Does Trump Administration Have Any Idea of What It's Doing? 

The armada that President Donald Trump last week said was sailing to North Korea was actually headed in the other direction. But as Charles Pierce asks, who among us has not misplaced an aircraft carrier? David Frum says that if Trump was not lying about the armada, "then the White House lost the location of an entire carrier group during an international crisis with a nuclear armed state."

Chemi Shalev writes that

The incident would be hilarious if it wasn't so disturbing, something like Bozo the Clown sparks World War III...It isn't hard to imagine what [Republicans] would do to Obama if he had told the Journal how he had boasted to the president of China about the "very powerful" armada on its way to the north when it was actually cruising along on its way to the south...

The Republicans would have torn Obama to shreds if he had kowtowed to Vladimir Putin as Trump has, if so many of his top advisers were found to have financial ties to the Kremlin, if he had badmouthed NATO or insulted the prime minister of Australia or picked a fight with Mexico for no good reason. They would have been beside themselves with indignation if Obama had reneged on his promise to publish his tax returns, appointed his relatives to senior White House positions, arrogantly ignored blatant conflicts of interest between his private and public affairs, spent millions of dollars on his wife's home away from home at Trump Tower in Manhattan or on weekend jaunts to his Florida palace or taken a five million dollar donation from George Soros, say, rather than Sheldon Adelson, for his inauguration ceremony. They mocked Obama, after all, for letting the country burn while he played golf but they've got nothing to say when Trump plays more golf in a month than Obama did in a whole year. And they would have burned the White House down along with its occupants if Obama had uttered even a fraction of the 400 lies and misstatements recorded by the Washington Post in the 90+ days since his inauguration.

North Korea illustrates why preserving the Iran deal is so importantMike Chinoy writes that "North Korea's nuclear breakout was the result not only of its own nuclear ambitions, but also of the efforts of hard-liners in the administration of George W. Bush to sabotage any meaningful rapprochement with North Korea." Philip Gordon explains how a push for a "better deal" led to the crisis in North Korea.

Now Trump and his friends are talking about sabotaging the Iran Deal with hardline policies of their own. Glenn Kessler writes that "the North Korea example certainly demonstrates how a new administration, skeptical of such an arms-control agreement, could take steps to undermine and eventually terminate it."

Trump is charting a dangerous course on Iran. On April 18, the Trump administration certified that Iran is compliant with its commitments under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. That's good news, right? Even if Obama negotiated the deal, right? Apparently not.

In the letter certifying compliance, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson added that Iran continues to sponsor terrorism. The logical next sentence would have been a plan to address this problem, but instead, the next sentence told us that Trump was reevaluating the JCPOA. Let's get this straight: According to the Trump administration, Iran is complying with a deal designed solely to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons, but because Iran is engaging in activities not prohibited by the deal, Trump is going to reevaluate the deal.

Tillerson said on April 19 that an "unchecked Iran has the potential to travel the same path as North Korea." That's exactly why we must keep the JCPOA in place -- if we renege on our commitments regarding sanctions, we will be hard-pressed to hold Iran to its commitments. Ilan Goldenberg lists the ways Tillerson's comparison of the JCPOA to the North Korea deal is "wrongheaded."

Where do we go from here? Paul Waldman explains that "While it's within the Trump administration's authority to abandon the deal, doing so would accomplish less than nothing. First, the agreement includes those five other world powers, which haven't shown any interest in canceling it. So Iran and those countries could uphold the agreement without the United States. The administration could impose more sanctions on Iran, but the reason the old sanctions regime was effective in crippling Iran's economy was that so much of the world upheld it; if only the United States imposed new sanctions, Iran could still get much of what it needs elsewhere. Alternatively, Iran could decide to walk away from the deal if the United States does, which would mean kicking out the inspectors and and lifting restraints on their uranium-enrichment program. How that would be to anyone's benefit is difficult to fathom."

Congress must be careful about new Iran sanctions. I explained why on April 3 (scroll down). Yes, we must enforce the Iran deal, but we must be careful not to scuttle the agreement by inadvertently or deliberately violating it under the guise of tough enforcement. I would add only that with President Barack Obama gone, the executive branch will not act as the adult pushing against congressional irresponsibility, which means that Democratic members of Congress now have little political price to pay for joining Republicans in supporting misguided legislation on Iran. 

On the other hand, if the Arms Control Association is right about new proposed sanctions legislation potentially violating the JCPOA, it then becomes incumbent on the ACA to explain what sanctions designed to punish Iran for activities not prohibited by the JCPOA would be compliant, since the administration was clear at the time that the JCPOA would not prevent us from combating Iran's other nefarious activities.

By the way: We are not giving Iran $150 billion under the Iran deal.

U.S. breaks ground on new embassy. In Beirut. Trump flip-flopped on his promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem.

Why are Israelis nervous about the peace process? A cancer patient was caught trying to smuggle explosive material into Israel last week. Can you at least understand why Israelis might fear they have no partner for peace?

For those keeping score at home. Trump listed 60 promises for his first 100 days in office.

Most ridiculous statement of the week. Not from Trump. Vice President Mike Pence. (Scroll down when you click--some of the comments are good.)

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