It is no small irony that the Iran nuclear deal painstakingly negotiated by the administration of Barack “No Drama” Obama has become a perfectly designed prop in the collective psychodrama otherwise known as U.S. foreign policy under President Donald Trump. Thanks to the conditions imposed by the U.S. Congress at the time of its adoption in 2015, the agreement has a built-in cliffhanger every 120 days, when the president must decide whether or not to reimpose unilateral sanctions that were only waived, not lifted, in return for the rigorous constraints placed on Iran’s nuclear program.
In a little over a month, the latest 120-day period comes to an end, and speculation has already begun over whether or not Trump will withdraw from the deal, as he has repeatedly threatened to do if it is not renegotiated to his satisfaction. According to the conventional wisdom, the deal’s days are numbered even if it survives the upcoming May 12 deadline, due to the appointment of Iran hawks Mike Pompeo and John Bolton as secretary of state and national security adviser, respectively. Meanwhile, frantic efforts by France, the United Kingdom and Germany to address Trump’s concerns have sputtered.
Perhaps the only thing working in the deal’s favor these days is the drama cooked into its congressionally mandated review period, which almost certainly appeals to Trump’s sense of theater.