On May 8, U.S. President Donald Trump announced that he's pulling the United States out of the nuclear deal with Iran, which was agreed to by the U.S. and other world powers in 2015. The President further announced the U.S. would reimpose sanctions at “the highest level” on Iran. Trump stated that the U.S. would "not be held hostage to nuclear blackmail" and will not allow "a regime that chants 'death to America'" to get nuclear weapons.
1. Why did the U.S. pull out of the deal?
- Simply put, the JCPOA provides Iran with a patient pathway to a nuclear bomb. By following the terms of the agreement, Tehran will emerge as a nuclear threshold state with an industrial-size enrichment program and the ability to produce nuclear weapons with close to zero-breakout time in less than a decade.
- The administration extended waivers on Iran’s nuclear sanctions on multiple occasions, keeping alive the deal to allow for the U.S. together with European allies to fix the JCPOA. These efforts failed, leading to today’s action.
2. What happens next?
- The President announced crippling new sanctions on Iran, putting pressure on the regime and penalizing foreign companies that do business with the Islamic Republic. Despite the JCPOA companies were reluctant to do business with Iran and these actions will accelerate the descent of their economy, which is already in significant decline.
- The Treasury Department released an info sheet which details how the U.S. will reimpose nuclear-related sanctions – some following a 90-day and the rest after a 180-day wind-down period.
- By re-imposing sanctions, European banks and companies will be forced to choose between America’s $19 trillion financial system and Iran's $400 billion economy. Should they ignore the sanctions, their assets in the U.S. – which far exceed existing business ties with Iran – would be subject to harsh penalties.
3. The way forward
- The challenges remain the same. Iran looms large over major U.S. national security concerns including non-proliferation, international terrorism, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Lebanon.
- In cooperation with our allies -- especially Europe, India and Japan -- a new framework can be forged to dramatically increase economic pressure on Iran's weakening economy that will provide Iran with a simple choice: change its behavior and again become a member of the international community, or face increasing isolation and internal unrest.
- Iran negotiated the JCPOA from a position of strength, knowing its negotiating partners wanted the deal at all cost. Now a sense of crisis in Iran runs deep and wide. The currency is collapsing and the economy is in free fall. Popular dissent is on the rise. By re-imposing sanctions, America will regain leverage to bring Iran to the table on our terms.
4. A broader strategy
- America’s withdrawal from the JCPOA provides an opportunity to develop a new, broader Iran strategy, one that addresses both Iran’s illicit nuclear and non-nuclear activities - which go hand-in-hand.
- Any new solution must include the following: Snap inspections of all Iranian suspected nuclear facilities, including military ones; a verifiable end to Iran’s missile programs, whether long- or short-range; no sunset — a permanent and verifiable end to Iran’s nuclear ambitions; robust limitations on Iran’s research and development on advanced centrifuges; and reinstatement of the U.N. arms embargo on Iran, and sanctions on IRGC officials that were removed under the deal.
- The U.S. should be clear that Iran will face increased pressure until they completely withdraw from Syria. A permanent Iranian military presence in Syria is unacceptable.
- The U.S. should support our allies in containing Iran’s influence in Iraq, which Tehran exercises through powerful Shiite militia.
- The U.S. should reformulate its Lebanon policy to acknowledges that Hezbollah – and by extent, Iran – is in complete political and military control of the country.
- The U.S. should work with the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen to limit Iran’s hand in the conflict. Iranian-backed Houthi rebels have fired missiles at Saudi Arabia, targeted coalition vessels in international waters, and are complicit in war crimes.
5. Work with our allies
- History has shown that Iran responds to pressure when it is encircled with a united international front. We must work with our allies to achieve that.
- While withdrawing from the JCPOA puts us at odds with European allies as to how prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities we all agree that Iran should never become a nuclear weapons capable state.
- We also share an interest in bringing the war in Syria to an end, to stabilize Iraq, to stop the suffering in Yemen, and to prevent a new Israel-Lebanon war.
Statement from Josh Block, CEO and President of The Israel Project
Josh Block, President and CEO of The Israel Project, said “The JCPOA was built on false premises and riddled with flaws. It enabled Iran's bad behavior across the region, enriched and empowered the Islamic Republic's military and terrorist operations, and put them on a path to a massive, modern nuclear program with a nuclear breakout time of just weeks in less than 8 years.”
"A new solution must rectify those flaws by ensuring full transparency into Iran’s nuclear program with immediate access inspections without exemption, an end to Iran's work and use of ballistic missiles of any range, permanently end their nuclear pursuit without sunset, and end Iran's terrorism and aggressive regional behavior, including a total withdrawal of all forces and equipment, official and unofficial, from Syria.”