WASHINGTON (AP) — As President Donald Trump tells it, Iran would be a collapsed state by now if only the Obama administration had refused the 2015 deal that eased economic sanctions in return for a freeze on Iranian nuclear development. This starved-into-submission scenario, however, doesn’t fit with the circumstances of that time.
Here’s a look at Trump’s statement on the subject:
TRUMP, on why the U.S. under President Barack Obama should not have agreed to the Iran nuclear deal: “I think they would have failed, totally failed within six months. We gave them a lifeline and we not only gave them a lifeline, we gave them wealth and prosperity. And we also gave them an ability to continue with terror and with all of the things they’ve been doing.” — Statement in Jerusalem on Monday, standing with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
THE FACTS: What would have happened absent the deal is impossible to say, but such an imminent collapse of Iran’s economy was highly improbable.
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International sanctions on Iran in response to its nuclear program had indeed driven its economy into crisis earlier this decade. But even before the nuclear deal, Iran had cut budget expenditures and fixed its balance of payments. It was still exporting oil and importing products from countries such as Japan and China.
International economists as well as U.S. officials did not foresee an imminent economic collapse, though Trump theoretically could be citing a classified or otherwise non-public assessment.
“There is no evidence to suggest that the Islamic Republic would have fallen within six months,” said Karim Sadjadpour, an Iran expert at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
Patrick Clawson, who heads the Washington Institute for Near East Policy’s Iran program, called Trump’s claim an exaggeration. Iran’s leaders worried about the potential for social unrest, but the economy was in a sustainable state. “I don’t know what ‘totally failed’ means in terms of an economy,” Clawson said.
The July 2015 multinational deal froze Iran’s nuclear program in return for an end to a variety of oil, trade and financial sanctions on Tehran. Iran also regained access to frozen assets held abroad.
Nevertheless, Trump also exaggerates in suggesting the deal has made Iran prosper. While the government is buying planes from the likes of Airbus and Boeing, and wooing other big foreign companies, Iran is still struggling to attract international investment. A major theme of its recent presidential campaign was the lack of economic benefits that ordinary Iranians are seeing from the agreement.
Although Trump promised frequently in the presidential campaign to get the U.S. out of the deal, he has not done so.
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