Iran has called Trump's bluff

Posted Friday, 08 November 2019 ‐ CNN

Frida Ghitis, a former CNN producer and correspondent, is a world affairs columnist. She is a frequent opinion contributor to CNN, a contributing columnist to the Washington Post and a columnist for World Politics Review. Follow her on Twitter @fridaghitis. The opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author. Read more opinion on CNN. (CNN)While Washington is increasingly consumed with the impeachment drama, the globe has not stopped spinning and dangerous regimes have not stopped making menacing moves. The latest news comes from Iran, where the regime has just announced it is injecting uranium into centrifuges spinning in a nuclear facility deep inside a mountain in Fordow, raising questions about Iran's intentions to build a nuclear weapon. Since President Donald Trump announced in May 2018 that the US was withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), Iran has strayed further from the 2015 accord, which was also joined by China, France, Germany, Russia, Britain and the EU. Under the JCPOA, also known as the Iran nuclear deal, Tehran agreed to limiting its uranium enrichment efforts and accepted monitoring from international inspectors in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Iran's latest provocation is further evidence that Trump's policy on Iran is turning into a disaster. That may offer some comfort to Trump's critics, but it should not. Iran's actions, which put it closer to a nuclear bomb, are extremely troubling because they raise the risks of war in the world's most unstable region and boost the incentive for further nuclear proliferation among its Sunni Arab rivals.Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sounded the alarm on Thursday, saying, "Iran is positioning itself for a rapid nuclear breakout." That was a far cry from his swaggering response last year, when he predicted the sanctions in Iran would force Tehran to change its behavior. When asked what the administration would do if Iranians restarted their nuclear program, he replied, "We're confident that the Iranians will not make that decision." He was wrong.Back then, Trump repeatedly blasted the Iran nuclear deal, calling it "the worst deal ever negotiated." His plan was to reimpose harsh sanctions on Iran to pressure its leaders to reopen negotiations and strike a better deal than the original one spearheaded by Barack Obama's administration. One of the main flaws of the JCPOA, according to its critics, was that the limitations on uranium-enrichment activities expired between 10 to 15 years, allowing Iran to race for a bomb once those provisions lapsed. If Iran agreed to return to the negotiating table, these sunset provisions in the JCPOA -- which limited Iran's stockpile of enriched uranium and its use of advanced centrifuges -- might be extended or made permanent. But Iran, it turns out, did not follow Trump's script. That's hardly surprising. Trump's style of bluster, threats, insults and bluff is one of the reasons why his plan has gone as badly as could be imagined.Instead of achieving the goal of moving Iran's nuclear capability further into the future and persuading the regime to restrain its aggressive behavior against its neighbors, American policy has aggravated all the ills that made Iran a regional threat. Iran is steadily breaking the restrictions imposed by the nuclear deal and showing no restraint in its regional interventionism, another area of concern for the deal's critics. Last week, Iran prevented a UN inspector with the International Atomic Energy Agency from gaining access to a uranium-enrichment facility before detaining her and seizing her travel documents. On Thursday, the IAEA held an extraordinary meeting to discuss a series of breaches by Iran. Tehran is reportedly failing to cooperate with nuclear inspectors on a number of issues. Among them, the IAEA found traces of uranium in what Israel called a "secret atomic warehouse" in a site called Turqazabad, which Iran says is a carpet-cleaning facility, according to a report from Reuters. Just one day before the Iranian President Hassan Rouhani announced the start of uranium enrichment in more than a thousand centrifuges in Fordow, the country's nuclear chief claimed that dozens more advanced IR6 centrifuges have also started spinning. The technology allows for much faster enrichment on a possible path to a nuclear bomb. In addition to rebuilding its nuclear program, Iran is becoming more brazen in its attacks against the region and heightening the fear that all-out war is inevitable. It was allegedly behind a series of attacks on its neighbors, sabotaging oil tankers and delivering a massive strike against Saudi Arabia's oil facilities. Israel's former ambassador to the United States also revealed that his country is preparing for the probability of an excruciating war with Iran, which could start at any time. An accidental spark could set off a firestorm, especially if Iran and its proxies are emboldened in Syria following Trump's relinquishing of the territory it held alongside the Kurds. That's not how Trump's plan was supposed to work.Trump thought Iran would plead for negotiations, but the tables have turned and it is the US President who has repeatedly offered to sit down down with Iran, only to be rebuffed.Tehran has called Trump's bluff. The entire world saw Trump threatening "fire and fury like the world has never seen," against North Korea, and shortly thereafter embracing its dictator. And when Iran downed a US drone and later struck Saudi Arabia, Trump huffed and puffed, saying the US was "locked and loaded," and then did nothing. The idea of reopening negotiations with Iran was a long shot, but it was worth a try. Trump handled it in his inimitable style, disparaging not only Iran but America's allies. With that, he made it much more difficult for Iran's leaders to accept talks without losing face, and put the United States alone in its pursuit of a stronger deal. Now Pompeo is pleading with the international community to help stop Iran. But Trump has weakened America's alliances. French President Emmanuel Macron said Trump's indifference to its allies is causing the "brain death of NATO."The American public, and the President, are understandably focused on the impeachment proceedings, but the prospect of a nuclear-armed Iran deserves attention, given the alarming threat it presents to global peace and stability. As we are increasingly seeing around the world, Trump's bravado and boasts do not amount to coherent, successful foreign policy. It may be too much to ask of Trump to acknowledge that the United States needs its allies, but the best path forward requires Washington to rebuild the alliance of nations that pressured Tehran into negotiating during the Obama administration. Washington alone cannot force a satisfactory, peaceful resolution to the Iranian threat.

