In the past year and a half Donald Trump – who is President of the United States btw – has done a few policy-related things that range from weird to questionable to “is this how the world ends?” His latest move was to pull the U.S. out of the Iran Nuclear Deal, which is closer to the world-ending side of the scale than the weird side. Let’s break down what exactly is going on here.
What the heck is the Iran Nuclear Deal?
It’s a long story and for the full details in a convenient three minutes, check out the video explanation below. Basically, the Iran Nuclear Deal is an agreement signed in 2015 between Iran, the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China and the European Union that prevents Iran from developing or holding any type of nuclear resources. Iran also must undergo periodic checks from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to confirm on a regular basis that they are in compliance with the deal. At the time the deal was signed, all countries agreed to lift economic sanctions on Iran within a year with the provision that if they were to fall out of compliance, the sanctions would be reinstituted.
What doesn’t Trump like about that?
Trump cites a few different reasons for wanting to pull out of the Iran deal and, arguably, none of them are actually good enough to blow up an international agreement that literally prevents a nation from developing devastating nuclear missiles. The one he goes back to most often is the same as his arguments for pulling out of the Paris Climate Agreement and renegotiating NAFTA – it was poorly negotiated and is bad for America. That argument translates loosely to: “It doesn’t put America at an advantage over everyone else involved.” Also, probably, “It was Obama’s idea so I hate it.”
He also makes some completely false statements to support why he wants to scrap the deal. In an interview with Fox News last month, Trump reiterated claims he made during his campaign: that Iran is not in compliance with the deal – contrary to reports from the IAEA – and that the deal forced Americans to pay Iran billions of dollars. As Polifact explains in detail, that money was not an outright payment to Iran, but the return of payments that were unfrozen when sanctions were lifted and a refund for weapons the U.S. never delivered.
Trump’s most legitimate concern is that some of the restrictions on Iran’s nuclear capacity “sunset” on certain dates less than 10 years in the future. He mistakenly says that means Iran could start building a nuclear bomb on the exact day the restrictions expire, except Iran doesn’t currently have any nuclear material with which to do that. While it isn’t ideal that the restrictions expire, blowing up the deal right now is probably not better than waiting for those sunset dates in the future.
What’s happening now?
Trump officially pulled the U.S. out of the deal via presidential order after a press conference Tuesday afternoon. He is also reinstating sanctions on Iran.
The Iran Deal is defective at its core. If we do nothing, we know what will happen. In just a short time, the world’s leading state sponsor of terror will be on the cusp of acquiring the world’s most dangerous weapons…. pic.twitter.com/58qwBLzxIH
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 8, 2018
While the U.S. pulling out doesn’t blow up the deal, it does destabilize it. All the other countries involved in the deal have expressed their belief in the importance of the agreement, with French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel both making visits to the White House two weeks ago to try to talk Trump out of his decision.
France, Germany, and the UK regret the U.S. decision to leave the JCPOA. The nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake.
— Emmanuel Macron (@EmmanuelMacron) May 8, 2018
Joint statement from Chancellor Merkel, President Macron, and Prime Minister May on the Iran Nuclear Agreement: pic.twitter.com/xJ14M4gD2W
— Peter Wittig (@AmbWittig) May 8, 2018
Even Iran has made it known that they would like to keep the deal intact, because it keeps the other countries from imposing economic sanctions and – most importantly – adds stability to the Middle East where other nations may develop more advanced nuclear programs if they believe Iran is back at it. A nuclear arms race is never a good idea.
What kind of effects are we going to see?
In the globalized world, one country – especially the U.S. – making a big move like this is going to have consequences for everyone. The sanctions are the most pressing since Iran is a main source of oil for the Western world. Gas prices are already rising at an unprecedented rate throughout North America – yes, that includes Canada – and that’s just in anticipation of the sanctions.
American and international businesses that trade with or operate within Iran will also be effected and the market in general is reacting negatively to the uncertainty (as the market tends to do). Specific consequences will become more apparent throughout the six month “wind down” during which companies will pull back on trade with Iran.
There’s also the whole issue of the deal possibly becoming void and Iran potentially taking the opportunity to develop nuclear weapons, thus threatening the entire planet, but we’re not there yet.
The North Korea Issue
Speaking of nuclear deals, it’s been pretty well known that Donald Trump is looking to make a deal with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to limit the country’s nuclear capabilities. While N.K. isn’t involved in the Iran deal, the U.S. pulling out of a key deal they signed less than three years ago does not send a good message to a country looking to sign a similar deal. Trump tweeted Wednesday morning that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is returning from a North Korean trip with three Americans that were being detained by the country and details on a date and location for a U.S.-N.K. summit. That’s good news, but it’s possible this recent development will cause North Korea to have some second thoughts.
I am pleased to inform you that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is in the air and on his way back from North Korea with the 3 wonderful gentlemen that everyone is looking so forward to meeting. They seem to be in good health. Also, good meeting with Kim Jong Un. Date & Place set.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 9, 2018