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Turning the Screws on North Korea New sanctions and a turn by China may finally isolate the Kim regime.

American officials have been wrong for years predicting breakthroughs in the North Korea nuclear crisis, but this week could prove to be different. The combination of Kim Jong Un’s growing belligerence, new U.S. financial sanctions, and a Chinese turn on North Korea trade might be a turning point that finally isolates the Kim regime.

The new U.S. sanctions that President Trump announced Thursday will finally cut off the regime from the U.S. dollar, the currency it has continued to rely on for trade. Any institution that does business with Pyongyang will lose access to the U.S. financial system. Meanwhile, Chinese regulators told China’s banks on Monday to stop handling North Korea trade, and many of them had already frozen North Korean accounts.

These mark a significant ramp up in pressure on the North. Americans might think that such sanctions were already in place since the regime first tested a nuclear weapon 11 years ago. Barack Obama once called North Korea “the most heavily sanctioned, the most cut-off nation on Earth.” And the U.S. foreign policy establishment, right and left, has claimed that sanctions were tried and failed to change Pyongyang’s behavior.

Yet until last year United Nations and U.S. sanctions on North Korea were far less stringent than those imposed on Iran before 2015. Only in March 2016 did the U.N. begin to restrict the country’s commercial trade, and only in November did the U.S. sever North Korean banks from its financial system. This June the U.S. finally blacklisted a Chinese bank along with companies and individuals that helped the North obtain forbidden materials for its nuclear and missile programs.

Those were important steps, but on Thursday the gloves really came off. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin told a press briefing, “Foreign financial institutions are now on notice that, going forward, they can choose to do business with the United States or with North Korea, but not both.” The punishments to be meted out are similar to those reserved for financiers of terrorism under the Patriot Act. One Administration official claimed that Thursday’s executive order goes further than sanctions on any other country.

So far the U.S. has declined to sanction large Chinese banks, so will it do that now? It may not have to. Since the U.S. fired its warning shot by sanctioning the Bank of Dandong in June, Chinese banks have frozen or closed North Korean accounts. That has reduced trade flows across the Chinese border by 75%, according to a Kyodo report. Fuel prices began to rise in Pyongyang even before new United Nations sanctions this month capped trade in petroleum.

Trump’s Big North Korea Decision By Lawrence J. Haas

President Donald Trump’s dismissive comments about the new United Nations Security Council sanctions against North Korea, contrasting sharply with the boasts of his State Department, reflect the harsh reality that a sanctions-driven approach to reversing Pyongyang’s nuclear progress seems increasingly problematic.

That means that Washington is nearing a sobering decision: whether to “contain” a nuclear-armed North Korea or take military action to cripple its nuclear capacity – with all the conflict, bloodshed and chaos that military action could trigger on the Korean Peninsula and beyond.

The Security Council’s unanimous Sept. 11 vote for more sanctions was “just another small step, not a big deal,” Trump said the next day, adding that he doesn’t know whether it will have “any impact.” His comments came as State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert called the Security Council’s vote “significant” because it triggers “the strongest set” of U.N. sanctions ever imposed on Pyongyang.

Notwithstanding State Department bullishness, Trump has the better argument for two reasons: First, Washington was forced to water down its sanctions proposal to secure Chinese and Russian support and, second, Beijing and Moscow continue to facilitate Pyongyang’s success in evading sanctions to begin with.

Assistant Treasury Secretary Marshall S. Billingslea told the House Foreign Affairs Committee last week that the new sanctions will cut off “over 55 percent of refined petroleum products” to North Korea, ban “all joint ventures” with that nation, and restrict Pyongyang’s ability to secure revenue from overseas workers.

Fine. But Washington had sought a much stronger set of sanctions that would have included a total oil embargo. To secure Chinese and Russian backing, however, it settled for a cap on oil imports.

Trump’s Successful U.N. Speech It had both striking rhetoric and a sound argument. By Elliott Abrams

In his speech to the United Nations, President Trump very successfully met the political and intellectual challenge he faced. He reminded the delegates that the United Nations was never meant to be a gigantic bureaucracy that would steadily become a world government. Rather, he said, it is an association of sovereign states whose strength depends “on the independent strength of its members.” Its success, he argued, depends on their success at governing well as “strong, sovereign, and independent nations.”

