The Iran deal: as Trump reels what happens next?

Amidst the turmoil of Donald Trump’s White House, uncertainty reigns over what this most unpredictable, irascible and ignorant of presidents will do about the Iran nuclear deal. He is due to sign the next waiver to keep the deal alive on 12 May.

If his comments about the last signing are any indication to go by then it is unlikely that he will put his skyscraper of a signature on a new waiver. On 12 January this year he groused “Today, I am waiving the application of certain nuclear sanctions, but only in order to secure our European allies’ agreement to fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal,” adding “This is a last chance.”

What Trump demanded then, that Iranian missile programs be linked to the nuclear deal and “subject to severe sanctions” are precisely the terms that Iran will emphatically reject. Will he then carry through on his threat to pull out of the deal?

Trying to anticipate anything that Trump will do, other than to acknowledge that on a daily basis he gets his news fix from Fox and tweets impulsively and compulsively on what its hugely biased presenters have to say, is a bit of a fool’s game.

So, having said that, let me play the fool. Donald Trump is in the grip of the worst crisis his crisis ridden administration has yet faced. Michael Cohen, his personal lawyer, had his offices, home and hotel room raided by the FBI on 9 April in relation to hush money paid by Cohen to a porn star who has alleged Trump had an affair with her. The details of that story and an allegation by another woman are not really important.

What is important, what counts and what damages Trump most is that Cohen is his self described attack dog, his fixer, his consigliere. Or as the man himself put it “I’m the guy who protects the president and the family. I’m the guy who would take a bullet for the president.”

“If somebody does something Mr Trump doesn’t like, I do everything in my power to resolve it to Mr Trump’s benefit. If you do something wrong, I’m going to come at you, grab you by the neck, and I’m not going to let you go until I’m finished.”  Charming.

And now the fixer is himself in a spot of serious bother which leaves Donald Trump very exposed. Because Michael Cohen in order to avoid what could be a very long jail term may just decide that he is, after all, not the guy to take the bullet. He may decide to co-operate with the investigation, to, as they say, flip.

Trump’s threats to fire special investigator Robert Mueller, repeated in his rant after the raid on Cohen, shows just how rattled the president is. And, oh glory, it has finally stirred the Republicans out of their moral torpor. They are now talking seriously about passing legislation to protect Mueller and his investigation into Russian involvement in Trump’s campaign and in the presidential election. As senior Republican Chuck Grassley succinctly said “(to fire Mueller) would be suicide.” And not, one suspects, just for the president but for the party he so ineptly leads as it heads into November’s mid-term election.

Meanwhile Trump has stirred up a potential trade war with China, even as departures from his administration continue at an astonishing rate. And he is beset again with what to do about Syria and an alleged chemical weapons attack on civilians in a besieged rebel held town on the outskirts of Damascus.

He has promised he will deliver hard retribution to the Syrian dictator Assad but he wants to bring European allies on board to do so. The “great negotiator” has handed Europe, keen to keep the Iran deal alive, a very strong card to play. If he wants Europe to join in a military action against Assad, Europe is perfectly placed to tell him to back down on wrecking the nuclear deal, at least for the time being.

His new National Security Advisor John Bolton detests both the Europeans and the Iranians so he may well lobby hard for Trump to make good on his threat to walk away. But John Kelly, the man charged with trying to bring some semblance of order to Trump’s court of chaos, is a decorated general. He knows about fighting wars on multiple fronts. As he surveys the many fronts on which the president is assailed, Kelly’s may be the voice of quiet sanity that urges Trump to sign the waiver  – with as much ill-grace as he wants to display. The general will tell him to wait until the next opportunity to refuse to sign comes around in three months time. At which point this petulant child of a president can have his way.

By then it is anybody’s guess where the crippled zeppelin that is the Trump administration will have drifted or whether, in fact, it will have simply gone down in a spectacular act of self-immolation brought about by the firing of Robert Mueller.

So more the fool I, my prediction is that on 12 May Trump will, with boorish threats and grandiose rudeness, sign the waiver.  

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