Trump’s Nuclear Ultimatum: Now What?

My Expectations for the Next 120 Days and Beyond

Trump’s speech on the nuclear deal with Iran on January 12, 2018, has caused a jolt around the world. His ultimatum giving 120 days to fix “disastrous flaws” in the Obama-led nuclear deal has created shock waves not just in Iran but Europe and other countries as well. The reason is that the continuation, cancellation, or even modification of this deal will impact many countries in several tangible ways.

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Below, I give a summary of the reactions, the reasons behind them, and what I think various sides of this agreement will do. I hope this will benefit your thinking through the different opinions on this hot-button issue.

 

The Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI)

For the IRI, there is panic and fear. They know that if sanctions are restarted, it will put much pressure on both the government and the people of Iran. The government will become weaker, and the people, who are already fed up with the situation, may develop a more effective uprising that threatens even the IRI’s existence. It is a known fact that the previous set of sanctions imposed from 2012 to 2015 was bringing the government of Iran to its knees. The nuclear deal and the resulting $150 billion given to Iran was truly a lifeline to them, enabling them not only to survive but to thrive.

Secretary-General of Iran's Supreme National Security Council Hassan Rohani speaks to the media in Tehran.

The previous set of sanctions imposed from 2012 to 2015 was bringing the government of Iran to its knees.

Nevertheless, the IRI has several ways to stop America from imposing new sanctions. How? Many European countries have made lucrative financial deals with Iran since the removal of previous sanctions, and they receive a substantial portion of their oil from Iran. Therefore, new sanctions will not only damage Iran but will also damage these countries. Russia and China will also join the pack supporting the IRI, not because of financial gain—they benefit either way because they will continue a financial relationship with Iran secretly even with sanctions—but because they do not agree with US policy.

So, it is very possible that the IRI will persuade the other countries to stand up to any U.S. demands to negotiate a new deal and impose new sanctions.

 

The People of Iran

Surprisingly, most Iranians support Trump’s policy towards Iran. It is interesting to note that the U.S. mainstream media covers the reaction of the IRI to Trump’s remarks regarding rewriting the nuclear deal, but they do not cover what the people of Iran say about it. Why? Because contrary to the mainstream media, the Iranian people are mostly pro-Trump on this issue.

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Surprisingly, most Iranians support Trump’s policy towards Iran.

Here are the reasons:

  1. In 2012 when the previous sanctions were imposed, the people of Iran stood behind their government and blamed the American-led sanctions for their bad economy and hard life. But now they have seen that even when the sanctions were lifted and the Obama administration gave the IRI $150 billion, the people’s situation remained the same. They are desperate and know that with or without sanctions, they will have a hard time earning a living, they will be oppressed, and they will be killed if they protest. They feel they have nothing to lose. They are so utterly hopeless that Trump’s standing up to IRI and trying to restore sanctions gives them some hope that they desperately need. It gives them a faint hope that maybe the future could get better.

 

  1. Trump is addressing the human rights issue in Iran. President Obama never did that. Even during the uprising of 2009, he was silent and gave not even a word of encouragement or support to the Iranian people. Trump, in contrast, has put 14 Iranian individuals on the blacklist. One is Mr. Larijani, who is the head of judiciary in Iran and has been directly involved in the arrest and execution of the young people in 2009 and 2018. This gesture by Trump gives Iranians a feeling that finally somebody is caring and talking about the human rights violations in Iran and doing something about it.

 

  1. Trump’s tough stand against the IRI gives the people of Iran hope that maybe this administration somehow will remove the brutal dictatorship from Iran. They deeply desire this and will support Trump even if it means they will have to suffer through another set of sanctions. Through eight years of Obama’s foreign policy that appeased the IRI, the people of Iran lost hope that the U.S. would ever do anything to help them and even doubted that the U.S. cared at all. Do not forget that the Iranian people love and admire the U.S. If they were given a choice, they would choose to have an American-style democracy established in Iran. They even desire that Iranian society would adopt American social norms and lifestyles.

 

The European Governments

They will not support Trump’s call to renegotiate the nuclear deal and impose new sanctions. Why?