Trump cleverly turned patriotism — love of one’s own country, and what he called the necessary basis for sacrifice and “all that is best in the human spirit” — into the basis for international cooperation to solve problems that nations must face together. “The true question,” he said, is “are we still patriots?” If we are, we can work together for “a future of dignity and peace for the people of this wonderful Earth.” This was a useful, principled, and accurate reminder that the nation-state (a term he used) remains the key to world politics, and that successful nation-states will be the key to addressing the world’s challenges.

The speech added to this line of thinking several Trumpian touches that must be applauded — and others that served at least to wake up his audience. He said, for example, that “the problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” That has to count as one of the nicest lines ever delivered in that General Assembly chamber. He noted that “major portions of the world are in conflict, and some in fact are going to hell.” One assumes he added the latter phrase to the written text — and it was pure Trump. He carefully distinguished between the vicious and corrupt regime in Iran, “whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos,” and “the good people of Iran,” adding that “Iran’s people are what their leaders fear the most” after only “the vast military power of the United States.” On North Korea, he delivered the line that may be the most quoted: He said of Kim Jong-un that “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission” and told the delegates that if Kim attacks the United States, “we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

What did Trump not talk about? The Israeli–Palestinian conflict. At times that problem was the central item in President Obama’s speeches to the U.N., so its absence in Trump’s first address to the General Assembly was very striking. He wants to get a deal done, as he reiterated when meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, but he realizes that the conflict is not central to world politics or even to stability and peace in the Middle East. So it had no place in this text.

Trump’s criticism of the United Nations was clear, hitting everything from the hypocrisy of allowing tyrannical regimes to serve as members of the Human Rights Council to its bloated bureaucracy, but every criticism was combined with a call for improvement and a pledge of cooperation. He held out the picture of a better U.N. able to confront and solve many of the world’s problems.

Why Trump’s UN Speech Was a Triumph By Roger Kimball

Donald Trump on Tuesday confirmed yet again why he is the most robust president since Ronald Reagan. Following up on his brilliant speeches before a joint session of Congress in February, his speech about combating Islamic terrorism before Arab leaders in Saudi Arabia, and his splendid defense of Western civilizational values in Warsaw a few months ago, Trump addressed the United Nations and articulated for the 150 delegates at that ostentatiously corrupt institution the signal lesson of successful international relations: that freedom within nations, and comity among them, is best served not by the effacement or attenuation of national sovereignty but its frank and manly embrace.https://amgreatness.com/2017/09/19/trumps-un-speech-triumph/

“Sovereignty,” indeed, was the master word of Trump’s address. The word and its cognates occur 21 times in the 4,300-word talk, centrally in conjunction with the core Trumpian ideal of “principled realism.”

“We are guided,” Trump explained, “by outcomes, not ideology. We have a policy of principled realism, rooted in shared goals, interests, and values.”

The United Nations has in recent decades become a poster child for bureaucratic despond: corrupt, wasteful, and inefficient. It has also evolved into a megaphone for anti-American, left-wing sentiment, often hiding behind utopian world-government rhetoric.

This development, Trump reminded his listeners, is a blunt betrayal of the noble aspirations that formed the United Nations in the aftermath of World War II. Trump quoted Harry Truman, who stressed that the success of the United Nations depended on the “independent strength of its members.” The United Nations was not created to subvert national sovereignty but to help guarantee it.

One of the most refreshing things about Trump’s address—it is characteristic of his speeches—was his frankness. At the U.N., this had a positive as well as a critical side. On the positive side, I found it a breath of fresh air to hear an American president celebrate the achievements of America.

“The United States of America,” Trump said, “has been among the greatest forces for good in the history of the world, and the greatest defenders of sovereignty, security, and prosperity for all.” This is the simple truth, but I do not recall hearing such sentiments from the White House in recent years.

On the critical side, Trump was equally forthright. He affirmed his intention to battle threats to sovereignty from “the Ukraine to the South China Sea.” He roundly castigated the handful of “depraved” rogue regimes that not only terrorize their own people but threaten world peace. They violate, he noted, every principle upon which the U.N. was founded. In one the speech’s two most memorable moments, he called out the deplorable regime of Kim Jong-un in North Korea. The patience of the United States, Trump noted, is great, but it is not infinite.

If North Korea persists in its policy of nuclear blackmail, Trump explained, the United States “will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.” He continued: “Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.” I could almost hear tongues clucking at the New York Times and the Washington Post, as much for the contemptuous nickname as for the threat of military force. But I liked it, just as I liked his robust calling-a-spade-a-spade moment with respect to the criminal regime of Iran, one of the world’s most ostentatious enablers of terrorism.

