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THIN ICE Iran plays dangerous game with Trump

By JIM PAXTON

In the first days of the Trump administration we found ourselves wondering whether we would not soon awaken to learn that Iran's uranium enrichment facility had been reduced to a radioactive cinder. (A second question -- just how radioactive might that be? -- is one we would rather not think about).

Trump promised during his campaign to tear up the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration and five other global powers. The deal ostensibly prevents Iran from developing a nuclear weapon over the near term.

Within days of Trump's inauguration Iran conducted a ballistic missile test in violation of U.N. sanctions. That and other misconduct led then-National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to make a brief press appearance during which Flynn said ominously that Iran is "on notice."

Several days later Trump held an impromptu press conference aboard Air Force One. A reporter asked Trump about Iranian President Hassan Rouhani's comment that anyone who threatened Iran would regret it. Trump scowled and said, "He better be careful," before ending the conversation.

Where all of this ultimately leads is as unpredictable as the president himself. The administration did impose sanctions on 25 businesses and individuals it deems to be aiding Iran in its ballistic missile program. If it all ends there it will make former President Obama look like a tough guy.

But the White House has since been preoccupied. Flynn left the administration this week after being caught in a lie about conversations he had with a Russian diplomat while Trump was still president-elect. That leaves a void for the present in terms of someone to advise Trump on Iran policy.

Further, the administration finds itself without much of a military presence in Iran's neighborhood right now. The U.S. currently has no aircraft carriers in the region, due to delays in getting the George H.W. Bush out of the shipyards stateside. The USS Dwight D. Eisenhower recently ended its Mideast deployment.

We agree with Trump that the Iran nuclear deal was a terrible bargain. The U.S. got nothing from it that we can see. Even if Iran complies, the deal allows it to be on the nuclear threshold 13 years from now. And any notion that appeasing Iran with the deal might cause it to behave more responsibly has been unmasked as folly.

Earlier this month Iran's nuclear chief Ali Akbar Salehi announced that the rogue nation's stockpile of raw uranium will soon be 60 percent greater than what it had on hand at the signing of the 2015 nuclear deal. Why? is a fair question. If enrichment activities are being limited under the nuclear accord, what is the purpose of accumulating this much fissionable material?

The reality is that Iran has done nothing since the conclusion of the nuclear accord that engenders trust. From missile tests to harassing U.S. Navy vessels to exporting chaos around the region, Iran has continued to push the envelope.

The problem with that is now the U.S. has a leader who is as volatile as the Iranians themselves. He truly might do anything. Our take is that discretion would be the better part of valor for the Iranians. We suppose time will tell whether they possess enough sense to heed such counsel.

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