14 July 2019

Trump Traded an Imperfect Nuclear Deal for a No-Win Standoff With Iran

Judah Grunstein

With the announcement this week that it has begun to enrich uranium above the 3.67 percent limit allowed by the 2015 international deal curbing its nuclear program, Iran has opened another round of high-stakes signaling with the Trump administration, which withdrew from the agreement last year, and the European nations that helped negotiate it. The move is the latest attempt by Iran to impose costs both on Washington for having reimposed punishing economic sanctions, and on Europe for its inability to mitigate their pain. 

The incremental but reversible breach of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, as the nuclear deal is formally known, was telegraphed by Iran, and follows a previous announcement that its stockpile of enriched uranium would exceed the allowable limits under the deal. It also comes on the heels of a series of attacks last month on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman that the U.S. has blamed on Iran, followed by the downing of a U.S. drone by Iran, for which President Donald Trump authorized punitive strikes against Iranian targets only to call them off at the last possible moment. While neither side stands to gain from tensions flaring into open hostilities, both seem locked into positions that make conflict increasingly difficult to avoid

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