Other articles published by CNN

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

London (CNN Business)Happy Monday. A version of this story first appeared in CNN Business' Before the Bell newsletter. Not a subscriber? You can sign up right here.For investors that count on income from dividends, 2017 and 2018 were...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)A leading Australian rugby player has suggested that Australia's bushfires and droughts are punishments from God for the country's same-sex and abortion laws."Look how rapid, these bushfires, these droughts, all these things have come, in a short...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Your morning cup of coffee may start looking a little different. Dunkin' is scrapping foam cups in favor of more eco-friendly (yet less iconic) paper versions. Here's what else you need to know to Get Up to Speed and Out the Door.Here's what else...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

London (CNN)Prince Andrew's TV interview about his relationship with convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein has been widely described as a car crash, sparking near-universal condemnation from the UK's national papers and commentators. And it seems the...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

Baghdad, Iraq (CNN)Senior members of ISIS are plotting mass prison breaks and a resurgence of terror after taking refuge in Turkey, according to the head of Iraqi Military Intelligence. Lt. Gen. Saad al-Allaq told CNN in an exclusive interview that Iraq...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)If you build it, they will come. Tottenham's new billion-dollar stadium attracted a record crowd for women's soccer in England with 38,262 fans watching a historic north London derby between Tottenham and Arsenal Sunday. The game was a new high for...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Federal prosecutors in New York who are investigating Rudy Giuliani are seeking to interview people with knowledge of Ukraine's state-run oil-and-gas company, Naftogaz, according to two people familiar with the matter, suggesting investigators have...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)Iran's foreign ministry spokesman Abbas Mousavi slammed US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for backing protesters in Iran on Sunday, describing a tweet from Washington's top diplomat as "hypocritical." Pompeo said that the US supported the...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

Hong Kong (CNN Business)SoftBank founder Masaoyshi Son is trying to orchestrate a $30 billion merger of two Japanese internet companies to build a tech business that can survive in the "winner-takes-all" world of Google (GOOGL) and Facebook (FB)Softbank ...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)As impeachment hearings play out on Capitol Hill, Iowans on both sides of the political spectrum see the inquiry as a boost to their party's chances of winning the general election next November, according to a new CNN/Des Moines Register/Mediacom...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

Paris (CNN)One person was killed and several were injured after a bridge collapsed in southwest France on Monday, according to the Haut-Garonne fire brigade.A 15-year-old girl died after the bridge leading to the small town of Mirepoix-sur-Tarn collapsed ...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)China's Defense Minister told his US counterpart that Washington must stop "flexing its muscles" in the South China Sea when the two met Monday, according to a spokesman for Beijing.At the same time, China announced that its new domestically...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)As he waited for his murder trial to begin, Patrick Frazee sent letters to a man he met in jail asking him to kill some of the witnesses, the former inmate testified. Frazee is charged with murdering Kelsey Berreth, the mother of his toddler...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)A man accidentally shot his brother while they were deer hunting in Michigan Saturday.The two men were hunting in Boston Township, about 130 miles northwest of Detroit, when they were looking for a deer that one brother had shot earlier, a release...

Posted Monday, 18 November 2019 ‐ CNN

(CNN)PG&E is warning customers that they may have to shut off power in 19 counties due to a strong offshore wind this week.About 250,000 California residents could be impacted by a Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) this week as winds pick up...