But Trump’s comments about North Korea and Iran were not only a declaration of resolve. They were also a challenge to the United Nations, the forum in which rogue regimes like Iran and North Korea ought to be brought to heel. The United States would step up to the plate by itself if necessary. But, Trump said, it would be better if the United Nations address the outliers. “If the righteous many do not confront the wicked few,” Trump said in another memorable line, “then evil will triumph.”

Trump’s Stand at the UN for America A bold call for freedom and a stern warning to its enemies. Joseph Klein

President Donald Trump came to the United Nations this week as the “representative of the American people,” not as the “global citizen” that Barack Obama had portrayed himself to be. To paraphrase William Shakespeare, when Obama asked his global audiences to lend him their ears, he came to bury America under a heap of apologies for its alleged past misdeeds, not to praise his home country. President Trump could not have presented a starker contrast. He praised the U.S. Constitution, called out the miserable failures of socialism and confronted the totalitarian enemies of the United States, singling out radical Islamic terrorists and the rogue authoritarian regimes of North Korea, Iran and socialist Venezuela with a moral clarity reminiscent of former President Ronald Reagan.

During his inaugural visit to UN headquarters in New York for the annual convocation of world leaders, Trump delivered two speeches and held a series of high level bilateral meetings. His first speech, delivered at an event Monday on UN reform hosted by the United States, focused on the need for significant management reform at the UN. Trump criticized the UN for its bloated bureaucracy and mismanagement, while not producing results in line with the sharp increase in the UN budget, which is disproportionately funded by the United States. However, he included in his remarks some praise for the UN’s disaster relief efforts, its feeding of the hungry and UN Secretary General António Guterres’ own UN reform initiatives.

Trump’s second speech on Tuesday, delivered on the opening day of the General Assembly’s world leaders’ debate, was much tougher in tone. It focused on his notion of “principled realism” in international relations, balancing effective multilateralism to combat problems of global concern with the primacy of national sovereignty. The U.S. president explained his “American First” principles in some detail and put the rogue nations of North Korea, Iran and Venezuela on notice that their misdeeds would have serious consequences.

A globalist appeaser is clearly no longer in the White House.

“Our government’s first duty is to its people, to our citizens — to serve their needs, to ensure their safety, to preserve their rights, and to defend their values. I will always put America first — just like you — as the leaders of your countries will always — and should — always put your countries first,” the president declared. The success of the UN, he said, depends on the “independent strength” of its member states, built on each nation’s respect for the interests of its own people and for the rights of every other sovereign nation. “All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens, and the nation-state remains the best vehicle for elevating the human condition,” he added.

America would do its fair share, continuing to “lead the world in humanitarian assistance,” the president assured the assembled dignitaries, and to shoulder the burden to protect freedom and security around the world without territorial ambitions. However, under his watch, President Trump would no longer allow the United States to be taken advantage of or enter into “a one-sided deal where the United States gets nothing in return.” This was not music to the ears of the self-important foreign leaders in attendance who have gotten used to exploiting UN globalist institutions on the US’s dime, while using forums provided by the UN to slander the United States and Israel.

Obama certainly won the popularity contest when he strutted onto the world stage year after year during his presidency to deliver his encomiums to global governance and to place the United States at the same level as all the other 192 member states of the United Nations, no matter how authoritarian they were or how little they contributed to the budget of the UN. Obama was treated like a celebrity, his speeches punctuated by frequent outbursts of rapturous applause. President Trump, on the other hand, came across during his General Assembly speech as the serious teacher, seeking to bring some sense and discipline to what he once referred to as “just a club for people to get together, talk and have a good time.” The president reminded his audience of America’s unparalleled economic and military strength, rather than apologize for it as Obama so often did in front of foreign audiences.

Of particular note, Obama used his global platform at the UN General Assembly in 2012 to shamelessly declare that “the future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam.” Obama had more concern for the Islamists offended by an obscure anti-Muslim video than he did for the victims of terrorism. He refused to acknowledge the ideology that inspires and sanctions Jihad. President Trump, in contrast, used his global platform at the UN General Assembly to categorically declare that the United States “will stop radical Islamic terrorism because we cannot allow it to tear up our nation, and indeed to tear up the entire world.” The world must rally against “Islamist extremism,” he said, not wish it away or make excuses for it. In other words, the president named and labeled the ideology and movement now waging war on the Western world.

