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Sandro Rosell
FC Barcelona President
Saturday, October 21, 2017

After discussing Iran and North Korea with a cadre of military leaders last Thursday, President Donald Trump posed for a photo with them before dinner and declared the moment “the calm before the storm.”

“You guys know what this represents?” Trump said after journalists gathered in the White House state dining room to photograph him and first lady Melania Trump with the uniformed military leaders and their spouses.

Gesturing to his guests, he said, “You guys know what this represents? Maybe it’s the calm before the storm.” “What’s the storm?” asked one reporter.

“Could be the calm before the storm,” Mr. Trump repeated, stretching out the phrase, a sly smile playing across his face. “From Iran?” ventured another reporter. “On ISIS? On what?” “What storm, Mr. President?” asked a third journalist, a hint of impatience creeping into her voice.

Classical music played in the background and tables were set in the nearby Blue Room for a fancy meal. The White House did not immediately reply to a request to clarify Trump’s remark.

According to an NYT report of last week, the paper opined that Trump was clearly looking to make some kind of news, but about what, exactly, was not clear. And the mystery, as it often does with a president whose statements baffle even his staff, only deepened the next day.

The report indicated that by Friday, the White House was still unable to shed light on the matter; several of Mr. Trump’s aides said they had no idea what the president meant. But the press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, wanted to make one thing clear: Mr. Trump wasn’t just teasing his favorite antagonists. He was sending a message.

“I wouldn’t say that he’s messing with the press,” Ms. Sanders told reporters. “I think we have some serious world issues here. I think that North Korea, Iran both continue to be bad actors, and the president is somebody who’s going to always look for ways to protect Americans, and he’s not going to dictate what those actions may look like.”

Pushing back against what he perceives to be veiled threats to launch possible military actions on North Korea and the possibility of jeopardizing Middle East peace by “decertifying” the controversial Iranian nuclear deal, Senator Bob Corker, the Republican chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, charged in an interview on Sunday that President Trump was treating his office like “a reality show,” with reckless threats toward other countries that could set the nation “on the path to World War III,” according to a New York Times report.

In an extraordinary rebuke of a president of his own party, Senator Corker said he was alarmed about a president who acts “like he’s doing ‘The Apprentice’ or something.” “He concerns me,” Mr. Corker added. “He would have to concern anyone who cares about our nation.”

Over the weekend, in addition to his usual Twitter storms, Trump hinted to the media gathered at the White House of a possible military action against North Korea. Trump also took another shot at Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, despite the fact that he said he enjoyed a good relationship with him. Last week it was reported that Tillerson called Trump a “moron”. Trump has insisted that the story was of a bogus nature and fabricated by NBC News. He insisted that it was part of the incessant “fake news” cycle, but he did say that he would like Tillerson to be “tougher.”

Moreover, during the encounter with White House reporters, Trump even focused on the growing controversy that has been swirling around Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein and the allegations leveled against him of sexual harassment of female employees and aspiring actresses.

According to a CNN report, Trump also revived his base-pleasing culture war furor with the NFL after Vice President Mike Pence left a game in Indianapolis on his orders after several players took a knee during the national anthem to protest what they perceive to be racial discrimination. He also complained that his own efforts in Puerto Rico were not getting enough credit, despite clear logistical problems in the hurricane relief effort.

"Nobody could have done what I've done for #PuertoRico with so little appreciation. So much work!" Trump tweeted on Sunday.

On Thursday of this week it was reported that President Trump is expected to decertify the Iran nuclear agreement next week but stop short of completely scrapping the deal.

Trump will declare it is not in U.S. national security interests to certify the 2015 deal that Washington reached with Iran and five other countries, say officials quoted in media reports. The move would launch a 60-day period during which Congress must decide whether to reimpose some or all of the economic sanctions that had been lifted as part of the agreement.

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defended the nuclear deal Saturday, saying not even 10 Donald Trumps can roll back gains made by Iran, state TV reported. It broadcast Rouhani while addressing students at Tehran University, marking the beginning of the educational year.

