Today President Trump announced that his Administration would continue to waive nuclear related sanctions on Iran that were lifted under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That’s the right decision, and it’s the only decision supported by the facts because there is not a shred of evidence that Iran has violated the nuclear agreement, only proof that Iran has kept its nuclear commitments.
However, while the JCPOA will remain in place for the time being, the Administration explicitly threatened to never extend sanctions relief again unless the President’s unrealistic terms are met. This includes refusing to negotiate directly with Iran in the future, legislating a U.S. position that missile programs and nuclear programs are inseparable, and demanding that any future agreement never sunset — even though every other nuclear nonproliferation agreement includes timelines that can, and in this case should, be extended through diplomacy. These demands showcase the worst in heavy-handed foreign policy — and a misunderstanding of how Congress works — and will get us nowhere.
Today we learned that the President’s plan includes bullying our allies into fundamentally altering the terms of a deal that they know is working for our mutual security and have publicly stated they have no interest in amending. America’s closest allies all argue that keeping the JCPOA in place is the only way to make future negotiations on other Iranian activities possible. A U.S. move to violate or withdraw from the nuclear deal undermines the transatlantic relationship and our alliances of first resort, which are vital across a broad range of policies — from bedrock economic issues to confronting terrorism.
We also remain extremely troubled that President Trump has — for a second time — chosen not to certify the nuclear agreement to Congress. Whether it is to keep a campaign promise or motivated by a desire to undo the achievements of the last Administration, the result is the same: President Trump damages American credibility, strains our alliances, undermines diplomatic efforts underway with North Korea, and reduces our leverage as we seek to make progress on other serious issues with Iran.
Today, average Iranians themselves are wrestling with serious questions about their country’s future. Alleviating nuclear program-related sanctions provided an opportunity for the Iranian people to focus on serious internal economic issues at home, and it deprived hardliners of a convenient scapegoat. No longer able to blame all their problems on the West, Iranian leaders today are being forced to explain themselves directly to their constituents. That’s a good thing. If the U.S. wants to stand with the people of Iran, reinstating nuclear sanctions without any cause and damaging the JCPOA would be a disaster; it would allow hardliners in the Iranian government to pass the buck for economic dissatisfaction back to the United States.
Ultimately the Iran nuclear deal strengthens the security of our nation and our allies. It put the brakes on a collision course toward war. Our interests continue to be best served by upholding the agreement, ensuring Iran’s compliance, and maintaining our credibility as a negotiating partner.