Analysis & Opinions - The Boston Globe

How Trump Can Fix the Iran Nuclear Deal

| May 07, 2018

PRESIDENT TRUMP FACES a fateful deadline on May 12: to decide whether to keep waiving nuclear-related sanctions on Iran or to rip up the Iran nuclear deal. Fortunately, there is a path that would allow him to fix many of the problems he sees with the deal while keeping Iran hemmed in by the deal’s restraints.

Whatever one thinks of the nuclear deal with Iran, the fact is that, under its terms, Iran has cut its uranium-enrichment centrifuges by two-thirds; eliminated 98 percent of the stock of enriched uranium that could otherwise have given it a major headstart on producing nuclear bomb material; poured cement into the core of the reactor it could have used to produce bomb plutonium; and accepted far broader international inspections than had been in place before. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has accurately described the inspections and other provisions designed to limit cheating as “pretty robust.”

If Trump is determined to stop Iran from getting a nuclear bomb, as he says he is, he should make sure that, as he pushes on other issues, he does not let this progress — for US security, for Israeli security, and for world security — go down the drain. A two-part plan can help him do that — acting in part with the Europeans and in part on his own.

First, Trump can complete the current talks with the Europeans to put together a joint effort to pressure Iran to stop testing long-range ballistic missiles and stop supporting terrorists like Hezbollah. Such an effort could also include pushing back on Iran’s support for regional actors that threaten Western interests, such as Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad and Houthi rebels in Yemen. Those talks were a major focus of his recent meetings with President Emmanuel Macron of France and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and on those issues an agreement is reportedly close.

Fixing the nuclear deal itself has proved more contentious, since, as the Europeans point out, a negotiated agreement cannot be rewritten by just a few of its parties. This is where Trump’s unilateral power can come into play. Trump, who has the authority to reimpose US sanctions at any time, could make clear that if Iran ever comes substantially closer to the bomb — whether by violating the deal or by taking advantage of its sunset provisions, which mean key restraints expire in 2025-2030 — the United States would respond. That response could include measures ranging from sanctions to military strikes.

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Bunn, Matthew.“How Trump Can Fix the Iran Nuclear Deal.” The Boston Globe, May 7, 2018.

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