Trump accuses China of sabotaging North Korea ‘deal’

Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un made a fairly vague agreement in Singapore a month ago.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has just visited North Korea and the outcome of that meeting looks shaky, despite Pompeo’s positive report:

“We had many hours of productive conversations. These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues. Some places a great deal of progress. Other places, there’s still more work to be done.”

See North Korean denuclearisation talks with US Secretary of State – “regrettable”. It has also been reported that North Korea accused Pompeo of acting like a gangster.

Since then Trump has tried to blame China, and added trade to the mix of rhetoric.

Republican Senator Lindsey Graham has also accused China of interfering: China Sabotaging North Korea Nuclear Talks Over Tariff Trade War

SEN. LINDSEY GRAHAM (R-SC), SENATE ARMED SERVICES COMMITTEE: I see China’s hands all over this. We are in a fight with China. We buy $500 billion worth of goods from the Chinese. They buy $100 billion from us. They cheat and President Trump wants to change the economic relationship with China.

So, if I were President Trump, I would not let China use North Korea to back me off of the trade dispute. We’ve got more bullets than they do when it comes to trade. We sell them $100 billion, they sell is $500 billion, we can hurt them more than they will hurt us. And all we’re looking for is for them to stop cheating when it comes to trade.

There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s the Chinese pulling a North Koreans back. And to our North Korean friends, can’t say the word friend yet. You asked Pompeo, did he sleep well? If you knew what I knew about what we could do to the leadership of North Korea, you wouldn’t sleep very well.

Threatening words from Graham on top of Trump’s Twitter bombast.

China and North Korea border each other and have been closely connected politically for a long time. China supported the north in the Korean war in the 1950s.

Kim visited China before his summit with Trump, and he has been back to China since.

So of course China has some sort of influence in North Korea. Are they “exerting negative pressure”? I guess that depends what side of the political and international fence you are on.

Threatening “more bullets” in the escalating trade war with China and threatening “If you knew what I knew about what we could do to the leadership of North Korea, you wouldn’t sleep very well” could be  interpreted as a bit of negative pressure too.

I just hope trade and military relations don’t go into a negative spiral that ends up in a crash and burn.

North Korean denuclearisation talks with US Secretary of State – “regrettable”

After a meeting in North Korea with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo commitments for denuclearisation look shaky.

Reuters:  North Korea says resolve for denuclearisation may falter after talks with U.S.

North Korea said on Saturday its “firm, steadfast” resolve to give up its nuclear programs may falter after the United States demanded unilateral denuclearisation during two days of talks in Pyongyang, state media said.

The North’s official KCNA news agency said the result of talks with the delegation headed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was “extremely troubling,” accusing it of insisting on complete, verifiable and irreversible denuclearisation.

Fox News: North Korea says denuclearization talks with Pompeo ‘regrettable’:

North Korea on Saturday accused the U.S. of undermining the spirit of last month’s summit between President Trump and Kim Jong Un after what it says were “regrettable” talks with a delegation led by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

A statement by the North Korean Foreign Ministry, accusing the U.S. of trying to unilaterally pressure the country into abandoning its nuclear weapons, came shortly after Pompeo’s delegation left the country.

“We had expected that the U.S. side would offer constructive measures that would help build trust based on the spirit of the leaders’ summit … we were also thinking about providing reciprocal measures,” Pyongyang’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.

“However, the attitude and stance the United States showed in the first high-level meeting (between the countries) was no doubt regrettable,” the spokesman said.

Pompeo seemed to think things had gone well, or at least that’s what he claimed.

Pompeo had struck a different tone, telling reporters as he left that the talks with senior North Korean official Kim Yong Chol had been “productive.”

“We had many hours of productive conversations,” he said. “These are complicated issues, but we made progress on almost all of the central issues. Some places a great deal of progress. Other places, there’s still more work to be done.”

I doubt that many people will be surprised with difficulties in progress towards Korean denuclearisation.

It looks like more negotiation  will be required, if not more threats and bluster.

US officials claim North Korea increasing nuclear production

Lost in translation?

