During the campaign, Trump pledged to “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran.” Should he fulfill that pledge, the best means of ensuring Iran cannot obtain nuclear weapons would be gone, and the dangerous and counterproductive alternative of bombing Iran’s nuclear facilities would be hailed by some as the necessary next step. While Netanyahu probably stopped short of asking Trump to abandon the agreement outright, he may have pushed for further sanctions against Iran that could ultimately serve to unravel the deal.
That may be the point.
Michael Rubin, a resident scholar at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute (AEI), was quoted in the Washington Post last month as saying, “What’d I’d like to see is them [the Trump administration] going along with the deal, but subtly antagonizing the Iranians enough so the Iranians want to scrap it… More non-nuclear sanctions. Pushing the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] to inspect more. We can force them to be the ones to pull the trigger.” The subtext of this shameless strategy, a strategy shared and expressed by other conservative foreign policy operatives, is to create a situation in which the administration can argue that Iran is to blame for the agreement’s collapse, effectively creating a false pretense for war.
Congress, for its part, seems to have gotten that memo. Since the convening of the 115th Congress, at least three separate bills have been introduced that would impose new non-nuclear sanctions on Iran. The signing of any of these bills into law could violate the nuclear agreement, and would likely be perceived that way by Iran even if the letter of the agreement were followed. While the bills have yet to pick up steam, they certainly could if Congressional leadership got behind them. That may be why Netanyahu’s trip includes meetings with Congressional leaders on both sides of the isle.