On July 14, 2015, the P5+1 (China, France, Germany, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States), the European Union, and Iran reached a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), better known as the Iran Nuclear Deal. In exchange for sanctions relief, the JCPOA forced Iran to accept restrictions on its illegal nuclear program and a new corresponding inspections regime.
Taken together, the terms of the deal have increased Iran’s breakout time using uranium – the amount of time it would take to create enough uranium to build a bomb – from two to three months to twelve months or more. It eliminates Iran’s ability to produce weapons-usable plutonium for at least 15 years. And, it ensures scrutiny to block Iran from engaging in any such activities covertly. Failure to comply with any of the deal's requirements would lead to punitive steps, including but not necessarily limited to the resumption of sanctions. The deal has received strong support from key European allies and more than eighty of the world's leading nuclear nonproliferation experts. Senior members of the president’s own national security team have testified in favor of continued American participation in the deal.
In May 2015, Congress asserted its own authority over the agreement with the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act, requiring the president to certify certain aspects of the deal to Congress every 90 days.
On October 13, 2017, despite eight consecutive reports from the International Atomic Energy Agency certifying Iran's compliance, President Trump announced his decision not to certify the agreement. He also threatened to terminate the deal unless it is amended to replace the deal's sunset clauses with permanent restrictions on Iran's nuclear weapon and intercontinental missile activity.
In January 2018, President Trump once again agreed to extend the deal, but warned that he would not do so when the economic sanctions are next up for renewal, on May 12, unless Congress and European allies fixed "the deal’s disastrous flaws." Specifically, the president stated that he would only approve legislation that addressed "four critical components." Experts like Kelsey Davenport, director for nonproliferation policy at the Arms Control Association, have explained, however, that Trump's demands are unrealistic and set the U.S. up to violate the agreement. As the May 12 deadline approaches, President Trump's recent cabinet changes add further cause for concern. Mike Pompeo, tapped for Secretary of State, has criticized the deal, and Trump's new National Security Advisor, John Bolton, has consistently advocated for going to war with Iran.
Withdrawing from the agreement would isolate the United States from its global allies and could set the country on track for a new war in the Middle East. In addition, it could complicate diplomacy with North Korea. As Republican Senator Bob Corker said: "If it’s believed that we withdrew from a military agreement when there aren’t material violations... then it makes it more difficult for people to believe we’re going to abide by another agreement."
WHAT YOU CAN DO
- On May 12, 2018, President Trump will once again decide whether to waive sanctions or walk away from the deal. Call your congressional representatives today at (202) 224-3121 and ask them to defend the deal. Here's what to say:
- The credibility of the U.S. is on the line: If President Trump walks away from U.S. obligations under the deal, without any evidence that Iran is failing to hold up its end of the bargain, it will weaken the U.S. in the eyes of both our allies and our adversaries.
- Pulling out of the deal would give Iran a free pass to walk away from its obligations and re-start its nuclear program. We can't let that happen.
- Tearing up the deal with nothing to replace it is reckless and irresponsible. It will make an Iranian nuclear weapon more likely, and will put the U.S. back on the path toward war with Iran.
- We don't need another war in the Middle East, and it's unfair to our brave men and women in uniform to ask them to fight because of reckless, erratic decisions by President Trump and John Bolton.
- Basics of the Deal – Diplomacy Works
- Iran Deal 101, video series – J Street
- I Helped Sell the False Choice of War Once. It’s Happening Again. – By Lawrence Wilkerson, The New York Times, February 2018
- Trump’s Cynical Gambit on the Iran Nuclear Deal – By Kelsey Davenport, Arms Control Association, January 2018
- Iran Deal: Hanging By A Thread – Ploughshares Fund, January 2018
- Lead Negotiator In Iran Deal: Trump Is 'Misreading Situation' – By Wendy Sherman, TIME, January 2018