Despite apparent assurances by Kim Yong Un at the Singapore summit, and confidence expressed by Donald Trump that North Korea will denuclearize, US officials claim that North Korea has been improving secret nuclear facilities and  increasing it’s production of nuclear fuel.

The Hill: Satellite images raise alarms about North Korean nukes

Satellite images showing North Korea making substantial improvements to one of its nuclear research facilities are raising alarms that the government has little interest in actually giving up its nuclear arsenal.

Just two weeks after President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a deal committing the U.S. to security guarantees in exchange for North Korea denuclearizing, satellite images show the country making “rapid” improvements to its Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center, according to 38 North, which monitors the country.

“There is no way North Korea will ever give up its nuclear weapons — ever,” said Harry Kazianis, director of The Center for the National Interest think tank, in response to the latest news.

He argued that the latest satellite imagery is evidence that North Korea has no intention of giving up its nuclear program, which it has long seen as key to its survival.

“Since the summit we have learned that North Korea is looking for one thing only from the Trump administration: nuclear acceptance, not disarmament,” Kazianis said.

NBC News: North Korea has increased nuclear production at secret sites, say U.S. officials

U.S. intelligence agencies believe that North Korea has increased its production of fuel for nuclear weapons at multiple secret sites in recent months — and that Kim Jong Un may try to hide those facilities as he seeks more concessions in nuclear talks with the Trump administration, U.S. officials told NBC News.

The intelligence assessment, which has not previously been reported, seems to counter the sentiments expressed by President Donald Trump, who tweeted after his historic June 12 summit with Kim that “there was no longer a nuclear threat from North Korea.”

Analysts at the CIA and other intelligence agencies don’t see it that way, according to more than a dozen American officials who are familiar with their assessments and spoke on the condition of anonymity. They see a regime positioning itself to extract every concession it can from the Trump administration — while clinging to nuclear weapons it believes are essential to survival.

NBC on 12 June 2018: Trump, Kim sign agreement after North Korea summit; war games put on hold

President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un signed a joint statement Tuesday agreeing to pursue the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

The pact came at the end of a historic half-day round of negotiations that marked the first time a sitting U.S. president had met with his North Korean counterpart.

“From the beginning, we got along,” Trump later told reporters.

The president said the pair had “developed a very special bond,” describing Kim as “a very talented man.”

Trump said his meeting with Kim was “honest, direct and productive.”

Earlier, Trump said the agreement would “absolutely” lead to the denuclearization of North Korea — and “very quickly.”

“We had a historic meeting and decided to leave the past behind and sign a historic document,” Kim said through a translator. “The world will see a major change.”

North Korea being unreliable is not a change at all.

The seem to have very quickly resumed nuclear production despite the vague agreement made with the US and despite Trump’s optimism.

Image result for cartoon kim trump

 

Is Trump experienced or expert enough to stuff things up more?

President Donald Trump is having some successes and some things are going his way, but he also looks like an incompetent disaster waiting to happen. But despite his obvious inexperience and lack of expertise, is their much risk of him stuffing things up any more than past US administrations?

The US has made a mess of many things over the last half century and more – the Korean war was in the 1950s and still isn’t resolved. Cuba, Vietnam, Grenada, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Russia…

Mathew J. Petersen at Intellectual Takeout: Thank God Trump Isn’t a Foreign Policy Expert


What Trump Lacks
In fact, many on the Right and Left over the past two years have suggested their main worry about Donald Trump is the fact he now represents America to the rest of the world and will cause a devastating disaster, nuclear or otherwise.

I propose some simple, evaluative questions and a thought experiment to set the minds of the nation at ease the morning after the most significant moment of the Trump presidency.

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to give away as much to North Korea as the American foreign-policy establishment, with all its experience, top-shelf degrees, and stratospheric test scores, has given away in the past 30 years?

Does Donald Trump have enough experience and expert wisdom to keep the hostile stalemate the American foreign-policy establishment created and fostered with North Korea since America first waged the Korean War?

For that matter, does Trump even have the experience and caste of mind to start a war, say, in the Middle East, that costs trillions of dollars and disrupts and inflames the region as President Bush and his entourage did? Does he even know how?

