The most negative consequences of casting the JCPOA aside could still be mitigated by converting the lofty goals announced by the administration into a far more pragmatic operational agenda. To succeed, three requirements stand out. First, to define realistic red lines that Iran's nuclear, missile, and regional activity must not be allowed to cross, indefinitely, regardless whether a new deal is in place. The credibility of U.S. deterrence against crossing them would be greatly enhanced by making these more modest than the goals envisaged by Secretary Pompeo, which in turn would enhance the chances of building broader international support for them. All of these would also make compliance with such red lines somewhat easier for Iran to contemplate. Second, Trump must resuscitate an international coalition that is far broader than the Gulf States and Israel. He must include the transatlantic alliance by refraining from imposing broad secondary sanctions on allies' companies, while also seeking complementary quiet understandings with China. Third, he should seize on some positive signals from the Kremlin about seriously exploring the possibility of building a partnership with Russian to significantly narrow the permissible scope for Iran's nuclear, missile, and Syria activities.
Ultimately, though, much would also depend on explicit U.S. willingness to walk away from the goal of actively promoting regime change. The pursuit of regime change will only stiffen the resistance of all elements of Iranian society (including those who otherwise despise clerical rule). Finally, the threat of American-forced regime change will also enhance Iran’s interest in nuclear weapons as an insurance policy. We should not abandon the hope of a fundamental transformation in the orientation of the Iranian regime, but this development should come from the inside.