Trump’s Threat to Quit Iran Deal Reflects Desires of His Biggest Donor

Trump's Threat to Quit Iran Deal Reflects Desires of His Biggest Donor

Casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, a prominent opponent of the Iran nuclear deal, gave pro-Trump super PACs $35 million.

Is President Trump’s threat to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal driven at least partially by his desire to meet the demands of his most generous campaign donor?

An essay posted on Lobe Log, a respected foreign policy blog that focuses on the Middle East, makes the case that casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson may have influenced Trump’s decision and the specific language Trump used in his speech Friday on the deal.

The authors note that Adelson is the former chairman and a major funder of the Republican Jewish Coalition(RJC), a group that also includes Bernard Marcus, Trump’s second largest donor (after Adelson and Adelson’s wife).

In December 2015, eight months before he won the Republican presidential nomination, Trump told an RJC audience “You’re not gonna support me because I don’t want your money. You want to control your politicians; that’s fine. …I do want your support, but I don’t want your money.”

But once Trump was nominated, Adelson emerged as Trump’s biggest campaign financier. He contributed $35 million to pro-Trump Super PAC Future 45, while Marcus contributed $7 million to pro-Trump Super PACs.

The authors note that Adelson’s policy priorities are tacit if not explicit U.S. approval of Jewish settlement expansion on the West Bank and Jerusalem; moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem; and undoing the Iran nuclear deal. “Adelson proposed exploding a nuclear bomb ‘in the Iranian desert’ in 2013 as a warning of what would happen to Tehran itself if it didn’t abandon its nuclear program,” they write. “As for Marcus, ‘I think that Iran is the devil,’ he said in a 2015 Fox Business interview.”

Trump’s announcement Friday left the deal standing, for now, but gave Congress responsibility for deciding whether to reimpose sanctions or take other actions that would almost certainly put the U.S. in violation of the agreement, which was negotiated by the Obama administration, European allies, China, Russia and Iran.

The RJC applauded the White House’s announcement in an email immediately after Friday’s speech. “President Trump is delivering on a major campaign promise, bolstering security for the United States, Israel, and our allies, as well as creating an opportunity to truly curb Iran’s nuclear ambition and find lasting peace in the Middle East,” the group said.