Does Trump have the expertise to take over the wreckage of such a war and support jihadist rebels, help create ISIS and a global refugee crisis, and give Russia the most power it’s had in the region since the peak of the Cold War, like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton did?

The truth may alarm you. Trump has never even started a war before—not even a little one.

Trump is such an ignoramus, forget war—for decades the uniparty American foreign policy establishment’s most basic solution to problems overseas has been to supply the gift of training and weapons to people in other countries who then end up becoming terrorists or some other version of our worst nightmare. That’s an inside the beltway American tradition, for Democrats and Republicans alike.

Does Trump even know this?

Departing from “the Norm”

There’s sure as hell no way Trump knows yet how to meet with a foreign dictator like Kim Jong-un and come to an agreement that ultimately doesn’t change anything or makes things worse, like all our sane and competent leaders have been doing since the Cold War ended. Thus, we should indeed all consider the possibility that Trump might somehow be different.

Assuming North Korea has some desire to reform itself—admittedly, the very assumption we are now testing—the biggest obstacle to peace on the Korean Peninsula is the disastrous legacy of Hillary-Obama foreign policy, which mimics decades of earlier, similar American failures.

Regardless of the spin on both sides, remember: whatever the ultimate result of the Singapore summit, it will not be determined, as it has been in the past, by the slow-moving, Byzantine maneuvers of the foreign-policy expert class, the members of which Michael Anton aptly calls “priests” in “America and the Liberal International Order.” This priest class has tried to make a science of “international relations” that somehow abstracts from prudence and the plain old study of human nature, history, and politics.

Trump upended their order. What matters now is the result of two men in a room, representing their respective people, sizing each other up, and speaking directly to one another.


There is no guarantee this will work any better (or less worse) than past military and diplomatic attempts, and there will almost certainly be some negatives to the inexpert bluster of Trump, but he doesn’t need to achieve much to improve on past efforts.

Ok, there is a risk that Trump will blunder bigly and something really crappy will happen in Korea, the Middle East or with Russia, or somewhere else the US has been involved or decides to interfere, but those risks were there under past presidents too.

In shaking the old norms up Trump may create chaos, but out of that we may end up with a better world. May.

Trump follows up summit with pledge to end military exercises

Donald Trump has followed up a promising but fairly sparse statement from his summit with Kim Yong Un – see Joint statement of Trump and Kim – ‘work toward complete denuclearization’ – with an offer to end military exercises in South Korea.

Reuters: Trump offers to end Korea war games after historic Kim summit

Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un held a largely symbolic summit on Tuesday, and the U.S. president offered an unexpected concession to the North, saying he would halt joint military exercises with South Korea.

The two men smiled and shook hands before pledging at their historic summit to work toward the “denuclearization” of the Korean Peninsula. The United States promised its Cold War foe security guarantees.

The meeting in Singapore, the first between a sitting U.S. president and a North Korean leader, was in stark contrast to a flurry of North Korean nuclear and missile tests and angry exchanges of insults between Trump and Kim last year that fueled global worries about war.

But in a joint statement afterward, the two men offered few specifics about the relationship would evolve.

At a news conference later, Trump made a surprise announcement that was sure to rattle South Korea and Japan, which rely on a U.S. security umbrella, saying he would halt the regular military exercises the United States holds with South Korea because they were expensive and “very provocative”. North Korea has long sought an end to the exercises.

That’s a useful concession from Trump, and a promising message that he wants to move forward with resolving tensions in Korea.

But there is still a lot of uncertainty at how this may play out.

The Trump administration said repeatedly before the summit that Washington was seeking steps by North Korea toward complete, verifiable and irreversible dismantling of a nuclear program that is advanced enough to pose a threat to the United States.

Several experts said the meeting failed to secure any concrete commitments by Pyongyang toward this. The statement also did not refer to human rights in one of the world’s most repressive nations.

It didn’t say anything about human rights in the US, nor in Guantanamo, nor in countries that the US is involved in militarily

Trump said at the news conference he expected the denuclearization process to start “very, very quickly” and it would be verified by “having a lot of people in North Korea”. He said Kim had announced that North Korea was destroying a major missile engine-testing site, but sanctions on North Korea would stay in place for now.

So progress perhaps, but a long way to go.

