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Trump Decides to Tear Up Iran Nuclear Deal, Reimpose Sanctions

The move pisses off America's allies, and makes military confrontation with Iran more likely.

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State Department/Sipa USA/Newscom

President Donald Trump has decided to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal.

According to a Tuesday New York Times story, Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron that he intended to withdraw from the Obama-negotiated deal—formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA—which saw the Iranian government agree to limits on its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief.

Trump has been uniformly critical of the deal both on the campaign trail and in office, threatening to withdraw from the arrangement numerous times.

The president had planned an announcement about his administration's continued participation in the nuclear pact for this afternoon. Trump's reported comments to Macron apparently confirms many analysts' assumption that the president would use the announcement to scuttle the deal.

According to the Times, the deal-breaker for Trump had been his demand that limitations on Iran's nuclear fuel production continue past 2030, when current restrictions are scheduled to be lifted. The United States' withdrawal means the re-imposition of sanctions that had prevented the sale of Iranian oil and froze billions of the country's assets.

Trump's decision is sure to upset America's European allies, who were also party to the agreement, and who have been urging the president to remain in the deal. Britain's Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson met with Vice President Mike Pence this week to try and persuade the administration to keep the JCPOA in place. France's Defense Minister has referred to the deal as "a factor of peace and stabilization in a very eruptive region."

Voices inside the administration had likewise worked to keep Trump from tearing up the deal, most prominently former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and former National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster. Their ouster in favor of Iran uber-hawks Mike Pompeo and John Bolton effectively removed any internal opposition to today's decision.

Reason contributor Steve Chapman has objected to the conflicted reasoning of Trump and other critics for ending the Iran deal, who've taken the JCPOA to task for both imposing ineffective restrictions on Iran's nuclear program and for putting an expiration date on those restrictions.

"The weird logic of the opponents is that because parts of the accord will end too soon, we should end the whole thing even sooner—right now," wrote Chapman. "Their implication is that all the flaws would be acceptable if only they would remain in effect until the end of time."

Tearing up a deal now "would be diplomatic malpractice" argued Reason contributor and Defense Priorities Fellow Daniel DePetris, who argued that whatever its imperfections, the JCPOA has lowered the possibility of a military confrontation with Iran.

"Jettisoning a nuclear deal that is working, despite the problems buried in the text, would run counter to the realism embedded in the Trump administration's national security doctrine," wrote DePetris. "And it may very well put the United States in the position of fighting a fourth war in the Middle East, a possibility the American people are neither prepared for nor willing to support."

Trump is scheduled to officially announce his withdrawal from the deal at 2 p.m. Eastern today.