  1. They have much to lose. Just as Trump’s “America First” financial policy puts America’s financial interests above the interests of other countries, the European countries will also put their financial gain above Trump’s foreign policy toward Iran. Currently, Iran is sending 40 percent of its oil export to Europe, and these countries are dependent on that oil for their economy. Many have made lucrative long-term deals with Iran in the past two years. For example, the French energy giant Total has closed a deal with Iran to invest US$4.8 billion there.

 

  1. In general, these countries do not care about U.S. foreign policy, and they may even be against it. It is not an issue for them when Iran stands up to the U.S. in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. They are not alarmed when the IRI threatens to wipe Israel off the map—and for certain they are not ready to pay a price just to diminish that threat to Israel.

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European countries will put their financial gain above Trump’s foreign policy toward Iran.

Russia and China

They most likely will side with the European countries and stand up to Trump trying to renegotiate the nuclear deal.

  1. Russia and the IRI both have similar goals for the Middle East and in many cases are working together to accomplish those goals (such as in Syria). A weak Iran could mean that the U.S. gains the upper hand in the areas where the IRI has been effectively meddling.
  1. By supporting Iran against U.S. demands, they will improve their relationship with the IRI even more both politically and economically. Iran needs them to help stop new sanctions and will probably offer them new trade deals if they help defend against Trump’s ultimatum.

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Iran will probably offer Russia new trade deals if they help defend against Trump’s ultimatum.

Summary

It looks as though Trump does not have enough support or leverage with the world powers and European countries to renegotiate the nuclear deal and muster up new sanctions. Of course, the U.S. could put sanctions on Iran unilaterally, but that would not be effective. Canceling any American financial dealings would create a vacuum that would be gladly filled by offers from Russia, China, and European countries.

As a result, Iranians will continue to be oppressed by a dictatorship that has shown that its main goal is survival and not caring for its own people.

There remains one possible hope for Iranians: the Revolutionary Guards, with or without direct help from America, could topple the rule of the clergy and establish a secular government. For the foreseeable future, that seems like the only way the government in Iran might—and probably will—change.

Meanwhile, Christianity is fast growing in Iran. The current events are the perfect storm through which the Lord is weaning Iran from Islam and attracting them with his love. Through all the bad news in Iran, he remains as the only good news.

Unfortunately, if the government of Iran changes to a secular democracy, the spiritual hunger of the people will die down very rapidly. So the time is short for Christians to work in Iran while this supernatural spiritual hunger exists.

We must work together to establish a strong church now. If we wait for Iran’s government to change, it will be too late.

The time is short for Christians to work in Iran while this supernatural spiritual hunger exists—so we are starting an equipping school called the “412 School.”

In 2018, we at Iran Alive are focusing on strengthening the underground church in Iran through equipping each Christian to be an agent of transformation. We are starting an equipping school called the “412 School” based on Ephesians 4:12—equipping the saints for the work of the ministry.

Would you join us to make this happen this year? Without friends like you, we are not able to do what we are called to do. We are issuing a “Macedonian call” to come and help us. Please contact me if you feel led to answer this call.

To express interest, you may send an email to info@IranAliveMinistries.org, which I check daily, or call (469) 982-0000. We will contact you to explore possibilities for partnership.

Iran’s Nuclear Agreement: A Good Deal or a Bad Deal?

John Kerry & Javad Zarif
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif at a recent meeting

Iran will temporarily halt parts of its nuclear program and allow for more inspection; in return, the West will provide immediate relief from some of the sanctions and will impose no new sanctions for six months.

Last week’s nuclear agreement between Iran and the western powers was historical.  To some, it may even seem to be a breakthrough given the tenuous relationships shared by Iran and the West. However, reading the news is confusing as some news articles report that it was a “total victory and a great step forward,” while others surmised, “it was a total failure.”

So which is it?  Was it a good deal or a bad deal? The answer depends on the perspective from which the deal is evaluated. Below, I look at this deal and make evaluations of my own, considering 5 unique perspectives from those who will be impacted most deeply.