Another point on all of this – a lot is being made of grand statements like ‘peace in our time’ – but there was no actual war going on in Korea, apart from wars of words and military posturing. There was an uneasy peace, and it may be enhanced by what Trump, Kim (and South Korea and China) are doing, but it is hardly like a cessation of war.

If Trump really wants to earn credit for achieving peace he should try the Middle East – where his moving of the US embassy in Israel did the opposite.

North Korea denuclearization could take many years

Talks between US and North Korea leaders Donald Trump and Kim Yong-un are currently on again, and may happen next month, but denuclearization could take many years according to an expert who has toured North Korea’s nuclear plants, Siegfried S. Hecker.

NY Times North Korea Nuclear Disarmament Could Take 15 Years, Expert Warns

As the Trump administration races to start talks with North Korea on what it calls “rapid denuclearization,” a top federal government adviser who has repeatedly visited the North’s sprawling atomic complex is warning that the disarmament process could take far longer, up to 15 years.

The adviser, Siegfried S. Hecker, a former director of the Los Alamos weapons laboratory in New Mexico, and now a Stanford professor, argues that the best the United States can hope for is a phased denuclearization that goes after the most dangerous parts of the North’s program first.

Dr. Hecker’s time frame stands in stark contrast with what the United States initially demanded, on what could be a key sticking point in any summit meeting between President Trump and Kim Jong-un, the North Korean leader.

Center for International Security and Cooperation Stanford University:  A technically-informed roadmap for North Korea’s denuclearization

– Our history study shows that North Korea’s nuclear development has been deliberate and determined, and not primarily predicated on cycles of provocations, appeasement and reversals. Diplomacy has several times slowed or even reversed the program, but never eliminated it. There has been and continues to be a huge trust deficit between the two sides that will almost certainly compel Pyongyang to hedge its bets in any agreed path forward – as it did multiple times over the past 26 years.

– Our experience in dealing with the North has also taught us that retaining a civilian nuclear program and a peaceful space program are of great importance to the North – both for technical and symbolic reasons. Over the past 17 years, the US has considered such civilian activities as covers for military ambitions and has consistently denied these, fearing that such activities would support the North’s military programs. However, this type of risk avoidance instead of risk management has led to several missed opportunities to halt and/or reverse the military programs.

– …we propose a phased risk management approach to denuclearization…The mosaic is meant to provide an overall sense of what’s manageable and what must be eliminated. The phases constitute what might be possible during the first year, the “halt” stage, in years 2 to 5, the “roll back” stage, and in years 6 to 10, the “eliminate” stage. The details are shown in a subsequent chart. Political development will, of course, determine whether or not that time frame can be shortened or lengthened.

– The approach suggested here is based on our belief that North Korea will not give up its weapons and its weapons program until its security can be assured. Such assurance cannot be achieved simply by an American promise or an agreement on paper, it will require a substantial period of coexistence and interdependence

Trump promises and US agreements on paper under Trump’s leadership are not secure assurances. Trump dumped the TPP Agreement (before the US ratified it), forced a renogotiation of NAFTA, withdrew the US from the Paris climate agreement, and withdrew the US from the Iran nuclear agreement.

And Trump seems to shift his position at whim – this may be the art of his business dealing, but it leaves substantial uncertainty in international affairs.

Trump has set expectations of a an immediate denuclearization if he is to do a deal – a deal that on the surface seems very one sided. He may need to compromise if he is to reach any sort of long term deal.

 

Trump scraps summit with North Korea’s Kim

Rancid rhetoric has resumed between the USA and North Korea. Statements between the two countries had put the planned summit between Donald Trump and Kim Yong Un on notice, and it didn’t taake loing for Trump warnings to escalate into him withdrawing from plans to have the meeting.

Reuters: Trump scraps North Korea summit, warns Kim that military ready

U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday called off a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un scheduled for next month, citing Pyongyang’s “open hostility,” and warned that the U.S. military was ready in the event of any reckless acts by North Korea.

Trump wrote a letter to Kim to announce his abrupt withdrawal from what would have been a first-ever meeting between a serving U.S. president and a North Korean leader in Singapore on June 12.

“Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it would be inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting. Please let this letter serve to represent that the Singapore summit, for the good of both parties, but to the detriment of the world, will not take place.”

North Korea had just symbolically demolished what they said was a nuclear test site.

Trump canceled the summit a few hours after North Korea followed through on a pledge to blow up tunnels at its main nuclear test site, which Pyongyang said was proof of its commitment to end nuclear testing.

A small group of international media selected by North Korea witnessed the demolition of tunnels at the Punggye-ri site on Thursday.

The apparent destruction of what North Korea said was its only nuclear test site had been widely welcomed as a positive, if largely symbolic, step toward resolving tension over its weapons. Kim has declared his nuclear force complete, amid speculation the site was obsolete anyway.

But they had already threatened to withdraw from the talks.

Earlier on Thursday, North Korea had repeated its threat to pull out of the summit, which was intended to address concerns about its nuclear weapons program, and warned it was prepared for a nuclear showdown with Washington if necessary.

Trump had also been making threats of withdrawal, and Vice President Mike Pence had stirred things up an already messy lead up to the summit.

Washington Post: How Kim-Trump tensions escalated: The more the U.S. said ‘Libya,’ the angrier North Korea got

“As a person involved in the U.S. affairs, I cannot suppress my surprise at such ignorant and stupid remarks gushing out from the mouth of the U.S. vice president,” Choe Son Hui, a North Korean vice foreign minister, had said hours earlier.

The remarks came after Pence brought up Libya as an example of North Korea’s possible fate in a Fox News interview Monday, even though similar comments by Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, and Trump himself had previously drawn ire in Pyongyang.

“As the president made clear, this will only end like the Libyan model ended if Kim Jong Un doesn’t make a deal,” Pence told Fox News. Using almost the same words, Trump stressed last week that the example of Libya showed “what will take place if we don’t make a deal.”

One could almost think that the US was deliberately provoking North Korea on an ongoing basis. Did trump want olut of the meeting, but wanted to blame the breakdown in peace talks on North Korea?

Both were referring to the capture and killing of former Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi by rebel forces in 2011. The references were apparently meant as a warning to North Korea to give up its nuclear weapons.

But a closer look at history reveals that Libya may be the worst example Pence or Trump could have chosen — and could have contributed to the renewed escalation of tensions in recent days. The North African nation chose to voluntarily give up its nuclear weapons program in 2003 and to comply with Western conditions — but the United States and Europe later helped topple the Gaddafi regime anyway.

So Libya was a very stupid threat to keep making.

Trump may have slipped out of contention for a Nobel Peace prize. He has just said that the US is ready for any military action – Reuters:

In a statement at the White House, Trump said he was still open to dialogue but had spoken to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and warned North Korea against any “reckless act.” He said the U.S. military was the most powerful in the word and was ready if necessary.

Trump is acting at least as recklessly. Threatening nuclear war is a particularly stupid risk.

North Korea far from a done deal

The celebrations about peace and harmony in Korea was a bit premature.

On May 9th, Trump was asked if he thought that he deserved the Nobel Peace Prize because of his North Korea diplomacy. “Everyone thinks so, but I would never say it”.

North and South Korea have been working together despite Trump’s undiplomatic approach, although the US has contributed through the visit of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo who was trying to set up the May meeting between Trump and Kim Yong Un.

But Kim may have thrown a spanner in the works. Nobel may have to put their considerations on hold.

New Yorker: Just How Fragile Is Trump’s North Korea Diplomacy?

The new diplomacy is still fragile. In a surprise announcement, North Korea indefinitely suspended the second round of talks between senior officials from the two Koreas—due to be held at the D.M.Z. on Wednesday. It blamed joint military exercises between South Korean and U.S. military forces. Pyongyang viewed the operation as “a flagrant challenge to the Panmunjom Declaration and an intentional military provocation running counter to the positive political development on the Korean Peninsula,” North Korea’s state-run Central News Agency reported.

The Trump Administration was totally blindsided by the move, just five days after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo returned from his second round of talks with Kim to prepare for the Trump summit. Kim had even told Pompeo that he understood the “need and utility” of continued exercises between two countries with which North Korea is still technically at war, the State Department told reporters. The White House scrambled to clarify and respond.

