Donald Trump wants badly to end the Iran Deal, which he has wrongly lambasted as “one of the worst deals ever created.” The Iran Deal has successfully stopped Iran’s nuclear development and triumphed diplomacy over armed action.
To end the Iran Deal, to renege on an agreement from the previous administration, would dissuade other (rogue) regimes from negotiating with the United States as Trump would increase the costs and decrease the benefits of civilized issue resolution while making it clear that the United State’s word is only good as long as its speaker remains in power.
A Victory for Sanctions and Diplomacy
The Iran Deal represents the victorious conclusion of economic sanctions. We never intended to hurt Iran’s economy indefinitely; instead, we hoped to bring them to the negotiating table by offering a clear benefit — relief from crippling sanctions — in return for ending its nascent nuclear program. That succeeded.
Iran, once mere months from building a small nuclear stockpile, has followed the terms of the deal and now stands a decade (or more) from attaining a nuclear weapon. Its centrifuges have been cemented and uranium stockpiles reduced some 98 percent. Relatively moderate leaders have even used sanction relief to gain power in the state, reducing tensions with Israel and the West.
Should Trump fail to uphold our end of the deal, as he seems likely to do, Congress will have to decide whether to reimpose sanctions on Iran. If it does, the Iran Deal will fall apart and, without sure support from our allies (who, aside from Israel, want the Iran Deal affirmed), only weak sanctions could be levied.
Iran Walks Away and Doesn’t Come Back
These sanctions would not, as before, bring Iran back to the negotiating table so Trump can work his faked dealmaking magic. Iran will be free from its nuclear obligations and could resume work on weapons of mass destruction. That sets Trump’s successor(s) up with a dilemma similar to what he faces with North Korea: How to handle an aggressive regional power with, or close to having, nuclear weapons. And the Middle East has a lot more fluid parts than does North Korea.
Importantly, if we end the Iran Deal and manage to apply meaningful sanctions, it’s highly unlikely that Iran could be brought back to the negotiating table to hammer out a new deal. They did so once and ended their nuclear program, abiding by all of the deal’s terms. But that hasn’t stopped Trump from doubting the deal and continuously threatening to tear it up. If he does so, why should Iran trust us again in the future to uphold our side of the bargain?
Can’t Negotiate with Other Rogue States
This breach of trust hurts us with other states. Take North Korea. We can only hope that North Korea could be induced to diplomacy to curtail its nuclear development. While this might not seem likely — and seems especially unlikely when President Trump continues to throw cold water on the idea — it’s not impossible and is a partial hope of sanctions.
However, should Trump end the Iran Deal, North Korea will have no reason to ever negotiate with the United States. What possible benefit could they get from it? A brief respite from sanctions that could be reimposed at the whim of a tempestuous president? An agreement at risk with every new election?
Without standing by our agreements, one president’s word — one Congresses action — means nothing. Continuity in foreign affairs is incredibly important. Signaling that our words and deals means little takes away whatever benefits other states might gain from negotiating with us: Following the agreement hurts their interests and may not help them in the long run if the United States backtracks from our word.
Don’t End the Iran Deal
Should Donald Trump end the Iran Deal, we will see our foreign policy become much more complicated. Rogue nations will double-down on nuclear development and will avoid making deals with the United States. We’ll increasingly isolate these states and they will increasingly build arms and increasingly become a threat.
Mr. President, please don’t end the Iran Deal.