The Precarious State of US/Iran Relations

The Story:

On October 15, the Trump administration is expected to certify whether Iran is in compliance with the deal in which Iran agreed to various restrictions on its nuclear program.

What is the Agreement?

The deal in question, formally the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Acton (JCPOA) was signed in Vienna, Austria in July 2015. Signators represented Iran itself, all five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council, Germany, and the EU. Iran agreed to throttle back specified aspects of its nuclear program, and to assist a rigorous inspections regime. In return the other signators agreed to lift sanctions they had formerly had in place, and to unfreeze Iranian assets.

What has Trump Said?

Addressing the United Nations on September 19, President Trump described JCPOA as “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into,” and an “embarrassment.” Under U.S. law, a refusal to certify Iran’s compliance at the required 90 day intervals would allow Congress to re-impose the sanctions.

Elsewhere in the Administration

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson believes that Iran has complied with its literal obligations under the deal, but also that Iran has misbehaved on regional security, violating “expectations” created by JCPOA.

The Punch Line 

The Trump administration seems inclined to find some pretext to scuttle the deal with Iran. That would have unpredictable consequences.

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