Photo via Gage Skidmore
President Donald Trump removed the United States from the Iranian nuclear agreement this week, parting with a number of American allies and creating an entirely uncertain future both in the Middle East and the West.
Trump announced America’s departure from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, during which he called the seven-nation agreement “a great embarrassment to me as a citizen and to all citizens of the United States,” while insinuating that Iran has been enriching more uranium than the international pact allowed, despite American intelligence reporting that the Middle Eastern nation had been obeying the terms of the deal.
Struck in July 2015, the JCPOA was signed by leaders of Iran, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, Germany and former U.S. president Barack Obama. Drafted in response to Iran’s attempts to produce a nuclear warhead, the deal restricted Iran’s nuclear proliferation abilities in exchange for the removal of international trade sanctions. Because Iran is home to some of the world’s largest oil reserves, business began booming almost immediately after Iran renounced the majority of its enriched uranium and closed two-thirds of the country’s centrifuges, with energy companies, hotel chains, airlines, and other firms setting up shop in Iran.
By bowing out of the agreement, President Trump argues that he will now be able to restructure both sanctions against Iran and a new deal to restrict the country’s access to nuclear weapons.
“In a few moments, I will sign a presidential memorandum to begin reinstating U.S. nuclear sanctions on the Iranian regime,” Trump said during Tuesday’s announcement. “We will be instituting the highest level of economic sanction. Any nation that helps Iran in its quest for nuclear weapons could also be strongly sanctioned by the United States.”
Almost as soon as Trump’s announcement was complete, officials from the six other countries involved in the deal ― including Iran — began denouncing the president’s decision, restating their intentions to follow through with the agreement, with or without Trump’s involvement.
In a joint statement issued by the leaders of the U.K., France, and Germany, Theresa May, Emmanuel Macron, and Angela Merkel decried Trump’s unilateral upheaval of a deal that they said is still being honored by its other signatories.
“We recall that the JCPOA was unanimously endorsed by the UN Security Council in resolution 2231,” the European leaders wrote in their public response to Trump’s actions. “This resolution remains the binding international legal framework for the resolution of the dispute about the Iranian nuclear programme. We urge all sides to remain committed to its full implementation and to act in a spirit of responsibility.”
Amid continued investigations into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, Putin’s foreign policy team used decidedly harsher language to express their disagreement with Trump’s decision.
"The position promulgated by Washington represents a significant violation of the JCPOA," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement that also described Trump's latest policy change as "new confirmation of Washington's incompetence."
On the flip side, at least two U.S. allies outside of the seven-country agreement, Israel and Saudi Arabia, have both expressed support for Trump’s decision, claiming that Iran’s non-nuclear missile production and financial support for terrorism are larger threats to the region — activities they allege have grown since the 2015 deal.
As for what will happen next, no one is quite sure. Trump has said that there will be a grace period before economic sanctions are imposed to allow U.S. businesses to reconcile their Iranian dealings, while Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that the country will take time before responding, but hopes to continue the deal with the five remaining countries.
Still, responding directly to Trump’s announcement, Rouhani instructed Iran’s "atomic industry organization to be fully prepared for subsequent measures if needed so that in case of need we will start our industrial enrichment without limitations."
Stay tuned to MERRY JANE’s Need to Know column for further updates on this developing situation.