Two Years On, the Trump Administration’s Iran Policy Continues to Make Sense
In the two years since the United States left the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), the Trump administration has adopted a policy of “maximum pressure” to address the full range of threats from the Islamic Republic. The administration’s objective is a better agreement that addresses the JCPOA’s fatal flaws. The way to secure such an agreement is to escalate all forms of pressure on the clerical regime until it faces a stark choice between its own survival and the abandonment of its nuclear ambitions, foreign aggression, and grave human rights violations.
From the beginning of his 2016 campaign, President Donald Trump insisted that the JCPOA was a bad deal. Rather than permanently blocking Iran’s pathway to nuclear weapons, the deal opens a patient path; if the JCPOA endures until its key provisions expire (or “sunset”), Tehran would emerge around 2025 with an industrial-scale nuclear program, a short path to a bomb, ballistic missiles to deliver that bomb, a conventional force newly equipped with foreign weapons, and its economy immunized against future sanctions.
The administration also dispensed with the fiction adopted by its predecessor that the nuclear agreement would moderate the mullahs by flooding them with cash and integrating them into the global economy. That theory of “moderation through economic seduction” failed miserably with the Chinese Communist Party and Vladimir Putin. The Islamic Republic has been at war with the United States for decades, murdering Americans and seeking to dominate the Middle East through its terrorist proxies. The JCPOA only super-charged such malign conduct by returning tens of billions of dollars for Tehran to fund its destructive activities. The Islamic Republic no longer had to make painful budgetary choices between guns for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force (IRGC-QF), Lebanese Hezbollah, and pro-Iran militias in Iraq, as opposed to butter for its citizens. Cash did little to transform the Islamic Republic’s leaders into more responsible global citizens or improve their treatment of the Iranian people.