President Donald J. Trump has unilaterally withdrawn the U.S. from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and announced the reimposition of sanctions against Iran. Since January, when President Trump declared that he would pull the U.S. out of the nuclear agreement with Iran unless Congress and Europe addressed several “disastrous flaws”, the UK, France and Germany, collectively known as the E3, made significant progress toward accommodating the White House’s concerns. Iran’s compliance with its JCPOA obligations has been verified repeatedly by the UN nuclear agency conducting the most rigorous inspection regime ever negotiated. But these factors seemingly did nothing to dissuade President Trump from exiting an agreement he has had in his crosshairs since taking office in January 2017.
In the wake of this reckless and unjustified decision, the priority should be to salvage the JCPOA without the U.S., and avoid the unwelcome prospect of a renewed nuclear crisis in a Middle East already in turmoil.
The priority should be to salvage the JCPOA without the U.S.
What Now for the Iran Nuclear Deal?
The accord’s fate now primarily rests on the actions of Europe. While European efforts have thus far focused on how to keep the U.S. in the JCPOA, they must now shift to keeping Iran from getting out. E3 leaders have been clear in their common commitment to upholding the agreement, even as they share concerns over aspects of Iran’s behaviour beyond the nuclear realm. As Crisis Group recently proposed, a JCPOA minus – with Russia and China, but without the U.S. – requires a political and economic commitment by Europe that preserves as many of the benefits envisioned by the deal for Iran as possible. This could help Iranian policymakers justify restraint in the face of the U.S.’s withdrawal, and facilitate continued EU-Iran dialogue on issues such as Iran’s ballistic missile program, regional policies and human rights situation.
President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement is an irresponsible, unnecessary and serious blow to the JCPOA. If Europe and Iran can find a way to work together, however, it need not be fatal