Trump Got Pretty Much Everything Wrong About The Iran Deal

by Eli Clifton

Last night, Donald Trump accepted the Republican presidential nomination. Then he delivered a rambling 75-minute speech promising law and order and painting a picture of a United States in chaos, besieged by crime and both foreign and domestic enemies. Much of it wasn’t factually true, and fact checkers are having a field day pouring through the 27-page speech.

But one topic of the speech that has received little media attention are his statements about the P5+1’s efforts to constrain Iran’s nuclear program. A quick review of his claims reveals that Trump badly misrepresented the nature of the agreement and outright lied about what Iran received in return for removing 14,000 centrifuges, filling the core of its plutonium reactor with concrete, and shipping almost all of its uranium gas to Russia.

Trump said:

Now let us consider the state of affairs abroad.

Not only have our citizens endured domestic disaster, but they have lived through one international humiliation after another.

We all remember the images of our sailors being forced to their knees by their Iranian captors at gunpoint.

This was just prior to the signing of the Iran deal, which gave back to Iran $150 billion and gave us nothing—it will go down in history as one of the worst deals ever negotiated.

For starters, the incident took place after the agreement had been signed, though before it had been implemented.

Second, the U.S. Navy took responsibility for the incident in which the Iranian Revolutionary Guard briefly detained 10 sailors after one of their boats suffered mechanical trouble and drifted into Iran’s territorial waters. “This incident was the result of failed leadership at multiple levels from the tactical to the operational,” wrote military investigators in a report released last month. So, the incident was hardly an indictment of the Obama administration or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

Trump’s claim that the deal “gave back Iran $150 billion and gave us nothing” is also inaccurate.

The U.S. Treasury Department says the number is closer to $100 billion and it was directly tied to Iran committing to implement the JCPOA, which dramatically reduced the size of the country’s uranium enrichment capabilities and pushed the amount of time Iran would need to acquire enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon from 2-3 months to one year. On top of that, Iran’s nuclear facilities and supply chain are subjected to inspections from the IAEA to ensure compliance and offer early warning if Iran isn’t living up to its commitments.

In other words, the United States and the other P5+1 countries received a great deal more than “nothing.”

And then there’s Trump’s claim about “pre-Hillary” foreign policy. In his telling, “Iran was being choked by sanctions” in 2009, and now “Iran is on the path to nuclear weapons.”

The JCPOA limitations on Iran’s nuclear program mean that Iran is actually further from a nuclear weapon than in 2009. Under the JCPOA Iran will send its stockpile of enriched uranium gas out of the country, a stockpile it was building up in 2009, and dramatically reduce its deployment of centrifuges, which were being built up in 2009.

As for the claim that Iran is “on the path to nuclear weapons,” the current limitations on Iran’s nuclear program don’t preclude the possibility that Iran may decide to break the agreement and pursue the construction of a weapon. But the reduction in nuclear materials and the intrusive inspections regime mean that the U.S. will have an increased lead time to respond than before the JCPOA’s implementation.

And that view isn’t just held by partisans in Washington.

Uzi Eilam, the former director of Israel’s Atomic Energy Commission, warned last September that if Congress failed to back the deal “the risk for a nuclear Iran will only go up” and former Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said that Iran’s nuclear program “has been frozen in light of the deal signed by the world powers and does not constitute an immediate, existential threat for Israel.”

Israeli experts may also be raising their eyebrows at Trump’s promise that countries “that we are protecting, at a massive cost to us, will be asked to pay their fair share.” Israel was the biggest recipient of foreign military financing in 2014, receiving $3.1 billion.

But delivering a speech that got practically every fact wrong about the Iran nuclear agreement and, perhaps inadvertently, committed to slashing military assistance to Israel, a reckless commitment for a politician soliciting Netanyahu confidantes Sheldon and Miriam Adelson for $100 million, did very little to dampen the crowd’s enthusiasm.

Trump was regularly interrupted by chants of “USA,” “Build The Wall,” and “Yes He Will.”

Photo: Donald Trump by Michael Vadon via Flickr.

Eli Clifton

Eli Clifton reports on money in politics and US foreign policy. He is a co-founder of the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Eli previously reported for the American Independent News Network, ThinkProgress, and Inter Press Service.



  1. And don’t forget that Boeing announced a $17.6B order from Iran Air.

  2. Ur write-up just made me believe Trump the more. Apparently u r saying their can’t b smoke without fire. This drunken dance by Hilary n Obama is to risky to go on.

  3. Not quite accurate. You can shift the blame from our Commander in Chief to the military for how our sailors wound up in Iranian waters but I believe the buck actually does stop at the President’s table as to how our men and women were treated and used as propaganda by the Iranian military. As for the deal there is not anytime inspection authority over military sites and the terms now appear to be hidden behind a secret agreement. But giving the world’s leading terrorist organization a $100 billion even if that is all it is and access to the weapons systems of Russia and China is not objectively better than golding back the access and crushing them with sanctions until they were forced to make a more reasonable deal.

  4. If Hillary were still SOS the deal would never have happened. It took John Kerry to get the State Department to work on something constructive for a change.

  5. Let’s focus on the bigger picture. This deal is complete failure in that it did nothing to alleviate concerns in America and abroad about Iran’s prospective path to a nuclear arsenal, nor discourage Iran’s aggressive and destabilizing behavior. Iran’s behavior both in the run-up to the agreement and in the aftermath has been blatant. Only Obama would not recognize what Iran did as total disdain for him and America. The next president, whether it be Hilary or Trump, must exert pressure on Iran. This pressure should not be singularly focused on the still-unresolved nuclear issue. The next president must also deal with Iran’s extraordinary human rights abuses, include its world-leading misuse of the death penalty, its aggressive censorship of media and the internet, and its dangerous interventions in places like Iraq and Syria. The next president should take the bolder and even more essential move of endorsing Iran resistance groups in order to change the government of Iran, and give it back to the people

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