John Oliver is at his trolling best again by buying ad time on Fox News


Iran is a big issue for the Trump White House. Why is the deadline for the Iran nuclear deal so important? John Oliver explains on Last Week Tonight

“It is a busy time for diplomacy in the Trump White House,” said John Oliver in the latest episode of Last Week Tonight. There are the ongoing tensions with Syria, for one, which include the recent bombing of Syrian sites. The U.S. is also preparing for significant talks with North Korean leaders, along with a state visit from French president Emmanuel Macron.

That’s not the focus of Last Week Tonight, however. Instead, it’s the looming deadline for the Iran deal. By May 12th, the United States and other nations in the deal must agree on whether or not they will recertify the 2015 nuclear deal.

While other leaders are pretty clear in their continued support for the deal President Trump has been less complimentary of the agreement. He has said, “it’s maybe the worst deal I’ve ever seen”.

So, why does Trump hate the Iran deal? First, we need to review some of the fraught histories between Iran and the U.S. It’s rife with democratic coups, a U.S.-supplied nuclear reactor, a revolution, and, ultimately, a theocratic Islamic state. Really, the subject deserves its own graduate-level class, but that’s enough to get a basic grounding in the situation.

Now, for many Americans, Iran is a scary anti-American country. Yes, it’s true that conservative, anti-American religious leaders are in power there, and they probably support people like Syrian president Bashar al-Assad and terrorist groups like Hezbollah. They are also very definitely not cool with Israel and Jewish people in general.

Only part of the puzzle

However, according to Oliver, “That is only part of the picture of Iran.” There is a significant number of educated, relatively moderate Iranian people. In general, they are far more friendly toward the United States and the 2015 deal in particular than their conservative leadership. Iran even has a decently-sized skateboarding scene, where enthusiasts perform ollies, grinds, and other tricks, sometimes even with homemade metal boards.

Take the current president of Iran, Hassan Rouhani. He is relatively moderate, even going so far as to send a nice tweet wishing Jewish people – and Iranian Jews in particular – a nice Rosh Hashanah. For a government that criticized “Zionist” states, that is a significant step.

Though a number of U.S. officials are vocally critical of the Iran deal, the United States has benefited from aspects of the agreement. For instance, it enjoys increased security and assurance that Iran will not deploy weapons against American people. Iran can’t enrich uranium to weapons grade for 15 years and has to reduce its facilities and bomb-making capacities. In fact, the country was required to reduce uranium stockpile by a whopping 98 percent.

Basically, the 2015 deal made it so that Iran could not make nuclear weapons in any reasonable or timely capacity. All of this was agreed upon in exchange for the lifting of serious sanctions against Iran.

Why are people still mad about the deal?

Yet, people are still seriously against the deal because it’s not tough enough, essentially. What’s wrong? First, Trump has argued that Iran’s right to self-inspect its own nuclear sites is wrong. It probably would be – if Iranian officials had such a right. Regular monitoring of declared nuclear sites is done by the International Atomic Energy Agency. The IAEA has confirmed multiple times that Iran is playing by the rules of the agreement.

Trump has also complained about the 24 days of lead time that facilities get once inspectors ask for access to nuclear sites, undeclared or otherwise. While it’s true that Iran has a maximum of 24 days to let inspectors in, that sounds considerably less dire when you consider that uranium has a half-life of at least a few million years. Even a darn good cleaning team won’t have the power to scrub a facility of the unmistakable signature of nuclear fuel.

But what about the life of the agreement itself? Trump has argued that, once parts of the deal expire in 10 or 15 years, Iran could pick back up and restart its nuclear weapons program. Theoretically, Iran could wait for parts of the deal to expire. However, if the deal goes to hell, Iran can go ahead with weapons programs right now. “And zero is less than ten,” said Oliver. “Trust us, we ran the numbers ourselves.”

Meanwhile, remember that multiple countries besides Iran and United States are involved in this deal. Very few of the officials involved want the deal to go under, either. Even Boris Johnson, conservative politician and former mayor of London, was quoted on Last Week Tonight in favor of the deal.

Pompeo and Bolton

However, Trump is flanked by particularly hawkish colleagues. Mike Pompeo, director of the CIA and nominee for Secretary of State, has said that “we know [that Iran is] cheating anyway — we’re just not seeing it”.

Meanwhile, National Security Advisor John Bolton — who was originally considered for the job and then rejected partially because of his humongous mustache — is no better than Pompeo. He thinks the Iran deal is a “strategic debacle” for the United States that is akin to “putting lipstick on a pig”. Pretty insulting to pigs, that.

Bolton and his cronies made an especially alarmist ad showing an all-American family getting ready for dinner, then quickly facing incineration at the hands of an Iranian nuclear bomb. Bolton also gave a speech to Iranian dissidents in Paris in 2017. There, he said that the U.S. should have a “declared policy” to overthrow the Iranian regime. “Before 2019,” Bolton told the crowd, “we here will celebrate in Tehran!” If you need a summary of the speech, the NSA advisor basically called for an invasion of Iran.

What’s going to happen?

In all likelihood, Trump will re-impose sanctions on Iran on May 12. This would necessarily cause the Iranian nuclear deal to collapse. Meanwhile, America’s image and credibility will be further sullied. That’s not just a cosmetic issue, however. After all, would North Korea sign an agreement with a country that reneges on its deals? And, with Iran now acting as it could before, what would happen to the state of nuclear arms in the Middle East?

“There’s not really a way of getting a moderating voice,” lamented Oliver. Except for the slim chance offered by an ad spot on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. . . .

Next: John Oliver explains the crazy world of corporate taxes

This means that, bless him, the Catheter Cowboy is back. This time, he’s trying to explain that the Iran deal is better than practically any other option. Guess it’s better to have him show up than a nuclear blast that vaporizes a family in order to make a political point. If only that family had checked their gas lines and open flames, though.

So, what to do this time around? Honestly, there are few options for those of us not in the White House this moment. You could try calling your Congresspeople, sure, but they can do precious little in this case. If nothing else, you can gain by learning more about the Iran nuclear deal. Combine that with lessons on Iranian perceptions of the United States. You might as well laugh for a bit while watching Last Week Tonight. Hopefully, that’s enough for now.