As Iran backs away from nuclear deal, Trump's failure comes into focus

Iran President Hassan Rouhani sits before addressing the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters on Sept. 28, 2015 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty)
Iran President Hassan Rouhani sits before addressing the United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters on Sept. 28, 2015 in New York City.

It took five years of difficult diplomatic work to put an international sanctions regime in place that forced Iran to come to the negotiating table. It took two years of difficult diplomatic work to reach an international agreement that blocked Iran's nuclear program and worked exactly as intended.

Exactly one year ago today, it took a few minutes for Donald Trump to throw all of that work away.

Iran marked the one-year anniversary of the American president's absurd decision by making an announcement of its own.

Iran has informed ambassadors from the United Kingdom, France, Germany, China and Russia that it would stop implementing parts of the landmark 2015 nuclear deal. [...]In a speech broadcast on national television on the anniversary of America's withdrawal from the deal, President Hassan Rouhani said the country would also resume high level enrichment of uranium if world powers did not keep their promises under the Obama-era agreement.

In a press statement this morning, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said, "This is disastrous news and a massive failure by the Trump administration. Iran's moves to restart their nuclear program are a direct consequence of the Trump administration withdrawing from the Iran deal and Trump's blind, meandering escalatory Iranian policy. Critics of the deal President Obama signed argued that it would let Iran restart its nuclear program after a decade; well, President Trump managed to give the Iranians the green light to restart it after only four years."

The Democratic senator added, "We now have a North Korean regime that is firing rockets with the blessing of our president who lives in a fantasy land where he has an agreement with Kim Jong Un that doesn't exist. And now Trump has managed to goad the Iranians, who weren't pursuing a nuclear weapon, to start their effort again."

Yep, that sums things up nicely.

At this point, it's not at all clear what exactly the White House's strategy is supposed to be. When Trump abandoned the international nuclear agreement -- which the American president opposed for reasons he's never been able to explain in a coherent way -- he signaled a willingness to negotiate a new deal.

As Jackson Diehl recently explained, however, "Nearly a year later, Trump has done less bargaining with the Islamic republic than any president in the past 40 years. Not only is his administration not known to be talking with the regime about its nuclear program or its aggressions in the Middle East; it also has taken only minimal action to free the several U.S. citizens that Iran has unjustly imprisoned. Instead, U.S. policy seeks to apply crushing pressure to the regime without offering it a way out."

What we see instead from the White House is aggressive posturing, seemingly in the hopes of pushing the United States and Iran into some kind of confrontation.

How is this better than a diplomatic agreement that was working exactly as intended up until a year ago? Trump hasn't, can't, and won't say.