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Home/Daniel Larison/Trump’s Iran Policy: Regime Change In All But Name

Trump’s Iran Policy: Regime Change In All But Name

President Trump and Supreme Leader Ali Khameinei. CreativeCommons, Shutterstock.

Trump repeated his big lie about the nuclear deal on Friday:

“Right now, I don’t think Iran wants to fight,” he continued. “And I certainly don’t think they want to fight with us. But they cannot have nuclear weapons, and under the Obama horrible agreement, they would have had nuclear weapons within five or six years; they can’t have nuclear weapons and they understand that.”

Iran’s government does understand that it can’t have nuclear weapons, but then it hasn’t had a nuclear weapons program in 16 years. It doesn’t have one now. Iran isn’t trying to build nuclear weapons, and more to the point it has lacked the means to do so for several years. Trump is raving about a problem that hasn’t existed for a while. The JCPOA that he constantly decries as horrible ensured that Iran’s nuclear program would remain peaceful. Contrary to his big lie, the nuclear deal doesn’t permit Iran to have nuclear weapons at any point in the future. No one can honestly claim otherwise. Every time Trump says this we have to assume that he is promoting this falsehood to justify his destructive Iran policy and presumably lay the groundwork for conflict. When Iran’s government hears him say this, they know he isn’t telling the truth and it gives them another reason why they shouldn’t deal with him. After all, what is the point of trying to reach another agreement with someone who blatantly distorts the contents of the existing one?

Then earlier today he repeated his delusion about Iran’s willingness to deal with him:

“I really believe that Iran would like to make a deal, and I think that’s very smart of them, and I think that’s a possibility to happen,” Trump said during a news conference with Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe in Tokyo.

“It has a chance to be a great country with the same leadership,” Trump said. “We aren’t looking for regime change — I just want to make that clear. We are looking for no nuclear weapons.”

When the official U.S. position is that Iran has to abandon everything it does in the region and shut down its entire nuclear program, Trump’s statement that the administration doesn’t want regime change isn’t credible. Given how impossible and extreme U.S. demands are, the only things that the U.S. could be seeking are regime change and/or war. Nothing else makes any sense. The administration’s Iran policy can’t be what they claim it is, and so it probably has to be what they insist it isn’t. It certainly doesn’t make sense that the administration wants to prevent Iran from acquiring weapons that it can’t build and isn’t seeking.

If you were an official in the Iranian government trying to understand what the U.S. wants, what other conclusion could you draw from the president’s nonsensical statements? The administration’s Iran policy is regime change in all but name because the administration clearly wants Iran’s current leadership to be deposed, and they are applying suffocating pressure on the Iranian people in the vain hope of forcing that outcome. Ignore the president’s empty “deal” babble and focus on what the administration does, and that will tell you what the real goal of their policy is.

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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