With his decision today to place the United States in violation of the Iran nuclear deal, Donald Trump has taken one of the most dangerous actions of his presidency. By withdrawing from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and reimposing sanctions the US had waived in fulfillment of its obligations under the deal, Trump boosts hardliners in Iran who likely will push to exit the deal and restart Iran’s nuclear weapons program.
Trump’s move has potentially disastrous ramifications for both America’s national security and Israel’s. It pushes the United States and its allies closer to a regional war in the Middle East and could result in Iran’s leaping toward a nuclear weapon.
To be clear, Trump will be abrogating a deal that was working, with repeated certifications by the International Atomic Energy Agency of Iranian compliance under the most intrusive inspection regime ever negotiated. And Trump has no Plan B, other than escalation with Iran.
The increased likelihoods of war and a nuclear-armed Iran are real, endangering the security of both the United States and Israel. Last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s delivered a cartoonish presentation which unintentionally showcased the need for the multilateral deal to prevent Iran from realizing nuclear ambitions. Trump indicated that Netanyahu’s show influenced his decision. Unfortunately, it is Israel that will be on the front lines of any conflict with Iran, putting Israeli citizens in jeopardy. Former Mossad head Danny Yatom recently warned that if the US withdraws and the JCPOA collapses as a result, “the Iranians may come back immediately to where they were left before the agreement, and this is to continue and to enrich uranium in order to achieve in something like a year a nuclear bomb.”
Meanwhile, President Trump is damaging America’s role as global leader. Our credibility in negotiating future deals, especially with nuclear North Korea, will be eviscerated. And our alliances, particularly with European partners who worked mightily to influence Trump to save the deal, will suffer significant harm.
While Trump will predictably attempt to shift the blame for the consequences of his disastrous decision onto other parties, the blame will be solely his.
Nonetheless, responsible parties must now work to pick up the pieces. Congress should begin considering legislation to suspend nuclear-related sanctions on Iran indefinitely, effectively overriding Trump’s decision. The Europeans have a vital role to play in attempting to convince Iran to remain in the JCPOA despite Trump’s action.
Yet again, Trump is basing a pivotal foreign policy decision on ill-informed promises he made during the presidential campaign. This time, he also appears to be guided by a desire to undo the signature foreign policy accomplishment of his predecessor, Barack Obama. For those concerned about the increased threat of regional war in the Middle East, giving in to despair over President Trump’s irresponsible action is not an option. We must pursue pathways to keep the JCPOA alive.