Trump has officially announced the exit of the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Program of Action, better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. This landmark agreement, negotiated in 2015 under the Obama Administration, pledged a lifting of sanctions on Iran in return for controls restricting a possible Iranian nuclear weapons programme. Trump’s opposition to the deal is based on his view that it doesn’t prevent Iran from a nuclear breakout in a short period of time – a view contradicted by inspectors at the International Atomic Energy Agency, UN, and Europe.
The withdrawal comes in spite of intense pleading by Britain, France and Germany for the US to reconsider, and thus far all remaining parties to the agreement have said that they are committed to upholding the agreement. The US, on the contrary, is threatening sanctions on European companies doing business with Iran, which leaves little prospects for the future of the deal.
Iran away from the deal?
The most immediate and troubling repercussion is that the possibility of war in the region has now significantly escalated. Trump asserts that he wants to negotiate a better deal with Iran, but given his belligerence, the likelihood is that neither Iran nor the other parties to the agreement will come to the table. For Iran, the temptation now, especially if hardliners there get their say, will be to respond by resuming nuclear uranium enrichment, which would draw them closer to conflict with Israel and Saudi Arabia, and might tempt the US into launching a preemptive strike to protect its allies. For the US, reneging from yet another agreement will further isolate it from the international community, as it already is on climate action, and its support for Israel. The ultimate irony here is that the Iran deal the US is leaving is in many ways similar to the deal it is likely to be pursuing with North Korea.