Trump Hits Home Run for America in UN Speech By Claudia Rosett

President Trump gave his first official speech to the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday morning, and was immediately berated by the New York Times (Trump’s “characteristically confrontational message”) and the Washington Post (“Trump’s menacing United Nations speech, annotated”). Sen. Dianne Feinstein lambasted him for words that “greatly escalated the danger” from Iran and North Korea. And the foreign minister of Venezuela’s socialist dictatorship, Jorge Arreaza — apparently trying to formulate some sort of supreme insult — compared Trump in 2017 to President Ronald Reagan in 1982.

With that kind of reaction, you might just start to suspect that Trump did something right.

Actually, Trump got it very right. In a forum accustomed to diplo-fictions and the dignifying of dictators, he hit a home run for America.

An important bit of context here is that while the procession of speeches at the UN General Assembly’s annual opening every September is officially dubbed the “General Debate,” it is not actually a debate. It is not as a rule a forum for to-and-fro, in which the fine points of policy are hashed out. As far as that happens, it goes on behind the scenes. The General Debate is a presentation of messages; a parade before the huge golden backdrop of the UN’s General Assembly chamber, in which for the better part of a week a series of senior envoys, ranging from heads of state to ministers, deliver remarks.

From many of the speakers, at a UN where the majority of the 193 member states are not free, it’s a performance rich in platitudes, prejudice and propaganda for consumption by captive populations back home — a polysyllabic porridge, in the UN tradition. What’s relatively rare is plain-spoken truth.

So, by UN standards, Trump’s speech certainly did not fit in. But by American standards, he told some extremely important truths, including his observation that “America does more than speak for the values expressed in the United Nations Charter. Our citizens have paid the ultimate price to defend our freedom and the freedom of many nations represented in this great hall.”

He spelled out, quite accurately, that “The scourge of our planet today is a small group of rogue regimes that violate every principle on which the United Nations is based.”

In particular, and in detail, Trump called out the rogue states of North Korea and Iran. He did not follow a script of pollysyllabic diplomatic enumerations of unacceptable activities. He reminded the UN members of Pyongyang’s “deadly abuse” of American student Otto Warmbier. He talked about North Korea’s kidnapping of a Japanese 13-year-old girl “to enslave her as a language tutor for North Korea’s spies.” And he cited “the assassination of the dictator’s brother using banned nerve agents in an international airport.”

He caused a stir, and inspired plenty of headlines, with his comments:

“The United States has great strength and patience, but if it is forced to defend itself or its allies, we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea. Rocket Man is on a suicide mission for himself and for his regime.”

That’s not bombast. That’s a pointed and useful warning to a totalitarian tyrant, who in contravention of nine UN sanctions resolutions and all basic decency has been threatening preemptive nuclear strikes on the U.S. and its allies, advertising the testing of hydrogen bombs and shooting intercontintal ballistic missiles over Japan. Let’s hope Kim Jong Un takes it seriously, despite decades of U.S. compromise and retreat that led to this pass.

As for the derision implicit in the label “Rocket Man,” I’d say that Trump in describing the murderous despot of North Korea displayed a distinct delicacy simply by avoiding the use of raw profanity from the UN podium. Would it have been better to deferentially describe Kim as the supreme leader of North Korea? Mockery has its uses in facing down despots. The confrontation here is of North Korea’s making — and the dangers have grown all the worse over the years for such nonconfrontational approaches as the nuclear deals of Presidents Bush and Clinton, and the do-nothing “strategic patience” of President Obama.

Another highlight was Trump’s bull’s-eye description of Iran. Again, it was rude by UN standards, but right on target for anyone interested in the truth:

“The Iranian government masks a corrupt dictatorship behind the false guise of a democracy. It has turned a wealthy country with a rich history and culture into an economically depleted rogue state whose chief exports are violence, bloodshed, and chaos.”

And then there was the superb moment in which Trump, talking about the miseries of Venezuela under the Maduro regime, said:

“The problem in Venezuela is not that socialism has been poorly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented. From the Soviet Union to Cuba to Venezuela, wherever true socialism or communism has been adopted, it has delivered anguish and devastation and failure.”

Those are words that deserve to be carved in stone, somewhere in the UN’s lavishly refurbished marble and granite halls. Come to think of it, they’d look good chiseled into the UN General Assembly podium.

Lest the assembled eminences had any doubt, Trump told them exactly where he stands: “As President of the United States, I will always put America first.” He said he expected them to do the same with their countries, but with the proviso that “All responsible leaders have an obligation to serve their own citizens.”