It was a bad deal for Israel and the Gulf countries

  1. Since 1979, Israel and the Gulf countries such as Saudi Arabia and Emirates have been afraid of Iran. Countries in the region such as Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria have watched Iran aggressively increase its influence. They feel that a nuclear-armed Iran will pose a serious danger to their respected national security. They also believe that Iran will at least use its nuclear arsenal to bully them and the rest of its neighbors. Iran is already doing that now, but with a nuclear bomb, its bullying and meddling in the affairs of other countries in the region will increase dramatically.  This new deal does not remove the danger to Israel and Gulf countries, but increases it exponentially.
  2. Netanyahu has called this deal “a historic mistake” and has stated, “it turns the world into a much scarier place.” For the first time Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries are agreeing with Israel.

It was a bad deal for the US and President Obama’s credibility

  1. It damaged the US’s relationship with Israel and important allies such as Saudi Arabia.
  2. Some have called it a “fool’s deal” as it seems that the West has agreed to an immediate action, (removing some of the sanctions, stopping the addition of new sanctions, and releasing 7 billion dollars of Iranian assets), in return for unverifiable promises in the future.

It was a good deal for the government of Iran

  1. As Obama is under fire and trying to defend the deal in the US, the government of Iran is celebrating their perceived victory.
  2. Iran got money and time to continue its nuclear program with little more commitment than a promise to not build new centrifuges in the next 6 months. The deal, however, left the nuclear infrastructure intact. Iran now has the money to do what it wants to continue with its nuclear program plans and goals.
  3. This deal helps Iran to prepare better for possible future sanctions. So even if new sanctions are imposed in 6 months, it will not have as much impact as it could have.
  4. Iran knows that President Obama does not want to go to war, which puts the US in a weaker position. Iran has been declaring that they are not afraid to go to war and that they are ready for it. They feel they have caused Obama to blink and agree to a favorable deal for their purposes.

It was a good deal for the lives of people in Iran (physically)

  1. It has an immediate impact in increasing the value of Iranian currency (more purchasing power)
  2. It seems to postpone the possibility of war. The possible attack on Iran, when it happens, will bring much suffering to the people of Iran and will take the lives of so many innocent Christian and Muslim people.
  3. This deal takes away the fear of imminent attack on Iran which has put stress in the hearts of the ordinary citizens of Iran for the last two years. People of Iran will live in less fear for at least the next six months.
  4. The people of Iran are happy about this deal because it gives them temporary relief. All the Iranians that I have talked to are convinced that the Iranian government deceived the West to get this deal and soon will find out that this was a deception and reinstate the strict sanctions and threats of military attacks. When I ask them what they think about this deal, many just laugh and say, “Americans are so naïve.”

It was a bad deal: for the lives of people in Iran (spiritually)

  1. This deal gives the people of Iran a false hope. They have been open spiritually because they have been living in fear and hopelessness for so many years. This new deal gives them a false hope and reduces their fear. This may cause them to be less open spiritually.
  2. It distracts them. They feel they have 6 months to secure themselves and prepare for the hardship that is coming. They will be busy making money and spending it for an unknown and unstable future. This can distract them from spiritual pursuit.

Join me in praying:

That the Lord will postpone the war and give the people of Iran a chance to know Him.

That the people of Iran will not invest in a false hope, but that their hopelessness will lead them to the true source of eternal hope: Jesus Christ.

Rouhani Came to Give a False Sense of Hope to the U.S.

This entry is part 2 of 4 in the series 5 Things About Hassan Rouhani's Visit to the U.S.

Rouhani came to give a false sense of hope to the U.S., while keeping his support at home with the Mullahs…both of which he accomplished.

Rouhani addressing the U.N.
Rouhani addressing the U.N.

As I mentioned in my previous post, Hassan Rouhani is an expert negotiator.  He is also a very intelligent and a savvy politician, with great skills of persuasion and influence.

Following in the footsteps of the much less prudent Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Rouhani had very little work to do in order to establish himself as the more civil, if not congenial, face of Iran.  Ahmadinejad also managed to estrange himself from the Supreme Leader and Mullahs of Iran through his unpredictable public speeches and unwillingness to stay within the boundaries of his role.  Consequently, Rouhani had very little chance of being anything but a perceived conspicuous improvement over his predecessor in the eyes of both the U.S. and Iran.

The combination of his skill set as a deft negotiator, (in the international nuclear development arena no less), and the instant benefit of the doubt he has been given since he has to be better than the extremist before him, set the stage for Rouhani to please everyone.

