Home/Daniel Larison/The Big Iran Lie in the SOTU

The Big Iran Lie in the SOTU

Trump speaks at Washington rally against the Iran deal back in September 2015. Credit: Olivier Douliery/Sipa USA/Newscom

Among many other falsehoods in the State of the Union address was the president’s most common lie about Iran:

The Iranian regime must abandon its pursuit of nuclear weapons [bold mine-DL], stop spreading terror, death, and destruction, and start working for the good of its own people.

Trump and his officials routinely demand that Iran stop doing something that it hasn’t done in more than 16 years. This is the big lie they tell about Iran. Iran has no nuclear weapons program, and it hasn’t had anything that even resembles one since 2003. The president and his officials keep mentioning this non-existent “pursuit of nuclear weapons” to justify a cruel and unnecessary economic war against a country of more than eighty million people. He also keeps saying this to distract from the fact that his decision to renege on and undermine the JCPOA attacked a successful nonproliferation agreement that had already resolved this issue. Like other Iran hawks that want to kill the JCPOA, Trump wants to be able to demagogue the nuclear issue in order to stoke fear and gain support for more aggressive policies directed against Iran. The JCPOA removed that issue from the debate and deprived Iran hawks of their pretext for conflict, and that is why Iran hawks have been working so hard to bring the agreement down. Iran has already agreed to forswear nuclear weapons, but the administration’s relentless hostility may cause them to rethink that commitment.

The Trump administration has been spreading this lie about Iran’s imaginary “pursuit of nuclear weapons” for years, but they are almost never called out for lying to the public about such an important issue. Every time that the president or another administration official repeats this lie, the public is being deceived into believing that Iran seeks weapons that it has gone to great lengths to repudiate.

Demanding that Iran stop doing something it isn’t doing is typical of the administration’s irrational and destructive approach to that country. They make impossible demands of Iran, and then say that the sanctions will be lifted only when Iran complies with the impossible. There is no modification to the existing agreement that would satisfy Iran hawks, because they will never accept anything that leaves Iran’s nuclear program intact. Now that this unreasonable, hard-line position is now U.S. policy, Iran has no incentive to negotiate even if it thought the U.S. could be trusted to honor an agreement.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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