There was plenty more to his speech. We can now dicker over the precise policy implications of his phrase, “principled realism,” and debate what exactly Trump is going to do or should do, about North Korea and Iran. We can note that he got the date wrong on his trip to Saudi Arabia — it was this year, not last year. Plenty to discuss, and I’m sure the discussion will extend from now until at least the next round of Sunday TV talk shows.

But the bottom line is that for the first time in years, an American president went before the UN and in plain words spelled out some vital truths about America, the UN, and the world. Whatever the UN General Assembly might make of it, once it recovers from the shock, that’s a good thing for the world, and a very good thing for America.

A Jacksonian speech in Turtle Bay By Rich Lowry

As someone said on Twitter, never before has been there so much murmuring of “holy sh**” in so many different languages. Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations was a sometimes awkward marriage of conventional Republican foreign policy and a very basic version of Trump’s nationalism.

The headline obviously was the threat to destroy North Korea if we are forced to defend ourselves. If the point of the speech was to get the world to take notice, this surely succeeded. But it’s still an open question of what exactly the administration’s North Korea policy is — a rhetorically forceful version of the usual hope that we can get China to pressure North Korea and eventually sit down to negotiate again with Pyongyang, or something different?

Also, Trump called the Iran nuclear deal an embarrassment to our country, which is a pretty strong indication that he wants to get out of the agreement and probably will (even if this continues to be an internal battle in the administration).

It’s very safe to say that the reference to Kim Jong-un as “rocket man” aside (which will occasion twelve hours of intense cable debate), we’ve never heard such direct, undiplomatic language from a U.S. president at Turtle Bay.

In general, Trump defended the American-created and -defended world order, but he did it on his own terms. He emphasized the importance of sovereign nation-states and said we should accept their different cultures and interests. This is fine as far as it goes. In his version of post-war history, however, Trump gives short shrift to how important a vision of liberal democracy was to the United States. And there was a tension between his avowal to accept the ways of other nation-states and his (appropriately) excoriating attacks on the political and economic systems of North Korea, Iran, Syria, and Venezuela. Indeed, George W. Bush could have spoken in exactly the same terms about those rogue regimes, if with more elevated rhetoric.

All things considered and given the alternatives, it was a fine speech. It wasn’t really an “America First” speech — it defended the world order and even had warm words for the Marshall Plan — but in its signature lines about North Korea, it was thematically a very Jacksonian speech. What exactly this means in terms of policy remains to be seen. But everyone is paying attention, if they weren’t before.

Nationalism without isolationism: Trump’s UN triumph By Benny Avni

For 50 minutes on Tuesday, President Trump dazzled, and appalled, UN denizens in a speech that was the most detailed and reasoned defense to date of his “America First” ideology. The nationalism was still there, but any hint of isolationism was absent.

If “Rocket Man” Kim Jong-un refuses to end his missile and nuclear programs and keeps up his “suicide mission,” Trump said, and if countries fail to isolate him despite the UN’s own resolutions, America “will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.”

And he didn’t shy away from attacking several other sacred cows of Turtle Bay. He chastised the UN bureaucracy and hinted America won’t continue blindly pouring cash into it. He asked other countries to shoulder more responsibility in maintaining global peace and prosperity.

And then there was this: The nuclear deal with Iran is “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” Trump said. “Frankly, that deal is an embarrassment to the United States, and I don’t think you’ve heard the last of it — believe me.”

The usual suspects were appalled. “It was the wrong speech, at the wrong time, to the wrong audience,” Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom told the BBC.

In reality, it was a more-refined and a better-reasoned version of the worldview Trump’s been proclaiming since the campaign. It was a defense of the role national interests play in facilitating global cooperation.

He talked about three principles — “sovereignty, security and prosperity.” But the speech might as well have been titled “sovereignty, sovereignty and sovereignty.”

The word appeared in the speech 19 times. Trump also mentioned “patriotism” and, of course, he vowed, “As president of the United States, I will always put America first, just like you, as the leaders of your countries will always, and should always, put your countries first.”

Trump Takes Agenda of Change to the United Nations President softens criticism, but urges world body to ‘focus more on people and less on bureaucracy’By Farnaz Fassihi and Eli Stokols

UNITED NATIONS—President Donald Trump called on the United Nations to “focus more on people and less on bureaucracy,” in comments during a meeting of international officials as the annual General Assembly gathering got under way.

