Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Affairs

Trump's Dangerous Shift on Iran

| Oct. 15, 2017

Setting the U.S. on a Path Toward Isolation and Confrontation

On Friday, the United States reached a turning point in its relations with Iran. U.S. President Donald Trump forcefully denounced the Islamic Republic in a highly confrontational speech, threatening to upend the nuclear deal unless Congress amends it to make its terms more restrictive. By refusing to certify the accord, despite verification that Iran is in compliance, Trump essentially torpedoed the hard work that led to Washington’s recent opening to Tehran. His brash move, coupled with other escalatory measures—the designation of an entire branch of Iran’s military, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), as a sponsor of terrorism, as well as the Trump administration’s hostile attitude and stark absence of diplomacy—will likely not only jeopardize the nuclear deal and U.S. credibility among key allies, but also put the United States on a path of escalation with Iran. This is all the more problematic given that the United States has failed to maintain meaningful channels of communication with Iran and that its dangerous policy shift effectively undermines diplomatic measures going forward. 

One of the main risks of decertifying the nuclear accord (known formally as the JCPOA) is that the United States could face increased isolation and a loss of credibility among its international partners. China, France, Germany, Russia, the European Union, and the United Kingdom are all parties to the deal as well. In the lead-up to the nuclear talks, these countries and other international partners, including the likes of India, Japan, and South Korea, complied with U.S. secondary sanctions on Iran at major expense to their own domestic economies. They made their decision believing that the United States had a clear and viable strategic vision to constrain Iran’s nuclear program, including a credible commitment to diplomacy. Washington will thus face an uphill battle in securing international buy-in to support its current move. And without a united front, Iran’s position will be strengthened. 


For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Mohseni, Payam and Sahar Nowrouzzadeh.“Trump's Dangerous Shift on Iran.” Foreign Affairs, October 15, 2017.