Since the signing of the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), in 2015, the American Jewish community has been holding its collective breath, tensely awaiting the day of its inevitable collapse. For many, the deal has factored singularly into their politics; they believe it restores power to the greatest threat to Israel’s existence. When candidate Donald Trump announced during his presidential campaign that striking down the deal would be one of his top priorities, a large portion of the community breathed a sigh of relief.
Trump’s stated intent, however, has yet to come to fruition. Having renewed the deal once already in May, the White House again certified that Iran is complying with the terms of the deal on Monday after vigorous internal debate. Although both the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of State advised the president not to exit the deal, the New York Times reports that Trump was frustrated by his limited options for maneuverability within the context of the deal.
The Trump administration claims that although Iran has complied with the specifics of the deal, it has broken the “spirit of the deal.” These infractions include hawkish ballistic missile tests and providing continued support to terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah and Hamas. In a list of talking points released on Monday, the White House accused the Obama administration of a “myopic focus on Iran’s nuclear program to the exclusion of Iran’s many other malign activities [that] allowed Iran’s influence in the region to reach a high-water mark.” In order to combat Iran’s growing regional dominance, the administration is placing modest sanctions on Iran.
Though Trump did in the end decide to keep the deal in place, it was only after an afternoon of argument with his senior advisers. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had previously made statements that pulling out of the agreement would have dire consequences for U.S. foreign relations, especially since those relations have already been strained by President Trump’s decision to back out of the Paris Climate Accords.
AIPAC, which came out strongly against the deal when it was initially announced, now believes that the government should try to enforce the deal as strictly as possible while taking other actions to halt regional aggression. Other individuals and organizations, however, support a complete exit from the agreement. Notably, former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton last Sunday published an op-ed in The Hill, a Washington-based newspaper, advocating this position.
In the released list of talking points from the White House, it is stated that the president continues to hold that the JCPOA is a “bad deal,” but will continue to “act in accordance with what he judges to be in the best interests of the security of the United States and [its] allies and partners.” Shortly after the announcement that the deal had once again been renewed, Vice President Mike Pence spoke at Christians United for Israel to reassure concerned citizens. “The United States will continue to stand strong in the face of the leading state sponsor of terrorism. President Trump has put Iran on notice,” he said.
By Dov Greenwood