At 2pm today, President Trump will present the most consequential foreign policy decision he has made since taking office. Speaking from the White House, he’s set to announce whether the United States will continue to adhere to the Iran nuclear deal.
As a reminder, under that 2015 deal, the US and five other countries agreed to ease sanctions on the Islamic Republic in exchange for a verifiable halt to its nuclear program.
Although the international inspectors responsible for oversight of the deal say Iran has abided by its commitments, Trump and other hawks in the US government (along with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu) point out three shortcomings: it doesn’t prohibit Iran from developing and testing long-range missiles, it allows limits on nuclear testing to lapse in the coming years, and it does nothing to punish Iran for expanding its regional influence via more conventional means. All true, though viable alternatives to the deal remain unclear.
Mr. Trump will explain today whether the US intends to withdraw from the deal and, if so, whether he will reimpose sanctions on Iran’s oil exports and possibly other sectors as well. Trump can’t kill the deal entirely, because France, Germany, the UK, China and Russia have all agreed to it. But US sanctions would blow a large hole in it, forcing the remaining signatories to decide whether to patch it up and carry on as best they can, or to scrap it entirely.
The fate of the Iran nuclear deal is one of the biggest geopolitical dramas of the year — Trump will have us all tuned in at 2pm for the next act.