Debunking The Biggest Lies Trump Tells About Iran

President Trump is leaning on both new and familiar lies to gaslight the American people about Iran, and his enablers are helping him do it.
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, senior White House advisors and senior military personnel, delivers remarks during a national televised address Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, from the Cross Hall of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, senior White House advisors and senior military personnel, delivers remarks during a national televised address Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, from the Cross Hall of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

In his press conference about Iran’s missile attacks, President Trump repeated some of his favorite lies about Iran. Trump bashed the Iran Nuclear Deal, claimed that Iranian hostilities increased after the deal was signed, and alleged that President Obama gave $150 billion in cash to Iran. We also still haven’t seen any evidence of the alleged “imminent attack” Iranian General Qasem Soleimani was planning. Given the reaction from some Senate Republicans to the Trump Administration’s Iran briefing today, there likely isn’t any.

But before we thoroughly debunk all of these lies, here’s some background on the whirlwind developments that got us here.

What Happened With Iran Over The Past Few Weeks?

Last week, President Trump made the reckless decision to assassinate Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, the 2nd most powerful figure in Iran. This came after a series of events. First, a US contractor was killed in a rocket attack on Kirkuk Province base on December 27. The US responded with airstrikes targeting weapons depots in Iraq and Syria, resulting in the deaths of 25 militia fighters. This triggered the assault on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, which Trump responded to by killing Soleimani.

This week, Iran retaliated, striking bases housing U.S. troops in Iraq with ballistic missiles. There were no casualties and Iran signaled that this could be the end of their immediate retaliatory measures if the United States did not take additional military action. Presented with this de-escalation off-ramp from Iran, President Trump gave an address today signaling that the Trump Administration would apply additional economic sanctions on Iran, not take any additional military action at this time, and seek a new nuclear deal. The world breathed a sigh of relief. That being said, this is far from a “win” for Trump as it has been portrayed.

None of this would’ve happened if President Trump didn’t leave the Iran Nuclear Deal in the first place. President Trump continued one of his favorite tactics: manufacturing a crisis, putting a half-baked band-aid on the crisis, telling people to accept the worse situation as the new normal, and subsequently claiming victory to get “this is a win for Trump” coverage.

So what happened to that evidence of the “imminent attack” that the Trump administration promised? Was bringing us to the brink of war even worth it in the first place?

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There Is No Evidence Soleimani Was Planning An “Imminent Attack”

While the Trump Administration is claiming there was the threat of an imminent attack within “days,” that intelligence is reportedly “razor-thin.” In fact, The New York Times reported on communications that indicated the contrary:

But some officials voiced private skepticism about the rationale for a strike on General Suleimani, who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops over the years. According to one United States official, the new intelligence indicated “a normal Monday in the Middle East” — Dec. 30 — and General Suleimani’s travels amounted to “business as usual.”

That official described the intelligence as thin and said that General Suleimani’s attack was not imminent because of communications the United States had between Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and General Suleimani showing that the ayatollah had not yet approved any plans by the general for an attack. The ayatollah, according to the communications, had asked General Suleimani to come to Tehran for further discussions at least a week before his death.

The multiple reports of thin intelligence didn’t stop President Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper from lying to the American people about it. No one has presented any evidence of the imminent threat while at the same asserting there was one. Today, lawmakers on Capitol Hill were briefed by members of the Trump Administration and they felt there was no substantive evidence of an imminent threat. Even Republican Senator Mike Lee (R-UT) wasn’t convinced. Senator Lee angrily left the briefing and did not mince words when telling reporters about it:

This assassination was widely panned as disproportionate and the most provocative move in the region in years. President Trump also did not notify Congress before taking this action. Yes, Soleimani had American blood on his hands but the justification for his assassination appears to be false. And was it worth it? Before the Soleimani assassination, Iran was grappling with months of inner turmoil and protests. Now they are united in nationalism and one of Soleimani’s goals of America being pushed out of Iraq might become a reality.

When framing Iran’s escalations and this assassination, let’s be clear: this was all set in motion when Trump left the Iran Nuclear Deal, which Iran was complying with. This brings us to our next lie to debunk.

The JCPOA Was A Not A “Bad Deal”

President Barack Obama during a U.S. counterterrorism strategy speech at MacDill Air Force Base Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

President Barack Obama during a U.S. counterterrorism strategy speech at MacDill Air Force Base Tuesday, Dec. 6, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

Under the terms of the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA or Iran Nuclear Deal), Iran received relief from economic sanctions in exchange for reducing their nuclear material and uranium enrichment. Before this deal, Iran had a growing nuclear program.

