On May 8th of 2018, our President Donald Trump signed a presidential memorandum, essentially withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal. Although the president had been denouncing the deal, stating it is “a direct national security threat,” and “fatally flawed” for more than a year before, experts were still shocked. The president had been planning this move for months now. But what was the Iran deal, and why did the president’s withdrawal draw such polarized reactions?
The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was an agreement reached by the P5 countries (France, U.K., U.S., Russia, China) in addition to Germany in 2015 after 20 months of compromises and negotiations. The deal lifted sanctions that had been crippling Iran’s economy for the last decade, in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. These restrictions included reducing low-enriched uranium stockpiles by 98%, a ⅔ reduction in the number of centrifuges(nuclear processing plants) Iran can use, and inspections by UN. However, the fact that the deal would slowly loosen, being almost invalidated after 15 years or so, was a huge point of contention amongst government critics. On one side, the deal was seen as one of Obama’s greatest foreign policy achievements, but on the other, an open hand to a terrorist nation that went against every US policy. “This was a horrible one-sided deal that should have never, ever been made,” president Trump stated, reinstating previous sanctions against Iran after signing the memorandum. The move comes with indignation from the other members of the deal, especially European leaders. They cited that there was no evidence Iran was not complying with the deal. The inspection agency found no signs of failure to comply, and Iran seemed to be opening up about their nuclear program over the years. However, the president dodged this question by citing the Iranian regime as one of chaos, and the breaking of the deal as a symbol of US disagreement with Iran’s methods.
The validity of pulling out is debatable, but there is no doubt that Trump’s move puts world leaders and the deal in a difficult situation. Since the lifting of sanctions, many nearby nations had established business deals and relationships with the bigger economic powers in Iran. However, now that Trump has pulled us out of Iran Nuclear Deal, the reimposition of US sanctions on Iran can hinder the business with the European countries. Businesses now have to choose between Iran or the US, an obvious choice, but not one they’d necessarily like to make.
The withdrawal from the deal has created many other troubles. As of now, there is strong pressure in Iran for taking retaliatory actions, which may include bumping up uranium usage or even a withdrawal from the deal itself, but nothing has happened so far (the deal may still survive with the other members still pledging in). Looking ahead, this event could discourage countries to join such agreements with the US in the future, for lack of reliability. The pull out has damaged our credibility with important allies, such as France, Germany, UK, as well as with Iran.
Perplexingly, as soon as Trump pulled out of the Iran deal, he initiated one with North Korea. In addition, Trump has advocated a better Iran deal, but has laid out no diplomatic options. This begs the questions: What was Trump and his aides’ motives? Was this just an effort to undermine Obama’s achievements, as Trump has attempted before? Did Trump have a legitimate reason to pull out of the deal given his reasoning? What does this mean for nuclear situation in the Middle East?
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