President Donald Trump just withdrew the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal. The announcement on 2 PM Tuesday afternoon was a victory for Trump, who had been promising this action since his 2016 campaign. For those of us who aren’t foreign policy experts, let me break it down.
What is it?
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aka the Iran nuclear deal, is an agreement between Iran and a group of global powers (China, Russia, France, Germany, the UK, the U.S., and the EU) to prevent the Iranian government from accessing to nuclear weapons. It was negotiated in Vienna on July 14, 2015.
What does it do?
The JCPOA essentially slows Iran’s ability to produce nuclear weapons (from about a month to a year), makes Iran promise that its nuclear apparatus is entirely peaceful, and makes its nuclear workshops subject to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Iran is still allowed to have a nuclear program, but the deal reduced it dramatically. On the other side, sanctions on Iran’s economy were lifted so that they could have greater access to global trade.
Iranian representatives had been saying that the nation’s leaders did not want to make a bomb since the agreement was made. The international community had always been skeptical. In April, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu leaked evidence from thousands of Iranian documents that indicated Iran was on a clear path to nuclear weaponry. Iran could use nuclear weapons to defend themselves in threat of nuclear attack (mainly from the United States and Israel), to threaten foreign nations, or to support terrorist groups and the Syrian Assad regime more boldly. Despite the evidence of their plans, Iran has been in complete compliance with the deal according to the IAEA.
So why would Trump leave the agreement?
President Trump’s withdrawal had been a long-standing campaign promise of his. He has argued that Iran’s work against U.S. interest in the Middle East violates the “spirit” of the deal, that some of the constraints (such as limits on Iran’s uranium enrichment) expire before the entire deal does, and that he can do a better job.
The United States is going to reinstate the sanctions it had prior to the deal. The removal went against the wishes of European leaders who pleaded with Trump to stay in the deal.
As for the behavior of Iran, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani put it simply: “If we can get what we want from a deal without America, then Iran will continue to remain committed to the deal. But if not, Tehran will continue its own path.”