Rantt Foreign Policy Editor Jossif Ezekilov thoroughly explained the importance of the deal in his article on Trump’s violation of it:

Generally speaking, the agreement reduces Iran’s nuclear material and suspends its potential for uranium production and enrichment. In return, they are granted sanctions relief from the West. Since the inception of the deal, Iran reduced its stockpile of uranium by 95 percent, dismantled two-thirds of its centrifuges used for enrichment, and rendered inoperable the planned Arak reactor that was to be used for plutonium mining.

The entire process is monitored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the UN’s nuclear watchdog. Under JCPOA, the IAEA oversaw the destruction of nuclear material and rendered the planned Arak site inoperable. They also monitor live video streams of Iran’s two remaining nuclear facilities, safeguard all dismantled centrifuges, and analyze samples from Iran, all in an effort to ensure the country does not backtrack. Taken together, such measures represent the toughest nuclear monitoring regime ever imposed on any country.

When President Trump came into office in 2017, he criticized the deal and alleged violations on the part of Iran, even as his own administration’s officials, like then-Secretary of Defense James Mattis, said none existed.

President Trump withdrew from the deal in May of 2018 – one month after John Bolton took H.R. McMaster’s position as National Security Adviser. It’s more accurate to say the Trump administration violated the JCPOA, because Iran was complying with the deal and it was overseen by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) – who validated Iran’s compliance 9 separate times. In the immediate aftermath, Iran did not choose to violate the terms of the JCPOA and worked with the European signatories (UK, France, and Germany) to continue to receive the deal’s benefits even without America’s participation.

In response, President Trump threatened to sanction America’s own allies if they did business with Iran – mainly by purchasing Iranian oil which is the bedrock of their economy. Those moves crippled Iran’s economy thoroughly, causing them to lash out militarily in the region, triggering what we’ve seen since.

Iran’s Hostilities Increased After Trump Left The JCPOA

President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton (AP, Gage Skidmore)

President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and National Security Adviser John Bolton (AP, Gage Skidmore)

In his press conference today, President Trump said Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the Iran Nuclear Deal was signed. That is a complete lie. There were no rocket attacks on U.S. bases in the region or any of the escalations we’ve seen since President Trump’s withdrawal. The hostilities substantially increased after Trump tore up the JCPOA no good reason, other than to pursue John Bolton’s goal of regime change in Iran.

President Trump then began applying crippling economic sanctions which triggered Iran’s escalations in the region. In April of 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the US would designate the Iran Revolutionary Guard, an Iranian military branch, as a terrorist organization. In early May, Iran said that it would begin to withdraw from some components of the JCPOA, by enriching small amounts of uranium. On May 5th, the US sent an aircraft carrier to the region, warning of potential attacks from Iran.

On May 15th, the US cited intelligence indicating that there was an impending threat from Iran and ordered an evacuation of the US embassy in Iraq. It’s important to note that US allies at the time said they saw no impending threat. Even Republican members of Congress like Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) had expressed anger at how they were being left in the dark on the intelligence. Over the Summer of 2019, Iran attacked two Saudi oil tankers and shot down a US drone.

Flash forward to December and you have the provocations we discussed at the beginning of this article. None of this happened while the U.S. was still honoring their end of the JCPOA. Let’s move on to another lie, shall we?

Obama Did Not Give Iran $150 Billion – It Was Their Money

At today’s press conference, President Trump repeated one of his most repeated lies about Iran and Obama. Trump said that the weapons used in this week’s strikes on U.S. assets were purchased with the $150 billion Obama gave to Iran. This has been repeated by the highest levels of the conservative ecosystem, with some even calling it a bribe.

This has been fact-checked again and again. The $150 billion was actually unfrozen assets that already belonged to Iran. Don’t take my word for it, take the word of the Associated Press:

When Iran signed the multinational deal to restrain its nuclear development in return for being freed from sanctions, it regained access to its own assets, which had been frozen abroad. Iran was allowed to get its money back. The deal actually was signed in 2015, after a 2013 preliminary agreement. Trump has taken the U.S. out of it.

The $1.8 billion is a separate matter. A payout of roughly that amount did come from the U.S. treasury. It was to pay an old IOU.

The Rantt Rundown

The main takeaway from all this is whether or not we can trust the word of this administration when it comes to matters of war. Given the fact we can’t trust their word on virtually any other matter, the answer is no. They’ve made over 15,000 false or misleading statements according to The Washington Post. In a nutshell, the abandonment of the Iran Nuclear Deal and assassination of Soleimani leaves us in a more dangerous world. Iran can enrich uranium with impunity and they can continue their provocative actions in the region without a diplomatic check, all because of the decisions of one man.

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News // Donald Trump / Iran