Will the Iran Nuclear Deal Survive Under Trump—and at What Cost?

Will the Iran Nuclear Deal Survive Under Trump—and at What Cost?
A missile is displayed next to a portrait of Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Tehran, Iran, Sept. 25, 2016 (AP photo by Vahid Salemi).

Despite Donald Trump’s tough talk about the Iran nuclear deal during the presidential campaign, there have been some signals since the election that his administration may walk back his threat to cancel the accord. But hostility to Iran seems rampant among Trump’s advisers, meaning the spirit, if not the letter, of the agreement will likely be violated. The costs of reverting to a confrontational approach to Iran would include more regional instability, and doing so would raise serious questions about Trump’s commitment to some international norms and practices.

What to do about Iran is one of the prominent foreign policy topics as the president-elect works to build his team of advisers and Cabinet officials. There are some interesting signals that the formal agreement signed by six major powers and Iran in July 2015 may not be canceled, after all. Trump advisers have ruminated in public that they will work to toughen the implementation terms, but that scrapping the agreement—or, more precisely, U.S. participation in it—won’t be necessary. Members of Congress from both parties who were skeptical about the deal have now concluded that it would be more destabilizing to open up the negotiations again, and they will not press the new administration to fulfill its campaign promise.

President Barack Obama believed that successful implementation of the nuclear agreement would gradually improve the ability of political forces in Tehran and Washington to avoid conflict and seek solutions on issues of acute disagreement. He recently told the New Yorker’s David Remnick, “We actually have over a year of proof, and you’ve got the Israeli military and intelligence community acknowledging that, in fact, it has worked.” He added, “So, given that proof, I don’t think that it is inconceivable that Republican leaders look and they say, ‘This thing worked. Obama is no longer in office. This is not something that our base is hankering to undo, and we may quietly leave it in place.’”

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.