The impending summit was technically designed to discuss “denuclearization”—a term first used, in 1992, to get around talk of “disarmament,” which North Korea feared would make it sound more vulnerable in a volatile neighborhood. Over the weekend, however, the Trump Administration declared that more than North Korea’s nuclear arsenal will be negotiated in Singapore.

“Denuclearization is absolutely at the core of it, and it means not just the nuclear weapons,” the national-security adviser, John Bolton, told ABC on Sunday. “North Korea’s previously agreed, several times, in fact, to give up its uranium-enrichment and plutonium-reprocessing capabilities. We’ve got the ballistic-missile issues on the table. We’ve got to look at chemical and biological weapons.”

After their meeting last week, Pompeo said that Kim fully understood that the U.S. goal is complete denuclearization. In public, however, North Korea has been ambiguous, at best.

South Koreans know that the Singapore summit is the riskiest U.S. initiative ever undertaken.

And premature celebrations and accolades added to the risks.

In Seoul and along the D.M.Z., South Koreans—both supporters and skeptics of the new diplomacy—told me that they don’t care much about Trump’s motive, as long as it refocusses his energies through the rest of his Presidency. Just six months ago, inflammatory rhetoric threatened to end a truce that has been in place since 1953.

The noisy belligerence produced drastic predictions of a conflagration far costlier than the first Korean War. It could easily produce a quarter-million deaths in Seoul—a city of ten million people just ninety minutes from the D.M.Z.—and a million casualties in all of South Korea, military experts told me. North Korea would almost certainly be harder hit.

The risks of it all turning to custard must still be high, especially if the US pushes too hard and keeps making tough talk public statements.

Another complication is the US walking out of the Iran deal. North Korea would be justified in being sceptical of the strength of any deal with the US – and with Trump, who has dumped on other US deals as well, like the TPPA and NAFTA.

For now, all’s quiet on the northern front. My first stop near the D.M.Z. was an amusement park at the edge of the restricted area that offered kiddie rides. A small shopping mall had a Popeyes and a Sam’s Bagels as well as Korean food outlets. South Korean families were out enjoying the spring sunshine and the tentative peace. At souvenir shops, I bought kitsch D.M.Z. T-shirts and framed pieces of barbed wire cut from the frontier, reminiscent of scraps once sold of the Berlin Wall.

One of my final stops was at the observation post near Paju, where some of the fiercest battles of the Korean War raged. I peered through big binoculars, grounded on posts, at spooky Peace Village, on the other side of the D.M.Z. It’s often referred to as Propaganda Village. It appeared modern, with concrete apartment blocks and buildings and roads. But it is reportedly a shell that provides an illusion of life—largely motionless, like the nearby statue of the country’s first leader.

The sign atop the observation post declared “End of Separation, Beginning of Unification.”

As I left, I thought how it will take big and bold and tangible diplomacy by the American and Korean leaders—a lot more than turning off the propaganda loudspeakers or blowing up a tunnel of doubtful use—to really insure that the D.M.Z. is permanently silent.

It may also take a rethink of Trump/US diplomacy, or lack thereof.

As well as a rethink of what may be worth of a Nobel Peace prize.

 

Dismantling nuclear test site “a very smart and gracious gesture”

A more conciliatory tone from Donald Trump.

North Korea has announced that they will dismantle Nuclear Test Site this month, ahead of the big Summit Meeting on June 12th. Thank you, a very smart and gracious gesture!

Whether North Korea would have done this with or without Trump’s threats and ridicule this is promising, he may consider negotiating something worthwhile. However he should be cautious about Kim Yong Un’s intent.

But Trump continues his rhetoric against Iran:

Iran’s Military Budget is up more than 40% since the Obama negotiated Nuclear Deal was reached…just another indicator that it was all a big lie. But not anymore!

On it’s own this statement is nonsense. An increased military indicates more military spending, and could have been non-nuclear spending to strengthen their traditional military power in a switch from nuclear.

And have they increased their spending by 40%? I don’t trust any tweeted claim from Trump, he has a history of making things up and making misleading claims.

