October 19, 2017
President Trump recently vowed he would not recertify a deal known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPA), otherwise known as the Iranian nuclear deal. He affirmed that the United States would pull out of the agreement entirely if Iran and the other powers involved did not fix what he believes to be its many “serious flaws.”
Trump believes the conditions already in place need to be strengthened, severe restrictions need to be imposed upon Iran’s conventional ballistic missile program and that the terms of the deal be made permanent–among other things.
With his harsh and pointed words, the Mr. Trump has conflated his hardline, reality-TV style negotiation techniques with real-life diplomacy, and that is exactly the last thing a situation this delicate needs.
In 2015, the Iranian government agreed to the JCPA with the United States, Russia, China, France, the United Kingdom and Germany. The agreement lifted a series of economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for more transparency and limitations on the nation’s controversial nuclear energy program. After the deal was signed, the nation’s government shut down facilities, drastically reduced the number of centrifuges installed at its two uranium enrichment outlets, and agreed to constant inspection from the International Atomic Energy Agency, a global nuclear watchdog organization.
After its implementation, the deal was subject to all kinds of scrutiny and criticism from conservatives in the United States. Many saw it as being too lenient—a unilateral concession to a dangerous regime that would inevitably lead to the development of an Iranian nuclear arsenal, and as of late, there has been no critic more vocal than Donald Trump.
The decision not to recertify gives Congress 60 days to toughen the agreement. In order for a new deal to materialize, Congress would have to draft and pass a bill backed by 60 Senators. The negotiating table Trump has set for himself with his speech is not going to be a friendly one—at any stage, on any side. First and foremost, in order to pass a new deal through Congress, Trump will have to convince all 52 Republicans and eight Democrats in the Senate to come to an agreement on one of the most polarizing policies in modern American history. Then, he will have to convince five other nations—many of whom are perfectly happy with the current deal—that those new policies are necessary, smart, constructive and in everyone’s best interests. Finally, the Iranian government will have to swallow their hatred for the Trump administration and reluctantly agree to new, harsher terms on their nuclear energy program.
Almost immediately after Trump’s statement, leaders in the UK, France and Germany announced their commitment to the agreement as it currently exists. The International Atomic Energy Agency issued a statement reaffirming that Iran has been abiding by the terms in the deal, and the president of Iran went on state TV, attacking Trump’s statements as being “baseless accusations and insults” and that the President’s speech had “made our people more united.”
The United States or Iran pulling out of the agreement and reimposing the economic sanctions that initially compelled it would take away the current safeguards effectively containing the Iranian nuclear program. That could mean the regime accelerating an uninspected nuclear program or even setting the stage for a military conflict in Iran.
Trump’s approach to the situation with Iran is an example of how his brand of politics does not translate to constructive foreign policy. A great deal of his political appeal comes from the image of a gung-ho, brash uncompromising genius of negotiation that he tries to project. This is not the situation for that mentality.
Based on his rhetoric, whatever the President has in mind for a new deal is unrealistic; if he can overcome the odds and manage to get a deal he is happy with, there is no telling whether or not the Iranian regime will even consider agreeing to it. Donald Trump called the JCPA the “worst deal ever,” but an unpredictable Iranian government furious over reimposed sanctions and with no oversight of its nuclear program sounds a whole lot worse.
Jay Fuchs is a senior communication major