Since before taking office, President Trump has been highly critical of the Obama-era Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal with Iran. He’s not the only one.The Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD) has referred to the agreement as “morally absurd,” due to its limited protective scope.
In late April, in an attempt to salvage the deal, French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed a “new deal” with the aim of addressing Trump’s concerns. Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani was quick to dismiss these efforts in a statement, making it clear that Iran had no intention of abiding by a modified version of the agreement, “We will not add anything to the deal or remove anything from it, even one sentence,” he said.
On May 8th, President Trump followed through with his promise. He pulled out of the nuclear deal and vowed to restore U.S. economic sanctions on Iran.
With the European Union overwhelmingly in support of the deal, Trump’s decision has put a strain on relationships between Washington and its European allies. During the next 90 to 180 days, when sanctions are expected to kick in, the administration must be remain vigilant to ensure Iran doesn’t take advantage of this strain. Otherwise, the FDD think tank warns that Iran may benefit. Mark Dubowitz is the CEO of FDD and you can learn more about him here.
The problem that Trump has before him is neither new, nor easy to conquer. Like the other recent presidents before him, he’s inherited two nuclear threats in the form of Iran and North Korea. Decades worth of past administrations have tried and failed to prevent escalation through diplomacy. President Trump’s tactics are different. Trump’s “art of the nuclear deal” calls for tough sanctions and unapologetic rhetoric, and for the time being it appears to be causing Kim Jong-Un to question whether or not his atomic ambitions are worth the risk of a U.S. military strike.
Since the May 8th announcement we’ve seen the beginning of an Iran strategy. Trump provided a clear military threat to Iranian leaders, saying “I would advise Iran not to start their nuclear program. If they do, there will be very severe consequences.”
Trump and members of his administration have spoken at great length about the urgent need to combat Iran’s dangerous activities beyond the nuclear sphere. In addition to never developing a nuclear weapon, the administration has called for the Iranian regime to cease it’s development of intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear-capable missiles, to end all support for terrorists (e.g. Hezbollah, Hamas, and the Taliban), to stop its threats against Israel, end cyber attacks against the United States and our allies, and end human rights abuses (including the unlawful detention of foreigners).
Only time will tell how many of these goals the administration achieves, but one thing is clear: President Trump aims to create a much more ambitious agreement with Iran than any President before him.