Iran Deal Update Spring 2018

Lynx Fellow Melissa Shambach

Over the last few months it has become clear that the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal, could be on its deathbed. Established in 2015, this deal put limits on Iranian nuclear development in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions by the United States and major European powers. President Trump’s disdain for the deal has been evident since his campaigning in 2016, but the recent hiring of John Bolton and Mike Pompeo seem to reinforce the notion.

Pompeo and Bolton are known dissenters of the deal, and their appointments are a signal to Iran that the U.S is likely to break the agreement. European partners plan to defend their interests, but without the involvement of the U.S, there is little incentive for Iran to continue curtailing their nuclear program.

Breaking this deal broadcasts uncertainty on behalf of the U.S and has implications that extend to many facets of the U.S.’ position in the world. The United Nations’ monitoring committee has affirmed that Iran has been in compliance with the deal, yet the U.S.’ continual threat of imposing sanctions has meant that the expected economic benefits have not materialized. Trump has long been a critic of the nuclear deal, despite its overwhelming support in the international community. U.S security experts and veterans also voiced their support for the deal, sending multiple letters to Trump about why it is critical that the U.S uphold the agreement, rightly stating that there is no security incentive to withdraw. If the deal is not renewed on May 12th, as is expected, there are major implications for U.S. credibility and soft power internationally.

Broadcasting that the U.S is unreliable in upholding its end of an agreement makes negotiating future nuclear restraint agreements very difficult. In the short term, this is especially important if the U.S wishes to begin negotiations with North Korea.

Additionally, the actions of the Trump administration towards the Iran Deal empower hardliners in Iran who have long spoken against the deal. From the beginning they have said that it is foolish to trust the United States and that we will act only in self-interested ways that will inevitably hurt Iran. In pulling out of the deal unilaterally the U.S will be proving them correct, effectively bolstering their credibility and broader platform inside Iran. This will make it even more difficult for moderates who desire a closer and more cooperative relationship with the United States to gain popular support.

Within international relations, trust and reliability are paramount. This trust is built up over decades of agreements and the affirmation of deals between countries. When a partner proves unreliable and breaks with established norms or agreements, it is difficult to move forwards with the partnership and this calls into question the credibility of the country in the international community. While many are viewing the recent actions of the U.S as an abnormality, its unpredictability and unreliability is concerning and puts many relationships and agreements in a state of uncertainty.

Even if these actions prove to be a ‘departure from the norm,’ there are long term impacts of pulling out of deals like that with Iran. These decisions directly impact stability and cooperation between countries in the long term and must be navigated carefully by the leadership of the United States.