Iran Deal: When Pulling Out Is Bad

Congratulations President Trump on forcing the United States to contend with not one, but two nuclear crises simultaneously. Not only that, they’re in some of the world’s most strategically important regions! That’s American grand strategy at its finest. Well done.

In all seriousness, pulling out of the Iran deal was an extremely dangerous and reckless decision. It’s relatively easy to eliminate an agreement or policy, but much more difficult to create a new one to replace it. Judging by President Trump’s speech and track record, it’s unlikely that he will develop a more robust and effective Iran strategy. As bad as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) was, it would’ve been much wiser for Trump to wait until after the crisis on the Korean Peninsula was solved before trying to fix this agreement. Now the U.S. is forced to juggle, which is not one of the country’s strongsuits.

In my recent op-ed in RealClearDefense, I argued against pulling out of the JCPOA as it was worse than keeping it in its present (and deeply flawed) form:

  • The deal buys time, essentially tabling the Iranian nuclear issue for roughly a decade. Since Iran already received billions of dollars in unfrozen assets and sanctions relief up front, we would not receive any of the benefits we paid for if we were to walk out.
  • Pulling out of the JCPOA may not only potentially push Iran closer to a nuclear weapon, but also force our regional allies to change their strategic calculus.
  • It weakens American credibility and sends the wrong signal to allies and adversaries alike.
  • Pulling out of the agreement accomplishes almost nothing beneficial. Reimposing nuclear sanctions unilaterally will not be nearly as strong as the multilateral sanctions regime that brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place.

Unfortunately, these are some of the consequences we’re now going to have to face. Ironically, pulling out is far more likely to make Iran pregnant with a nuclear capability than staying in.

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