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Still Obsessed with Obama, Trump Tells a Whopper

Unending fake charges against the first black president go unchallenged

In his talk the morning after the Iran missile strike at U.S. bases in Iraq, President Trump continued his psychodrama with Barack Obama with a compound lie that may have come from Sean Hannity, who recites it almost nightly in his tirades on the Fox network. Trump said:

"Iran's hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013 and they were given $150 billion not to mention $1.8 billion in cash. The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration".

Indeed, that same night Hannity spoke of Obama and Biden…

"shipping the radical Islamic mullahs of Iran $150 billion in bribes to try and get them to like us and appease the world's number one state sponsor of terrorism".

Trump's constant attacks on Obama are repugnant. They are made worse by lies that need to be shredded.

First, we follow the money.

The Obama administration did not "give" $150 billion to Iran. (How could that have cleared Congress?). However much they received was Iran's own money. Perhaps that bears repeating, given the lies. It was their money frozen in banking systems around the world by sanctions penalizing their nuclear activities. As part of the deal whereby Iran ceased enriching uranium and forswore development of nuclear weapons, their money was to be released by the United States and other countries once inspectors verified, as they did in January 2016 six months after seven nations signed the accord, that the Iranians were in compliance with the deal.

The negotiations were protracted and Iran was intractable. They would not for a moment consider a deal that did not release its blocked funds. Negotiations went on for 20 months with repeated deadline extensions as seven nations grappled with final terms and language. Then Secretary of State John Kerry, who was deeply involved in the negotiations, recognized that Iran might use the funds for terrorist adventurism rather than rehabilitation of its ailing economy, but Iran was appraised at the time of being capable a producing a nuclear weapon in as little as three months. The West wanted urgently to end Iran's threat, and Iran knew they held high cards. We got what we could.

The moment the accord was announced, it was denounced. Naysayers not involved in the talks, such as Israel's Netanyahu who thought "a better deal is possible", seemed to think it was only a matter of dictating terms and Iran would be obedient. The mindless now call that appeasement. Trump has said more than once, "One of the worst negotiated deals of any kind that I have ever seen”. He would negotiate a much better deal. Three years on, he's done nothing.

The amount, $150 billion, is a maximum estimate plucked from the air with no close to no evidence. It seems no one canvassed the world's banks to find out where Iran held accounts. "The high-end estimate from the U.S. Treasury Department in 2015 was $56 billion, and outside analysts believed the number could be lower", according to Politifact. And there were liens on the money; Iran reportedly owed China $20 billion. Wee don't hear any of this from Sean Hannity, and now he's got Trump spreading the lie.

And the $1.8 billion? The Shah had paid the U.S. $400 million for fighter aircraft before he was deposed in the 1979 Islamic Revolution. The clerics demanded return of the money; the U. S. refused. Where we can find fault with Obama is why the money, returned as part of the nuclear deal, was accompanied by some 37 years of interest that made it $1.5 billion. Why pay a hostile nation interest?

As for cash? Sanctions in the international banking system prevented any electronic transfer so stacks of bills had to be loaded a plane, an unfortunate optic that the right-wing has endlessly characterized as somehow corrupt or clandestine. Such is propaganda against Americans by Americans.

Thus is Trump shamelessly lying about Barack Obama, about a fictional $400 billion, and about "giving" Iran anything.

When Iran's hostilities substantially did increase

By saying that "Iran's hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013", Trump compounded his lie. Iran has been the troublemaker in the region for decades, supporting surrogates from Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Gaza, Houthis in Yemen, aid to al-Assad in Syria, and so on. But saying that Obama's and the six nation's nuclear pact with Iran triggered an increase in hostilities is Trump, in his obsession over Obama, inventing blame for his predecessor to avoid blame for himself.

It's just the opposite. An MIT expert on nuclear issues and the Middle East contacted by the New York Times called Trump's claim "almost an inverted reality". The Global Terrorism Database at the University of Maryland reports that attacks by Iran-backed proxies declined from 80 in 2014 to 6 in 2017. These years span the period when the nuclear accord was negotiated and the time after it was signed in July of 2015. It also brackets the 10-month battle from October 2016 to July 2017 to retake Mosul in Iraq from ISIS, a timespan in which U.S. forces, while not collaborating with them directly, fought alongside Iran-backed militias with a shared objective. One might say that Iran was preoccupied from its aggressions.

But then the number of attacks increased to 40 in 2018. What happened in 2018? It was in that May — despite his own advisers along with inspection reports of the International Atomic Energy Agency assuring him Iran had all along been in compliance — that Trump ignored our partners in the deal and pulled the rug from under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), as the agreement is called.

Instead, Trump embarked on a campaign of "maximum pressure", increasing sanctions to shut Iran off from the world with the goal of collapsing the country's economy. It has put Iran in dire straits, but it has been Trump's policy, not Obama's, that has caused Iran to escalate hostilities in retaliation. We have since seen Iran attack two oil tankers and seize a third in the Persian Gulf, shoot down a U.S. surveillance drone, launch missiles against Saudi oil facilities, set centrifuges spinning again to enrich uranium, and recently kill an American contractor in an attack on a military base near Kirkuk, and attempt to storm the American embassy embassy in Baghdad after U.S. retaliation for that attack.

With the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, Iran now says it will no longer be constrained by the JCPOA and will go flat out to develop its nuclear capabilities. Trump said, "The very defective JCPOA expires shortly, anyway, and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout". That, too, is a lie. It would not have expired shortly if he had kept to the deal. Some aspects of the deal run to 25 years, and the numerous steps taken such as exporting all its enriched uranium out of the country causes Iran to rebuild that stockpile from scratch. With their resumption of enrichment, they may now have about 500 kilograms, in the estimation of Ernest Munoz, the nuclear physicist who headed the Energy Department under Obama, but not the more than 10 tons they had in 2015.

Perhaps it doesn't count for much but the first paragraph of the JCPOA reads, “Iran reaffirms that under no circumstances will Iran ever seek, develop or acquire any nuclear weapons”. But Trump has blown up a deal that put Iran's ambitions on hold and leaves him fatuously declaring:

As long as I am president of the United States, Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon… We will never let that happen"

Instead of accomplishing that by the peaceful means of the diplomatically negotiated multi-party JCPOA declaration, Trump may have to resort to war to back up that statement.

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