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Editorial: After the Iran deal, stability or war?

A mock nuclear weapon on display at a military parade in Tehran.

MAY 10, 2018 – “The fact is this was a horrible, one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made. It didn’t bring calm, it didn’t bring peace, and it never will,” US President Donald Trump told Americans and the rest of the world on Tuesday, when he officially announced that the US would pull out of a 2015 agreement with Iran that placed limitations on Iran’s nuclear weapons program.

The deal, signed by the US, Iran and world powers England, China, Germany, France and Russia, called for Iran to reduce its stockpiles of uranium. Iran also agreed to allow comprehensive inspections of its nuclear sites and military bases, if necessary. The terms were set at 15 years – a period that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu considered a short waiting period before Iran would move forward and build a nuclear bomb.

While Trump has struggled with his domestic agenda, and has been dogged by the Mueller investigation, one of his lone bright spots has been rectifying policies that Israel has long lobbied to change. Since taking office, he has recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, authorized the moving of the US Embassy to Jerusalem, and walked away from the Iran deal – which Netanyahu passionately argued against during a stirring speech before Congress in 2015.

While US Jews have disagreed about whether the agreement was good for America and Israel, Israeli leaders – from Netanyahu to Naftali Bennett to Yair Lapid – hailed Trump’s announcement. And Gulf Arab counties such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were euphoric after Trump’s policy change.

Iranian citizens, who were expected to see their economy boosted after the US lifted an economic embargo on Iran, have seen the opposite. An analysis of the Central Bank of Iran conducted by BBC Persian reported that household budgets dropped from $14,800 in 2007-08 to $12,515 in 2016-17.

With the country flush with petro dollars after the agreement, Iran decided to spend billions on proxy wars in the Mideast. It propped up Hezbollah in Iran, and Hamas in Gaza, and along with its militia allies, created havoc in Yemen, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. And it doubled-down in Syria, where it has poured billions since 2011 to help keep Syrian President Bashar Assad in power.

While the nuclear issue will continue to be debated, the presence of Iranian soldiers in Syria presents a more immediate threat to Israel. Israel has not been shy to attack armed shipments slated for Hezbollah in Syria, and earlier this week, Israel was accused of bombing an Iranian military base south of Damascus. As of press time, Israel was on high alert with IDF officials warning the public about a possible retaliatory strike. While pulling out of an agreement can lead to a predictable scenario, a war between Iran and Israel could ignite the Mideast and quickly create a situation that could destabilize the region for decades.

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