Does the Iran Nuclear Deal Have a Future?

Why Europe's Continued Support Is Key

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is greeted by United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres at UN headquarters in New York, September 2017. Brendan McDermid / REUTERS

On September 19, U.S. President Donald Trump gave his first UN General Assembly speech. Unsurprisingly, he dedicated portions of his remarks to calling out Iran for its destabilizing activities and reiterating his criticism of the nuclear deal his predecessor, President Barack Obama, reached with the country. Trump called the nuclear deal “one of the worst and most one-sided transactions the United States has ever entered into” and “an embarrassment to the United States.” He also signaled that the United States wouldn’t be sticking to the deal much longer when he argued that “we cannot abide by an agreement if it provides cover for the eventual construction of a nuclear program.” These comments come just weeks before his administration must recertify Iranian compliance with the nuclear deal. And it’s becoming increasingly clear that it won’t do so, effectively taking the United States out of the equation.

Not long after Iranian President Hassan Rouhani kicked off his second term in office in August, reports circulated in the U.S. media that the moderate leader had threatened to abandon the nuclear agreement if the United States imposed new sanctions on the country. The articles were based on mistranslations of Rouhani’s remarks. In fact, the president had said that if the new administration wanted to return to “the failed experience of sanctions and coercion [that] brought their previous governments to the negotiating table […] surely, in a short amount of time, not in a period of weeks and months, but hours and days, we will return to a much more advanced situation than that of the beginning of the talks,” meaning the country would resume elements of its nuclear program curtailed by the agreement if the deal collapsed. A few days later, the Iranian vice president and head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, Ali Akbar Salehi, made a statement of his own, noting that his country would continue to abide by the deal even if the United States dropped out.

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