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A Done Deal?
Iran Tests Ballistic Missile (And Trump)

The United Nations Security Council is convening an urgent meeting today following an Iranian ballistic missile test.  The Financial Times:

The US mission to the UN said it had requested urgent consultations on the missile test at the security council. Mark Toner, US state department spokesman, said the US was looking into whether the test violated the Security Council resolution that endorses the nuclear deal.

“When actions are taken that violate or are inconsistent with the resolution, we will act to hold Iran accountable and urge other countries to do so as well,” he said. […]

Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel’s prime minister, who is to meet Mr Trump this month, claimed that Iran’s latest missile test was a “flagrant violation” of the UN Security Council resolution. In a message on Facebook, he said that “Iranian aggression must not go unanswered”.

“In my coming meeting in Washington with President Trump, I plan to raise the issue of renewing sanctions against Iran in relation to this and other things,” he added.

We have noted before that Iran’s missile program was likely to provide an early test of Trump’s credibility on Iran. That moment has now arrived. The Obama administration repeatedly argued that such tests were not violations of the nuclear deal or the UN resolution that upheld it, often employing tortuous logic to make the case. But Trump has already staked out a more maximalist position, promising to stop Iran’s missile tests.

Does this spell the end of the Iran nuclear deal as we know it? Perhaps not immediately, since Trump’s closest advisers, and even Israel, have warned against killing the deal unilaterally. But that does not mean that the deal is safe in the long term. The foundations of the deal began to unravel long before Trump took office, as Tehran pushed the envelope by launching missile tests and threatening to develop nuclear-powered marine vessels. Iran’s latest test suggests that it has every intention of continuing such provocative moves, and the course now being urged by Netanyahu in response could chip away at the deal’s long-term prospects.

If Trump adheres to strict enforcement of the deal (including treating ballistic missile tests as a violation), imposes new sanctions on Iran (as Netanyahu is urging him to do), and pushes back more aggressively against Iranian proxies on other fronts, the shallow foundations of the deal could erode, sending it into a death spiral.  The Trump Administration’s response could be the first step down that road.

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  • Disappeared4x

    A bit melodramatic on actual impact of one UNSC meeting on JCPOA. Great timing, since the Senate vote to confirm Tillerson as SecState comes on Wednesday. Tuesday is the usual day for UNSC meetings, and this the last one that Sweden chairs, as rotating UNSC president. Ukraine chairs February, UK in March, and USA in April.

    The UNSC Presidency does have some discretion in the agenda for meetings, although permanent veto-wielding members get heard on agenda topics.

  • Beauceron

    My hope is he’ll ignore it, even if it’s a vain hope.
    Iran getting nukes is in Obama’s basket, not Trump’s. The deal is done, and if it’s a bad one, it’s not Trump’s. I think there are a fair number of Republicans who are chomping at the bit to bomb Iran, and I hope Trump has the presence of mind to ignore them.

    • Fat_Man

      The only reason not to bomb Iran forward into the stone age is that the Russians have assumed the role of their protectors. Good work Obama.

      • Beauceron

        Actually, there are a lot of reasons. The top one may be the Russians, but it’s closely followed by Iran’s many terrorist proxies, who would certainly attack US interests all over the world.

        • FriendlyGoat

          There are a lot of reasons, indeed, such as whether the USA intends to retain its tenuous leadership of moral high ground in the world or to surrender it to others. The mention of preemptively bombing a nation forward into the stone age simply is not a modern option. Carter, Reagan, Bush, Clinton, Bush and Obama all came to understand this. Trump either already has——or will.

        • Fat_Man

          We quake in our boots before the terrible power of the mad mullahs.

  • Both the U.S. and Iran share far more in common than either would ever want to admit — they are likewise prone to self-destructive nationalism.

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