Trump claims about Iran invite scrutiny

During his address to the nation Wednesday on the exchange of hostilities with Iran over the past week, President Trump made a number of questionable assertions.

While the president did not take questions from the press, here are some statements he made that deserve further scrutiny.

“Iran’s hostilities substantially increased after the foolish Iran nuclear deal was signed in 2013, and they were given $150 billion, not to mention $1.8 billion in cash.”

Trump has long railed over a provision in the Iran nuclear deal — which was signed in 2015, not 2013 — that returned to Iran assets that had been frozen in banks around the world, portraying the funds as a gift courtesy of U.S. taxpayers.

The money was impounded as part of sanctions against Iran designed to keep it from acquiring nuclear weapons and was released after Tehran signed the nuclear deal with the Obama administration that allowed for international inspections of its nuclear program. A small portion of it represented funds that Iran had used to purchase American weapons before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but that were never delivered.

As the Washington Post noted, the actual sum returned to Iran is likely closer to $20 billion to $30 billion.

“The missiles fired last night at us and our allies were paid for with the funds made available by the last administration.”

While it is conceivable that the Iranian missiles that caused “only minimal damage” on Tuesday night were built with money obtained from the unfreezing of Iran’s assets, it is impossible to say for sure. One thing that is certain is that Iran continued to build up its military forces even while under U.S. sanctions.

Over the past 10 years, Iran has spent $140 billion on its military, according to a report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, a group that monitors worldwide military expenditures.

“The very defective JCPOA expires shortly anyway and gives Iran a clear and quick path to nuclear breakout.”

The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the Iran nuclear deal for short) puts a cap on Iranian uranium enrichment until 2030, depriving the country of the fuel to make a nuclear bomb for at least 10 more years. Iran also agreed to give up 97 percent of its stockpile of enriched uranium, Politifact reported, and the JCPOA forbids Iran to use plutonium reactors for 13 years. The Iran deal also stipulated that Tehran was forever prohibited from developing nuclear weapons and that international inspectors would be allowed to confirm that.

President Trump addresses the nation from the White House on Wednesday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

“Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence.”

There’s little doubt that the U.S. economy has performed well since Trump became president, but calling it “stronger than ever” is an act of political spin. Measuring the strength of a nation’s economy is tricky, but factoring in a number of metrics, the Washington Post’s Fact Checker concluded that “the economy today is not doing as well as it did under Presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Bill Clinton — and Ulysses S. Grant.”

While the U.S. has made great strides in energy production, that effort began during the Obama administration, when advances in hydraulic fracking ushered in a natural gas boom. Under Obama, the U.S. also increased oil production, the Associated Press reported. Since becoming president, Trump has expanded drilling and rolled back regulations on energy production. The U.S. has also continued to expand its use of renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power — over the objections of the Trump administration. Overall, the nation produced about 95 percent of its total energy consumption in 2018, according to this government report.

The U.S. imported nearly 10 million barrels of oil a day in 2018 but also exported about 7.6 million barrels, so net imports were around 2.3 million barrels daily. About 1.5 million barrels a day came from Persian Gulf countries that could be vulnerable to attacks or blockades by Iran.

“The American military has been completely rebuilt under my administration, at a cost of $2.5 trillion.”

While Trump has dramatically increased funding to the U.S. military over the past three years, in the wake of cuts after the end of the Iraq War, much of the actual hardware that money was appropriated for has yet to be built and put into service. “The typical aircraft in the Air Force’s fleet is almost 30 years old, according to figures published by the Office of Management and Budget,” the Washington Post reported.

At his campaign rallies and at White House events, Trump has often retold a story about an encounter with a U.S. general who complained that the military was underfunded.

“When I took over our military, we did not have ammunition. I was told by a top general, maybe the top of them all, ‘Sir, I’m sorry, sir, we don’t have ammunition.’ I said I will never let that happen to another president,” Trump said in October.

That was an exaggeration at best; there was never a shortage of conventional “ammunition.” In 2016, though, the war against ISIS was becoming much more intense, and the military was drawing down its stockpiles of precision-guided bombs and missiles. Ramping up production couldn’t be achieved overnight, but the Obama administration was acting to correct the shortfall. The U.S. spent $611 billion on the military during the final year of Obama’s presidency. Trump is seeking $750 billion in military funding for 2020, up from the $716 billion Congress approved for 2019 and the $633 billion spent in 2018.

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