In fact NY times debunks this claim, saying it just repeats a false claim made by Benjamin Netanyahu: 5 Claims From Trump’s Speech on Iran Deal That Are Misleading or Need Context

The Iran deal was reached in June 2015, but went into effect in early 2016, when the United States and European nations lifted sanctions. Since then, Iran’s military spending has increased by about 30 percent, from $10.8 billion in 2015 to $14.1 billion last year, adjusted for inflation, according to data from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute.

The Congressional Research Service has estimated that Iran’s defense budget was about 3 percent of the gross domestic product, or $15 billion, in 2015 and about 4 percent of G.D.P., or $20 billion, in 2018.

Mr. Trump is referring to documents shared by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.

And a week ago Barack Obama pointed out a huge difference between Iranian and US military spending:

“Iran’s defense budget is $30 billion. Our defense budget is closer to $600 billion.”

Politifact: Iran spends $30 billion on defense; U.S. about $600 billion

For the Defense Department alone, the Congressional Budget Office’s summary of the budget bill passed last December shows $520 billion in outlays with another $64 billion (good for two years) to cover overseas contingency operations, such as fighting the Islamic State group. That yields a total of $584 billion.

Laicie Heeley is policy director at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation. By Heeley’s tally, after you add in $19 billion for nuclear weapons and $7.5 billion in other departments, the total comes to $621 billion.

But Obama may have been too high on Iran’s military spending.

We found several estimates of Iran’s military spending. The Congressional Research Service said the country spends about 3 percent of its GDP, which translates into about $11 billion. Reuters reported that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani plans to spend 282 trillion rials on defense. At the current exchange rate, that equals about $10 billion. The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute database has a similar figure.

The highest estimate we found came from the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, a Washington think tank and advocacy group. It put Iran’s total spending at $17.7 billion in 2013.

Iran may well have increased their military spending over the last few years, in part to fund their support of the government in the Syrian civil war, and in part to build their conventional military strength to build their strengthen after shelving their nuclear weapon development (if they have done this).

Last year Trump bragged about ‘historic’ increases in US military spending, another questionable claim. Trump’s Defense Increase ‘Historic’?

President Donald Trump told the nation’s governors that his first budget would include “a historic increase in defense spending.”

Trump, Feb. 27: This budget will be a public safety and national security budget, very much based on those two with plenty of other things but very strong. And it will include a historic increase in defense spending to rebuild the depleted military of the United States of America at a time we most need it.

But defense experts say that’s not the case.

For fiscal year 2018, Trump has proposed a 9.4 percent increase in the base defense budget, which does not including war funding. But Presidents Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan enacted double-digit increases in base defense spending in five years in the 1980s — including a whopping 25 percent increase in fiscal 1981.

On Feb. 27, White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Trump’s first proposed budget would contain $603 billion in defense discretionary spending for fiscal year 2018, which begins Oct. 1.

An 11% increase to about $600 billion is still a huge increase in military spending.

I am sceptical of claims by Iran, North Korea and Trump.

 

Trump’s ‘tough’ talk raises risks with Iran

Donald Trump, no doubt with confidence after believing his tough talk on North Korea has achieved amazing results, is trying tough talk against Iran as well. But as with North Korea it is a high risk approach, with a real risk of war if things go wrong.

USA Today – Trump: Killing Iran nuclear deal will send ‘right message’ to North Korea ahead of talks

President Trump linked his threats to kill the Iran nuclear agreement with his hopes to strike a deal with North Korea deal on Monday, saying Kim Jong Un should know that the U.S. will walk away if it doesn’t think its partners are committed to compliance.

 “I think it sends the right message,” Trump told reporters at the White House.

Again attacking the “horrible” deal with the Obama administration struck with Iran, Trump said that “in seven years that deal will have expired, and Iran is free to go ahead and create nuclear weapons. That’s not acceptable.”

Trump, who faces a May 12 deadline on whether or not to certify the Iran deal, said he is still open to negotiating a new agreement. He also cited claims by the Israeli government that Iran is cheating on the agreement by pursuing nuclear weapons in spite of their pledge not to do so.

