By Rich Belzer

In the current U.S. dispute with Iran, they are increasingly looking like they’re the “good guys.” This is an achievement of such magnitude that it could only be accomplished by Donald J. Trump.

Given that you may not view things from this perspective, I will explain.

The JCPOA, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, was a resolution of the U.N. Security Council. It was agreed to by the U.S., U.K., Russia, China, France, Germany and the EU. The framework of the JCPOA put a stop to Iran’s enrichment of uranium and put an end to all of their activities in development of a nuclear weapon. Monitoring of Iran’s compliance with these terms was conducted by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Once Iran was deemed to be in compliance, all sanctions relating to their development of nuclear weapons were terminated.

The JCPOA took effect at the beginning of 2016 and since that time, monitoring by the IAEA has deemed Iran to be in compliance. In May, 2018, the U.S. withdrew from the deal although we knew that Iran remained in compliance and reinstituted sanctions. In addition, we tried to compel the other participants in the JCPOA to resume sanctions by threatening to ban any of their companies that continued to do business with Iran from participating in the U.S. market.

These are the facts. Now let’s have a look at the current situation from the Iranian perspective. Their mistrust of the U.S. goes back 66 years when the CIA organized a coup, overthrowing Iran’s democratically elected government. Following the departure of Prime Minister Mossaddegh, we installed Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as monarch. His regime was notorious for jailing and torturing opposition; he was finally deposed by a revolution in January, 1979.

Given our history with Iran, it should have been clear that our withdrawal from the JCPOA would only reinforce their historical feeling that the U.S. was not to be trusted. From Iran’s perspective, why would they feel comfortable negotiating a new nuclear deal with the U.S. when we failed to honor the one that was already in place? Their current position is that they will only sit down and talk with the US once we have rejoined the JCPOA.

Donald Trump apparently believed that he could unilaterally withdraw from the JCPOA and negotiate a better deal. It appears, however, that he had little understanding of our history with Iran nor did he consider that our withdrawal from the nuclear deal would eliminate what trust remained between our two countries. Given what we have seen with both China and Iran, Trump’s theory of negotiation is to bully his opponents until they concede. While this approach may have worked in reducing bills from plumbing contractors on his construction projects, it has proved to be a total failure in international negotiations. When you hold a gun to the head of another country, their first reaction is to resist.

The Iranian foreign minister referred to U.S. sanctions as “economic war” so, clearly, they view their own actions in attacking a Saudi Arabian oil refinery as a measured response. It is obvious that Iran can’t harm the U.S. with sanctions so they have chosen a response that could damage us economically through higher oil prices.

As it turns out, the “great negotiator” is anything but. In fact, it appears that he specializes in painting himself into a corner. Then we have the other problem of Trump’s constant lying about almost everything. When the media points out his lies, he calls them “fake news.” On the other hand, leaders of other countries recognize Trump’s lies for what they are and, as a result, they stand with Iran in not trusting him.

What now with Iran? Clearly, as with China, pressure hasn’t worked. Trump has left himself with no good options, given that he will not go to war. What will he do now?

— Rich Belzer lives in Bend.