"We have achieved benefits that are irreversible. Nobody can roll them back, neither Trump, nor 10 other Trumps,'' he said.

Rouhani warned the U.S. not to violate the deal. "If the United States violates [the nuclear deal], the entire world will condemn America, not Iran,'' he said.

Many Republicans and Democrats are opposed to reinstating sanctions, which would effectively kill the agreement, and reports suggest Trump may hold off on urging Congress to do so. Trump, a self-proclaimed master negotiator, has called the pact "one of the dumbest deals ever" and repeatedly suggested that he may do away with it.

Speaking late last week, Trump said Iran has "not lived up to the spirit" of the agreement. "You'll be hearing about Iran very shortly," he said before meeting with military leaders.

If Trump takes steps to abandon the nuclear deal, he would be going against the advice of his top national security leaders, including Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford. Dunford and Mattis have both told lawmakers they believe staying in the pact is in the U.S. national security interest. They also say Iran is abiding by the terms of the deal, an assertion echoed by the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Under U.S. law, the president must certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is in compliance with the nuclear deal and that it is in U.S. interests to stay in the agreement. Trump has twice certified the deal, but done so unhappily, reports suggest.

The next certification deadline is October 15. Trump could address the Iran issue in a speech that White House officials say is likely to occur on the 12th. Trump is also expected to lay out his wider strategy for Iran and the Middle East.

The Trump administration has continued to accuse Iran of sponsoring terrorism, threatening U.S. allies in the Middle East and testing ballistic missiles. Trump has publicly lamented that the agreement does not cover these issues.

Iranian officials have stressed that the deal is not up for renegotiation. Rouhani has threatened to leave the deal "within hours" if the U.S. imposes new sanctions.

According to a Times of Israel report, Israel’s Channel 2 reported last Thursday that Trump was also set to announce a series of measures to punish Iran for its regional behavior.

Chief among these, the TV report said, would be “harsh sanctions” against the IRGC, Iran’s most powerful security organization which also dominates significant areas of the Iranian economy. Some reports in the US have suggested that Trump may designate the entire IRGC as a terrorist organization; 10 years ago, it designed the IRGC’s Al-Quds Force as a terror group, and the entire IRGC has been sanctioned for activities relating to nuclear proliferation and human rights abuses.

But the Washington Post reported, citing four people familiar with the president’s thinking, that Trump would “hold off on recommending that Congress re-impose sanctions on Iran that would abrogate the agreement.”

According to an op-ed piece penned by retired Harvard law school professor Alan Dershowitz entitled, “Trump’s ‘Calm Before the Storm’ is a Message to North Korea and Iran” which appeared on the Gatestone Institute web site, Professor Dershowitz wrote:

“The North Koreans continue testing nuclear weapons and long-range missiles and threaten to launch a nuclear attack on America and our allies that could kill millions. Iran is likely engaging in activities that could contribute to the design and development of its own nuclear explosive device.

If these worrisome actions by the two rogue nations persist, there will be a storm. And as candidate Trump said during his campaign for the White House, he will not tell our enemies what kind of storm to expect — only that he will not allow current trends that endanger our national security and that of our allies to continue unabated.”

Striking an prescient but ominous note, Professor Dershowitz continued: “U.S. policy toward both Iran and North Korea is closely related, because we must prevent Iran from joining the nuclear club and becoming another, even more dangerous version of North Korea.

The sad reality is that even if Iran were to comply with the letter of the nuclear agreement, it will still be able to develop the capability to build up a vast nuclear arsenal within a relatively short time. This is the fundamental flaw of the agreement.

And Iran claims that the nuclear deal permits it to refuse to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to inspect military facilities. This has led the IAEA to conclude that it cannot assure the world that Iran is not even now designing and developing a nuclear arsenal with missiles capable of delivering them to American allies in the Mideast and Europe, and soon the U.S. itself.

All the Iranians need to do to become a nuclear power is to resume spinning centrifuges. The nuclear agreement, which was reached with the Obama administration in 2015, will allow them to do that in a few years.”