On May 7, 2018, President Trump announced the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran Nuclear Deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). Although he expressed skepticism that Iran’s nuclear program was exclusively peaceful, and cited as evidence documents about Iranian weaponization activities revealed by Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a few days earlier, he did not accuse Iran of violating the agreement. The JCPOA’s other signatories, meanwhile, have continued to implement it, and the U.S. intelligence community judges Iran to be in compliance. What does this experience suggest about the viability of future agreements to resolve proliferation crises? Are there lessons for such deals—with Iran, North Korea, or any other state—that would enhance their viability? And, what implications does withdrawal have for the United States’ credibility to strike future nonproliferation agreements, including a “better deal” with Iran?
Caroline Hurndall, Head of the Iran Department at the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office