Trump's 'endless lies' about Obama's nuclear deal made conflict with Iran inevitable: columnist
(AFP/File / Jim WATSON)

The escalating conflict in Iran can be traced back to one of President Donald Trump's biggest lies -- which he repeated again in an address following retaliatory missile strikes against the U.S.

The present conflict can be traced back to Trump's decision to withdraw in May 2018 from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, which has set Iran on a gradual course toward restarting its nuclear program and retaliating against U.S. allies in the region, reported the Washington Post.

Trump's opposition to the deal was based entirely on his dislike for Barack Obama, so he didn't seem to know or care what that agreement entailed or how it could be improved, which the Post's Greg Sargent argued opened him up to manipulation by former national security adviser John Bolton and others.

The president instead replaced the nuclear deal with his own "maximum pressure" strategy, which put tougher sanctions on Iran but little clarity on what he expected from them.

He then ordered the assassination of Iranian general Qassim Suleimani after that strategy proved ineffective, and Iran retaliated with a missile strike on a base housing U.S. troops in Iraq.

In his address Wednesday, the president accused the Obama administration of providing funding to Iran that paid for the missile strikes -- which is based on his false claim that Obama gave the country $150 billion in the deal.

Less than $100 billion in assets, according to most estimates, were unfrozen by the Obama administration as part of the agreement.

The president also claimed that Iran's hostilities increased after the deal was signed, although most experts agreed they were complying until the president withdrew from the agreement.

"Trump told endless lies about the Iran deal to support that narrative," Sargent wrote. "But the more important point here is that Trump squared leaving the Iran deal with a promise to end Mideast wars by casting withdrawal as strength — he’d be 'tougher' with Iran, unilaterally so, and force its full capitulation (without any shots fired) that way."

Even if Trump de-escalates the situation, his decision to end the Iran deal and have Suleimani killed will lead to a stronger Iran and a weaker U.S. position in the Middle East.

"Trump’s big lie was that the Iran deal represented American weakness and elite failure," Sargent wrote. "But it was actually a salutary application of American strength, and it was one thing the hated elites got right."