With Little Evidence, Trump Claims Iran Has Curbed Activities in Middle East


Fact Check of the Day

President Trump claimed that Iran is “no longer looking” to Syria or Yemen since he withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal. Administration officials have said otherwise.

what was said

“And if you look at what’s happened since I signed that deal, Iran — and in all fairness, I say it with great respect for the people of Iran — but Iran is acting a lot differently. They’re no longer looking so much to the Mediterranean. They’re no longer looking so much to what’s going on in Syria, what’s going on in Yemen and lots of other places. They’re a much different country over the last three months.”

— President Trump, in a joint news conference on Thursday.

the facts

This lacks evidence.

It’s unclear to what Mr. Trump is referring with his three-month timeline since he withdrew from the Iran nuclear deal just last month.

Since then, Iran has experienced some setbacks in the Middle East. But there is little indication that it has changed its outlook in the region.

Even top Trump administration foreign policy officials have criticized Iran for not changing.

Nikki R. Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, criticized “Iran’s destabilizing presence in Syria” (where Iran supports President Bashar al-Assad of Syria) and its “promotion of violence in Yemen” (where it backs Houthi rebels) in remarks last month at the United Nations Security Council.

In a speech later that month, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned Iran’s continuing involvement in regional conflicts and urged its clerical leaders to “cease wasting Iran’s wealth abroad.”

“Iran perpetuates a conflict that has displaced more than six million Syrians,” Mr. Pompeo said. “In Yemen, Iran’s support for the Houthi militia fuels a conflict that continues to starve the Yemeni people and hold them under the threat of terror.”

Nabih Berri, the speaker of Lebanon’s parliament, said this week that Hezbollah, the Shiite militant group, and Iranian forces intended to stay in Syria until the Sunni-dominated Islamic State was defeated there.

Additionally, Iran announced this week that it would begin a process to increase uranium enrichment capacity. Mr. Pompeo called the plan “another example of Iran foolishly squandering its resources.”

In Yemen, Iran is negotiating a cease-fire with European countries, according to Reuters, stemming from talks that began in February — before Mr. Trump withdrew from the nuclear agreement.

Mark Dubowitz, the executive director of the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and a critic of the nuclear deal that world powers struck with Tehran in 2015, said Iran’s leaders “haven’t changed their ambitions or pulled back their activities” in the region.

“But it is true that they have suffered some notable losses from U.S.-backed allies since Trump withdrew America from the deal,” Mr. Dubowitz added. He pointed to Israeli strikes that destroyed Iranian infrastructure in Syria and progress in taking back a Houthi-held port city in Yemen.

Asked for clarification about Mr. Trump’s comments, the State Department referred queries to the White House. The White House did not respond.

Source: C-Span, The New York Times, Al Jazeera, Reuters, June 7 interview with Mark Dubowitz.

Linda Qiu is a fact-check reporter, based in Washington. She came to the Times in 2017 from the fact-checking service PolitiFact. @ylindaqiu





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