Frank Wisner, Nelson Cunningham
Security, Middle East
President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran agreement may be the most dangerous and destabilizing move yet of his tumultuous presidency.
President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran agreement may be the most dangerous and destabilizing move yet of his tumultuous presidency. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) is properly viewed as a triumph of multilateral diplomacy and a major step toward two major goals properly embraced by any responsible government: nuclear nonproliferation, and long-term stability in the Mideast. Even those skeptical of the agreement when reached in 2015, such as General James A. Mattis, now Secretary of Defense, have argued now it would be a mistake to withdraw.
President Trump’s unilateral withdrawal will have a host of damaging geopolitical consequences. On top of that, it may also hit America in the pocketbook and damage our economy.
The Iran agreement had the formal support not only of our major allies (the United Kingdom, France, Germany and the European Union) but our most significant rivals (Russia and China). By walking away from it, President Trump risks reigniting Iran’s nuclear program; he has raised the ceiling on Mideast regional violence in numerous proxy wars; he has ended decades of measurable progress toward a world where nonproliferation is the norm and nuclear weapons the exception; he has driven Iran into the arms of Russia and China; and he has weakened the transatlantic alliance with Europe that has safeguarded the world since 1945.
Beyond all that, Trump may have set the ground for his biggest disruption yet in our world trading system. By undoing TPP, redoing NAFTA, rebalancing the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement and threatening to impose tariffs on Chinese and other goods, he has unsettled each of America’s trading partners in different ways. But the withdrawal from the JCPOA threatens to disrupt all our trading partners, all at once. The greatest harm will be suffered by our closest allies, and the greatest benefit will flow to our greatest rivals. Withdrawal is therefore geopolitical folly and economic destabilizer, all at once.