“Iran has long been secretly ‘enriching,’ in total violation of the terrible 150 Billion Dollar deal made by John Kerry and the Obama Administration,” charges President Trump today. “Remember, that deal was to expire in a short number of years. Sanctions will soon be increased, substantially!”
This is a strange complaint. The International Atomic Energy Agency has repeatedly ascertained that Iran was complying with the terms of its 2015 nuclear deal. Now, of course, since Trump negated the deal, Iran is no longer complying. This seems to hint at the deeper problem underlying Trump’s relations with Iran: He does not seem to grasp the meaning of the term “deal.”
While I, unlike the president, have never passed myself off as a specialized expert on deals, I do have some working knowledge of the concept. I have an ongoing deal with a company called Netflix. The terms require me to give the company $12.99 every month in return for a suite of streaming content. I could decide the Netflix deal is terrible and cancel it. But if I made that choice, I would not then turn around and rail at Netflix for failing to provide me with any video to watch. If I wrote angry letters to Netflix complaining that since I stopped paying for the service, I have tried to watch several shows and they’re all unavailable, very few of my friends would agree with me that Netflix had violated our deal.
Yet this basic confusion seems to lie at the core of the administration’s policy. A recent statement from the White House press secretary claimed, “There is little doubt that even before the deal’s existence, Iran was violating its terms.” See, there’s the problem again. Of course Iran was violating the terms of the deal before there was a deal. That’s why the Obama administration made the deal in the first place. There would be no reason to make the deal if Iran was already abiding by it. Likewise, before I subscribed to Netflix, I couldn’t access any of its content. That’s why I agreed to start giving Netflix money every month. If Netflix started letting me watch its shows for free, I would be an idiot to pay for it.
There is an important difference between Trump’s dealings with Iran and my dealings with Netflix. Trump could try to threaten violence to force Iran to comply with the deal, whereas if I warned Netflix I would bomb them unless it gives me free shows, I would go to prison. But Trump does not want to attack Iran. He wants to make a deal with Iran; the deal he wants is basically the deal Obama made, yet he’s convinced any deal Obama made is terrible. He’s left in the position of negotiating a deal without having a clear understanding of what this even means.