The new Iran nuclear crisis is unfolding exactly how Donald Trump’s critics predicted it would.
After the US President walked away from Barack Obama’s international nuclear deal with the Islamic Republic, Iran started walking too. On Wednesday, it began escalating its uranium enrichment activities, injecting gas into centrifuges at its infamous underground Fordow plant. The step is reversible, says Iranian president Hassan Rouhani — but only if European signatories to the nuclear deal help ease the shattering impact of US sanctions.
Under Trump’s “maximum pressure” economic offensive, Iran’s budget is in crisis. Growth is plunging, oil revenues are dipping and medicines are in short supply — which Trump’s backers see as proof that the policy is working perfectly. Soon, they say, Tehran will come crawling back for a deal on Trump’s terms.
But there’s a good case that Trump’s approach has already failed. Iran has become even more belligerent outside its borders. It has little to lose by upping enrichment even closer to a nuclear breakout. And it’s unlikely to trust the US again.
Trump is in a box of his own making. He squandered his diplomatic tools, and showed earlier this year that he had no stomach for military action against Iran either. So unless his team’s rosy predictions come true, Trump will find himself unable to curb Iran’s nuclear activity without a humiliating climbdown.