Trump’s march to war on Iran aided by Democrats’ weakness on sanctions, nuclear deal

The US assassination of Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian military commander, is the culmination of three years of Trump administration war-mongering against Iran.

Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council, discusses Trump’s radical neocon agenda in Iran and how Democratic votes for new sanctions against Tehran helped lay the groundwork for the current crisis.

Guest: Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council.

The US assassination of Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian military commander, is the culmination of three years of Trump administration war-mongering against Iran. It began with the sabotage of the Iran nuclear deal and has continued with a number of escalatory steps – none more brazen and potentially catastrophic as this murder inside Iraq. Democratic centrists are criticizing Trump – but they have played a role here too. Back in 2017, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, Democrats in Congress voted for sanctions on Iran that helped Trump kill the nuclear deal. And even recently, the Democrats overwhelmingly voted for a massive military budget and helped kill a proposal from Sanders and Ro Khanna that opposed unauthorized military action against Iran.

Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council, tells Pushback that Democrats’ failure to defend the Iran nuclear deal helped Trump escalate his march to war on Iran. Abdi saw this back when Democrats joined Republicans to pass new sanctions on Iran in 2017. The “most senior Democrat”, Abdi says, assured him that Donald Trump was not going to break the Iran nuclear deal.

“I, in a conversation with a very senior Democrat, the most senior Democrat, [relayed] my concerns [that] the Democrats’ passing or signing on to those sanctions and combining them with Russia sanctions, was going to give Trump a pass to eventually abandon the Iran deal, and sort of neuter the Democrats’ ability to stand up to Donald Trump against that by, encouraging them to continue with more and more sanctions,” Abdi recalls. “And I was told no, Donald Trump is not going to leave the nuclear deal – it’s all posture, it’s never going to happen, full stop.”

Democrats, with the exception of Bernie Sanders, voted to approve those Iran sanctions in July 2017. Trump announced the US withdrawal from the Iran nuclear less than a year later, in May 2018. To Abdi, Democratic support for sanctions on Iran “helped lay the groundwork” for Trump’s abrogation of the Iran nuclear deal and ensuing escalations.

“As much as people in Washington and around the country say this is not normal, and Donald Trump has to be treated as a special type of threat, it has been very much business as usual,” Abdi says. “And now we’re literally doing impeachment as Donald Trump is marching us off the cliff to war. So I really think that on things like the nuclear deal, and with his Iran policy, there was an opportunity to be strong, and for Democrats to put their foot down and say we are not going to allow you to breach, or even flirt with breaching, this deal. And by sending these mixed signals and really perpetuating the politics that provide the kindling for these types of activities — by the Democrats turning Iran sanctions once again into ‘good politics’ – [that] actually helped lay the groundwork for Donald Trump to end the deal and then escalate these sanctions and now potentially start this war with Iran that we’ve been warning about for so long.”