Mr. Trump reiterated his campaign criticism that the U.N. wasn’t living up to its potential, but did so in softer terms than he previously has used, sticking with his prepared remarks about the need to reduce bureaucracy and curb mismanagement.

The “ways of the past,” he said, are “not working.”
The president thanked U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres, who sat beside him, for his openness to changes in U.N. structure and operations. And he said the cost burdens of supporting the institution, which Mr. Trump has argued fall too heavily on the U.S., must be more equally distributed.

“We must ensure that no one and no member state shoulders a disproportionate share of the burden, and that’s militarily and financially,” Mr. Trump said.

The U.S.-hosted event lasted less than an hour and attendees, senior officials from over 100 countries, didn’t interact much with Mr. Trump or offer input on the agenda. Messrs. Trump and Guterres and U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley each delivered short remarks.

The United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York this week will be dominated by international concern about North Korea after the country fired a missile over Japan again last week. WSJ’s Gerald F. Seib tells us what to watch out for during the meetings. Photo: Getty

The president’s comments came a day before his highly anticipated official speech at the General Assembly, where Mr.Trump is expected to address broader policy themes including terrorism, the standoff with North Korea and the future of the Iran nuclear deal.

Why Trump Is Right and the Experts Are Still Wrong about the Iran Deal Iran is technically in compliance with its weak terms, which tells us why the deal was a historic blunder. By Jonathan S. Tobin

The experts all agree. They are very nervous about the Trump administration’s continued dithering about whether it will again certify Iran’s compliance in the nuclear deal. As the New York Times helpfully pointed out in an article about a joint letter signed by what we are told is a list of 80 of the world’s leading authorities on nuclear nonproliferation, the experts believe that Trump’s inclination to ditch the deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA) has nothing to do with “the merits” of the question.

Much of his national-security team reportedly seeks to persuade Trump to keep the deal, despite his publicly expressed belief that it is a mistake. But the letter from the experts should make him doubly suspicious of their arguments.

Among the many factors that led to Trump’s unexpected victory last November was a deep and abiding skepticism among many voters about the wisdom of experts. To his supporters, Trump, the ultimate non-expert on most policy issues, had the savvy to do the right thing even on topics to which neither he nor they had ever previously given much serious thought. While that cynicism is not always wise, the groupthink in the foreign-policy establishment and among nonproliferation professionals is proof that Trump’s instincts are not always wrong.

Like the International Atomic Energy Agency and the other five nations that signed the JCPOA, the 80 experts say that Iran has been complying with its terms. They worry that ditching the deal because of “unsupported contentions of Iranian cheating” would cancel out the deal’s main achievement, which is “reducing the risk” of Tehran’s getting a bomb. They insist that whatever complaints the U.S. might have about Iranian behavior since the deal went into effect are irrelevant because the whole point of the negotiation was to focus solely on the nuclear-proliferation issue and nothing else. They predict that a Trump decision to blow up the deal will only lead to Iran’s resuming nuclear activity and will make it impossible for the international community to do anything about it.

Trump should ignore their arguments and those inside the administration who are echoing them. It’s wise to have some skepticism about experts’ opinions; their consensus can have little to do with achieving the goals they’re tasked with accomplishing. But the problem is not only that the deal was a bad one. It’s also that plenty of experts place more value on diplomacy per se — getting a piece of paper signed and then defending its value — than on the conviction that diplomacy will stop Iran from getting a bomb.

The agencies that monitor the deal all agree that Iran has kept to its terms. But their certification of Iran’s compliance vindicates Obama’ critics, who warned that once in the deal was in place, the signatories’ desire to preserve it would lead them to ignore a host of small violations. Over the past three years, the IAEA and Washington have routinely ignored reports about a variety of problems, including obstruction of inspections, illegal attempts to purchase nuclear and missile technology, and exceeding the limits on uranium enrichment and production of heavy water.

Viewed in isolation, each violation is insufficient to justify threatening Iran with new sanctions or an end to the deal. So the signatories ignore or rationalize the infractions. In the negotiations that led to the deal, Obama and the secretary of state jettisoned their demand that Iran end its nuclear program and stop advanced nuclear research, and that it concede it had no right to enrich uranium, They always saw getting an agreement on any terms as more important than the details. The same applies to keeping it in place despite multiple violations.

That’s why the arms-control community wound up endorsing a deal that did not put an end to the Iranian threat; at best, it kicked the can down the road for a few years on proliferation.