As always, Obama responded with class and passion.
President Donald Trump announced on Tuesday, May 8, that the United States will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). It was signed in 2015 and was intended to stop Iran from acquiring a nuclear weapon for at least a decade.
“I am announcing today that the U.S. will withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal,” Trump said at the White House. “We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanctions,” he said.
Barack Obamaresponded with an impassioned Facebook post saying that pulling out of the nuclear agreement could lead to an eventual war with Iran. “Without the JCPOA, the United States could eventually be left with a losing choice between a nuclear-armed Iran or another war in the Middle East,” Obama wrote in a Facebook post.
“Walking away from the JCPOA turns our back on America’s closest allies and an agreement that our country’s leading diplomats, scientists, and intelligence professionals negotiated. In a democracy, there will always be changes in policies and priorities from one Administration to the next. But the consistent flouting of agreements that our country is a party to risks eroding America’s credibility, and puts us at odds with the world’s major powers.”
Trump’s decision to enact sanctions on Iran is a violation of the deal, not a “withdrawl” as the president states.
What was the JCPOA Agreement?
The JCPOA lifted draconian economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for a substantial curtailing of its nuclear capabilities, limiting them to peaceful applications. The JCPOA allowed for Iran’s nuclear facilities to be heavily monitored and inspected by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The deal forced Iran to reduce its nuclear centrifuges by almost 75% while giving up 97% of its enriched uranium. The uranium it was allowed to have must be kept at 3% to 4% enrichment, far less than the 90% required to make a nuclear bomb. Iran also agreed to destroy the core of its plutonium plant and replace it with one incapable of producing weapons-grade plutonium.
What was Trump’s problem with the deal?
Trump spoke out against the JCPOA in 2017 falsely claiming it was imposed when the country was on the verge of economic collapse. He also claimed the deal gave Iran over $100 billion to help fund terrorism while all it did was return Iran’s frozen assets.
Trump also inferred that Iran continued to build a nuclear program without backing his claim up with any evidence. “At the heart of the Iran deal was a giant fiction: that a murderous regime desired only a peaceful nuclear energy program. Today, we have definitive proof that this Iranian promise was a lie,” Trump said.
What happens next?
Trump has said he would like to renegotiate the current JCPOA, although there is no timetable for a new agreement. Iran has stated it will not renegotiate and threatened to retaliate. So after 90-day and 180-day wind-down periods, the U.S. will reimpose sanctions aimed at Iran’s oil sector and transactions with its central bank.
Iran will be free to produce as many centrifuges as it desires and enrich uranium at weapons-grade levels. “I have ordered the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran to be ready to start the enrichment of uranium at industrial levels,” Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said. “The U.S. has announced that it doesn’t respect its commitments.”
Violating the JCPOA may also have consequences on the U.S.’s ability to reach a denuclearization agreement with North Korea. Pyongyang may be weary of entering a deal with a country that can’t be trusted to keep its promises.
The deal will also hurt the United States on the world stage by distancing itself from its allies. Under Trump, the U.S. has already withdrawn from the Paris Agreement and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
How will this affect Americans on the homefront?
In the days leading up to Trump’s decision, gas prices began to rise across the country. “Withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal will support higher oil prices,” Dan Eberhart, CEO of oilfield services company Canary LLC, told CNN.
Obama was even more direct in his language about how the end of the deal could affect global stability.
“The JCPOA was never intended to solve all of our problems with Iran. We were clear-eyed that Iran engages in destabilizing behavior – including support for terrorism, and threats toward Israel and its neighbors. But that’s precisely why it was so important that we prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Every aspect of Iranian behavior that is troubling is far more dangerous if their nuclear program is unconstrained.”
Trump’s decision appears to be another reckless move that distances the United States from its allies while destroying its credibility as a world leader. The JCPOA was created as an alternative to tension and isolation. But Trump has decided to wind back that progress, putting America and its allies in jeopardy without the respect of providing an honest reason why.