Nuclear Experts: Leaving the Iran Nuclear Deal ‘Is a Crisis of Trump’s Own Making’

Should the deal remain intact, the lack of a US presence in the joint commission will make it hard to enforce or change its provisions.

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May 8 2018, 9:07pm

Then-presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during 'Stop the Iran Deal' rally in Washington, DC, September 2015. Photo: Getty

President Trump has pulled America out of the Iran nuclear deal, the Obama-era treaty aimed at preventing Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

“If I allowed this deal to stand, there would soon be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East,” Trump said in a televised statement. “It’s clear to me that we cannot prevent an Iranian nuclear bomb under the decaying and root structure of the current arrangement.”

The Iran Deal eased economic sanctions on Iran in exchange for international oversight of its various domestic uranium enrichment programs and nuclear power plants. It limited the amount of uranium Iran could enrich, the speed it could build new nuclear facilities, and called on the International Atomic Energy Agency to routinely inspect Iran’s various facilities.

So why did the President kill the deal?

“He's an insecure racist who hates Barack Obama. It's not more complicated than that,” Jeffrey Lewis, founder of Arms Control Wonk and the Director of the East Asia Nonproliferation Program at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies, told me over the phone. “If George Bush had negotiated this deal, we'd still be in this agreement. I don’t think there’s any reason to normalize this decision or pretend its based in substance because it is not.”

Lewis and many other nuclear experts, feel that the US pulling out of the Iran Deal might allow the country to produce nuclear weapons faster. “So I get a new nuclear weapons program to study,” Lewis said.

Kingston Reif, the Director of Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy for Arms Control Association, an organization that promotes public understanding of weapons of mass destruction, also thinks this is a bad move.

“The irresponsibility and folly of Trump's decision today to abrogate the Iran Deal is hard to overstate,” Reif told me via email. “It may not be the end of the deal, but the agreement is now severely wounded. It increases the risk of an unconstrained Iranian nuclear program and proliferation in the region. It will undermine the US reputation as a credible and trustworthy partner, raise the cost of striking a deal with North Korea, and damage relations with our European allies. It is a crisis completely of Trump's own making.”

Pulling out of the deal indeed leaves America with fewer options when dealing with Iran’s extant nuclear programs. “If they cheat and the United States accuses them of it, no one will believe the United States,” Lewis said. “They now have a way to resume a lot of activity that we don’t like.”

Should the deal remain intact, the lack of a US presence in the joint commission will make it hard to enforce or change its provisions. Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, China, Russia, and Iran made up the commission's members. “So we always had a four to three majority,” Lewis said. “Even if the deal exists, it exists with a balance that’s now favorable to the Iranians. But who knows if the Iranians will stay in? They may.”

Lewis thinks the repercussions will play out vis-a-vis further sanctions. “My guess is the Iranians will not immediately walk away,” he said. “The Europeans, I think, want to preserve the deal so they will not be eager to reimpose sanctions. That’s where the fight is going to play out. The Germans say, ‘No we’re not going to stop doing business in Iran.’ Do we start sanctioning German companies?”

Shortly after Trump’s announcement, Richard Grenell, the new US Ambassador to Germany took to Twitter. “German companies doing business in Iran,” Grenell wrote, “should wind down operations immediately.”

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