“I’m not telling you what I’m doing, but a lot of people think they know,” Trump said. “And, on or before the 12th, we’ll make a decision.”

Trump spoke about Iran and North Korea on the same day he said he may be willing to meet with Kim at the demilitarized zone on the North-South Korea border, with a date to be determined.

In past weeks, Trump and aides have said that both Iran and North Korea should know that they are willing to walk away from any high-level agreement if they do not believe the other side is acting in good faith.

If either Iran or North Korea don’t think Trump is acting in good faith things could work out badly too.

Reuters Commentary: How bullying Iran could backfire for Trump

Benjamin Netanyahu has accused Iran of lying “big time” about its nuclear program. In a theatrical announcement Monday, the Israeli prime minister presented files and CDs that he claimed show Tehran hid secret nuclear plans after signing the multinational 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) agreement.

In response to Netanyahu, Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif declared in a tweet: “The boy who can’t stop crying wolf is at it again.” As I carefully documented in my book, Israeli officials have since 1992 continuously attempted to convince the international community that Iran is developing nuclear weapons – all while refusing to discuss its own nuclear capabilities.

The Israeli leader’s PowerPoint presentation has – in a remarkable coincidence – come just ahead of a key deadline for U.S. President Donald Trump to decide on whether to withdraw from the agreement.

Coincidence? I thought it looked like being very deliberately timed.

Past and present Israeli allegations aside, Netanyahu offered no substantive evidence that Iran is violating the JCPOA. Much of his presentation focused on Iran’s nuclear program in the years before it signed the deal; Iranian compliance with the accord has been repeatedly confirmed by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and U.S. security and intelligence officials. Regardless, Netanyahu has probably given Trump more impetus to do what he’s wanted to do since his campaign undo the Iran nuclear deal.

While Netanyahu’s play may give Trump encouragement to scrap the Iran deal it is likely to also influence the approach from Iran.

Over the past 15 months, Tehran has accused Trump of failing to live up to U.S. commitments on sanctions relief under the deal by encouraging other countries not to do business with Iran.

Implicit in Trump’s approach is that he can bully and pressure Iran into meeting his demands. However, the track record of U.S.-Iran relations since the 1979 Iranian revolution leaves little room to believe that Iran concedes to pressure.

If Trump withdraws from the JCPOA, he should not do so thinking Iran is vulnerable and in dire straits. Contrary to the perception of some in Washington, Iran’s key economic indicators are strong and growing. Its GDP grew 11 percent last year, average real per capita income is on the rise, and the price per barrel of oil is hovering around $70 and on an upward trajectory. Politically, President Hassan Rouhani seems secure after being re-elected with a significant margin over his nearest rival last May.

Trump would be committing a major strategic miscalculation if he believes that withdrawing from the nuclear deal leaves Iran with no options but to continue abiding by the agreement. Rather, Tehran’s adherence reflects the strength of its commitment to its international commitments and eagerness to build confidence with Europe and other international partners.

If Trump withdraws, Iran could use the deal’s main dispute mechanism to refer U.S. non-compliance to the UN Security Council. That would isolate Washington and needlessly set it on a path of dangerous escalation with Iran. Abrogation of the agreement could also allow Iran to justify ramping up its nuclear program.

Which would be a backfire for Trump.

The end state to Trump’s approach on Iran could very well be war. Such a conflict will not only portend devastating consequences for the United States and Iran, but further destabilize the Middle East as it tries to move on from the scourge of Islamic State.

The staged chanting of ‘Nobel, Nobel’ at a recent ego-stroking public rally in Michigan may have been a bit premature (and bullying the Nobel panel may also backfire).

 If Trump really wants “bigger deals” with Iran, he should build trust by properly implementing the JCPOA, and then engage Iran with respect and not insults.

But Trump thinks that insulting Kim Yong-un has achieved results there – also a premature judgement – so may think it will work everywhere in the world.

It’s a high risk approach that could as easily make things worse rather than better – and it may only need one insult too many against Iran or North Korea or Russia to precipitate something much worse.

Trump seems to think that playing world politics (it can hardly be called diplomacy) is like playing a game show. But it is a lot more complicated than ratings driven win-lose theatrics. It may not be Trump who starts the firing.