The End of American Involvement in the Iran Deal: What You Need to Know & How American Foreign Relations Could Change

The Nunes Memo: What it is, What it Means, Where the Truth Lies
February 5, 2018
Generation Doomsday
December 13, 2018

President Donald Trump pulled out of the Iranian nuclear agreement, Tuesday, cracking open the lid to a potential nuclear Pandora’s box in the Middle East.

What happened?

Trump terminated the agreement under which Iran vowed to dismantle much of its nuclear program in return for weaker economic sanctions after much debate with foreign powers who urged him not to back out.

Trump argues the current agreement, one of America’s “worst deals” in the history of deals, constrains Iran’s nuclear ambitions but fails to double down on their other criminal regional activities, effectively letting them off the hook. Though the agreement is imperfect at best, most of the international community involved have reached a consensus that remaining in the agreement would be the best course of action. Trump, however, prematurely ending his side of the bargain, shattered international unity, made Iran look like a reliable state (which is no small task), and left little room for renegotiation.

Iranian’s have been taught for a generation that America can’t be trusted, and Trump just proved them right.

What’s in the deal?

Officially known as the, “Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action,” the Iranian nuclear deal is an agreement, signed into law by six major world powers, limiting Iran’s nuclear capabilities in return for the abating of economic sanctions. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, witnessing the devastating effects of America’s crippling economic sanctions, agreed to take concrete steps to revive his country’s economy by agreeing to the demands of the Western World. The deal, which was reached in 2015 under Barack Obama’s presidency, ended 12 years of deadlock on how to deal with Iran’s deterrence.

Nevertheless an incredible feat, the deal is in need of alteration. Currently, the accord permits Iran to partake in nefarious acts that don’t include developing its nuclear weaponry. Rouhani has the power to sponsor terrorist groups (think: Hezbollah and Hamas), launch a series of missile tests, and contribute to horrific human rights violations presently occurring within and outside his country’s borders. Even more so, the implementation of what’s known as “sunset clauses” in the agreement ease the restrictions in place to limit Iran’s capabilities after a period of 15 years. Hypothetically, such clauses open the door to a (post-agreement) economically viable Iran continuing its nuclear development around the mid-2020s.

Despite both parties agreeing on the necessity to modify the agreement, Trump and the Iranian government differ on how to conduct future negotiations. While Rouhani pledges to only negotiate changes based on the current deal, Trump refuses to consider anything but starting anew.

What does this mean for the US?

On the international stage, America might lose its global dominance.

  1. Economically speaking, the biggest winners of Trump’s decision will be China and Russia, both of which have gradually spread their influence throughout the Middle East. Russia is fighting, and winning, in the Syrian conflict on the same side as Iran. Exiting from the deal will inevitably draw Russia closer to Iran, possibly countering any economic harm caused by the reimposition of US sanctions. Moreover, with a now unstable geopolitical climate, cold feet among European and American businesses investing in Middle Eastern oil could indicate a new boom for Chinese companies looking to make money in the region. As a result, Russian and Chinese trade with Iran could considerably increase, negating the losses felt from American restrictions.
  2. Secondly, while we hope for diplomacy with North Korea to succeed, walking away from this deal risks losing a potential accord that accomplishes exactly what we’re looking to achieve with Kim Jong Un. Trump’s consistent violations of multi-party agreements continue to pull the US farther from its allies, leaving the country at risk of losing credibility. This conflict doesn’t just concern nuclear weapon production; when the American president gives his word or negotiates a deal, his promise must hold value or American influence across a full range of complex global issues suffers. After withdrawing from the Paris climate change agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, America was isolated in trade and climate science. With the destruction of the Iran accord, America will be taken out of the conversation regarding security affairs. If Trump continues to violate treaties, America’s leadership on the global stage will inevitably lose authority.

What’s Next?
The immediate aftermath is unclear. With an Iran suspected to launch an attack on neighboring Israel, it’s difficult to read how the conflict will play as regional dynamics come into the fore. However, it’s important to note Iran is on the brink of war against Israel. Recent attacks on Iranian military bases by the Israelis, alongside the corrosion of the accord which previously limited Iran’s militaristic capabilities, creates the frightening potential for a broader, regional conflict. Both the Trump administration and the Iranian government will pursue a strategy of agitation in hopes of using brinkmanship to strike deals, but the fragility of this reality may just turn into a full-fledged war.

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