste of time to attempt to analyze the policy views of an opportunistic demagogue, but since the question has been asked here I’ll try to answer it.”

Yes, I’ve noticed your reluctance to write about Trump, but now that you have… PREPARE TO FEEL THE WRAITH OF US TRUMP SUPPORTERS and know that you have brought this divine chastisement upon yourself! Just kidding.

I like Trump but I DO worry about his foreign policy. But as collin noted above, “Trump is still one of the more dovish Republican candidates of the 17!” Trump needs to hire Buchanan as a foreign policy advisor. Badly.

#7 Comment By jk On September 2, 2015 @ 3:22 pm

Daniel, you claim that Trump has a position on anything. He is the male Sarah Palin. Nobody knows what Trump is.

But he is “different.” He is a chameleon. He is shallow but at least he is not one of the 14 or 15 other Neocon clones/clowns on parade as the redeeming factor. Ahhh-nold and Reagan may be from Hollywood but they had some redeeming policy ideas.

#8 Comment By cecelia On September 2, 2015 @ 8:09 pm

Trump needs to notice that the UK and the French have already reopened their Iranian embassies. If the US ever did back out of the deal – we would be alone in doing that. And even in the world of Trump – the US needs allies and more important – trade partners.

Wonder how Trump would feel if the other 5 sanctioned the US for its warmongering re: Iran?

#9 Comment By Emilio On September 3, 2015 @ 6:34 am

Trump is sending angry protest signals to his immediate target, the GOP primary audience, while espousing the most mainstream position for the general electorate: accept the status quo of this Obama victory. That is significant. It is smarter and more attractive than anything his rivals came up with. We know the ones who defy the Iran deal, thinking this is a politically rational move. They’re fools. Bush and Kasich accept the deal like sensible, reluctant conservatives who would actually like to be president. Meanwhile, Trump not only accepts it but vows to police it the most vigorously of all. Does a deal need any more legitimation than a solemn vow to enforce the hell out of it?

So Trump has managed to appear severely conservative and crazy angry about the deal while also completely rational and sane by accepting it and owning it. That’s the real story here.

#10 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 3, 2015 @ 9:16 am

I hope-to-hell that Emilio’s analysis is correct! But I worry…

#11 Comment By Emilio On September 3, 2015 @ 3:23 pm

Well, we’re talking about a guy who tried to make people think that he very much believes and really cares about the fact that Obama wasn’t born here, and hence is an illegitimate two term president. If Trump really did believe this, and if we too believed that Trump really did believe this, the resulting cognitive dissonance would be too much to handle.

How can he just completely drop such a serious issue if he cares so much about this great country? How can he allow an illegitimate President Obama to make a deal with Iran that is so bad it will one day cause a nuclear war in the ME? Why not just bring a real case? Why not force the birther issue onto all the Republicans opposing him, hurting them as well as Obama in the process?

Trump himself has offered no real explanation for why he has dropped it and no reporters have mined it, because it’s too absurd a question to waste time on. We know very well why he picked it up and why he’s dropping it, in fact the message from Trump is so clear that by now there’s no cognitive dissonance at all about a guy offering to enforce a dangerous and horrible deal made by a completely illegitimate president.

Not only isn’t it a problem for him to pick up and drop wild political issues at will, he actually benefits. Now whenever he says something that sounds empathetic and rational (which he does enough), people can believe him and say that’s probably the real heart and soul of the guy taking. When he talks crazy stupid (which he also does enough), they can say that’s the Donald, our known commodity of pure American entertainment, the New York billionaire and TV star having some fun. Boy I wish I could have his kind of fun!

Trump sells his wares with a wink and a relish until you get the feeling that if we could all just live with his personal credo, if we could harness his kind of emotional freedom from the really harmful type of lies that actual politicians have to labor under and grow bitter about, instead of the horrible, official, bureaucratized lies of a Bush or Cheney or Clinton or Obama, if we could just get along on the crazy wink-and-nod kooky lies of a largely happy and successful personality like Trump, then for all of us, Americans and Mexicans and Chinese and Kenyan fake presidents alike, the world would simply be a much nicer and less stressful place. That’s what he’s selling, and the actual birthplace of the president, or the actual situation on the border, or the actual deal with Iran are all pretty much immaterial to this message.

#12 Comment By Kurt Gayle On September 3, 2015 @ 5:28 pm

Emilio, you make a lot of sense.

And that’s scary!

#13 Comment By Emilio On September 3, 2015 @ 6:41 pm

Lol. Thank you. Blessings.