Promising to negotiate on Iran’s nuclear program in “good faith,” Rouhani managed to commit to nothing measurable or tangible, but still give the impression of cooperation and the willingness to change.  Did I mention that he is an expert negotiator?

Having left the U.S. without committing to anything concrete and charming the world all while standing up the President of the United States of America and receiving his phone call as he left the country, Hassan Rouhani earned tremendous points with the Supreme Leader and Mullahs in Iran.

Please join me in praying for our world leaders to have great wisdom and discernment as they navigate the rocky terrain of negotiations with Iran.  Only He can steer us on the right path…that which leads to the foot of the cross.

Hassan Rouhani is an Experienced, Expert Nuclear Negotiator

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series 5 Things About Hassan Rouhani's Visit to the U.S.
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani
If this is the way the majority of the world sees Rouhani… the world needs to take a closer look.

Rouhani’s involvement in Iran’s political landscape predates the Islamic Revolution of 1979.  As a young cleric, Rouhani regularly gave speeches against the government of the Shah of Iran, whose cooperative posture with the U.S. did not please the Islamic clergy.  After the revolution, Rouhani established himself in Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s inner circle and quickly earned prominent positions within his regime.

In 1989, Rouhani was appointed as the first Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council (SNSC), a position he kept for the next 16 years.  Known for his negotiating prowess, Rouhani garnered the nickname “Diplomat Sheikh” by Iranian news media.

Through the confirmation of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Hassan Rouhani was placed in charge of Iran’s nuclear case in 6 October 2003.  His objective was to lead a team that would deflect attention from Iran’s newly discovered nuclear development and run interference with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that would prevent the rapid acceleration of allegations against Iran resulting a report of Iran’s nuclear case to the United Nations Security Council.

Rouhani and his team were successful in this endeavor until he stepped out of the role in 2005 as a result of the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and subsequent disagreements between the two leaders. Ahmadinejad’s antagonistic demeanor and unwillingness to fulfill his role as diplomat to the West contributed to the contentious posture, which has resulted in heavy sanctions and pressure from the U.S. and it’s allies.

It is this same Rouhani who is now representing the nuclear intentions of The Islamic Republic of Iran to a leery, yet hopeful, audience of world leaders.

Rouhani has vast experience in the art of deception.  He is a seasoned expert and adept at creating smokescreens to cover up Iran’s nuclear activities and intentions.  His skills in delay techniques may be sufficient to buy enough time for his superiors to finish the development of nuclear weaponry.

I pray that President Obama and his counterparts in the U.N. have a working knowledge of Hassan Rouhani’s resume and credentials and the wisdom to treat his statements with great caution and apprehension.

Rouhani Gained the Upper Hand by Skipping Lunch with President Obama

Rouhani gained the upper hand by skipping lunch with President Obama and later receiving his phone call while leaving the country.

To a Westerner, both of these events may seem insipid or commonplace.

Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani during his visit to the U.S.

President Rouhani simply explained, “A meeting between the two presidents needs some preparation, and since the ground was not prepared, this meeting did not take place.”  As a result, President Obama picked up the phone and called Rouhani since they were not able to meet in person.  This gesture exhibited both respect and hospitality from a Western point of view.

However, both events, which seem ostensibly harmless, were great PR plays by Rouhani to the Persian culture.

By skipping a planned appointment with President Obama, Rouhani illustrated his stature of importance to the people of Iran and the rest of the Middle East whose culture recognizes this as a display of power.  Rouhani is so mighty and dominant, that even the President of the United States of America does not get his time.

By calling President Rouhani as he was leaving the U.S., President Obama displayed an act of contrition and weakness in the eyes of the Persian culture.  In my native Iran, this is viewed as chasing after the person who is in the more dominant position.

Rouhani would never have extended such a gesture, as he would be subject to public emasculation and humiliation for bowing in this way.

Our opinions of a skipped lunch and the intentions of President Obama’s phone call are completely irrelevant.  President Hassan Rouhani left the United States with an important public relations victory on the largest stage Iran has been on in 34 years.

I wonder if President Obama is going to take Benjamin Netanyahu’s call…the one when he tells Obama to be wary of his new “friend.”