Iran Nuclear Deal: On Life Support?
In a new commentary from Columbia University’s Center on Global Energy Policy, senior scholar Richard Nephew writes that despite the announcement on July 17th that the Trump administration is going to keep the United States in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) with Iran, the deal is on life support.
Nephew notes that Trump has opposed the deal since his campaign and that press reports indicate the decision to extend the JCPOA was grudgingly accepted by him. He suggests that the number of upcoming opportunities to review the deal could result in Trump’s reconsideration and US withdrawal, even though the Trump administration has also badly damaged its ability to develop and execute a JCPOA withdrawal strategy.
“There are those who are displeased” by the Trump decision, Nephew wrote, “because they believe that the broader US interest lies in escaping from the JCPOA and its limitations on US sanctions policy toward Iran that hamstrings our ability to address the larger problem of Iranian regional behavior. There are still others who believe this marks another lost opportunity to shift US policy toward explicit support for regime change in Tehran…”
The report also argues that the United States would even find it difficult to execute a strategy that is premised on the idea of merely threatening withdrawal in order to improve Iranian implementation of the JPCOA or agreement beyond it.
“The Trump administration has pursued policies that have made it harder to bring other partners together in support of a get-tough agenda with Iran,” the report noted. “This is particularly the case in Europe, where support for the JCPOA is high….The US posture on a range of issues – from Russia to the Paris Agreement to trade policy – has annoyed Europe and in all likelihood poisoned the well for further conversations about how to deal with Iran.”
Nephew recommends that the White House should consider successor arrangements to the JCPOA to deal with the future problem and regional arrangements to deal with present security issues. He indicates that it is incumbent on Trump to resist the appeal of a clean JCPOA break and instead find ways to use the JCPOA and the opening it created, while the possibility to do so remains available.