In October of 2017, U.S. President Donald Trump stopped just short of scrapping the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) which was struck by his predecessor in 2015 in a bid to stop Iran from pursuing its nuclear weapons program. Trump gave Congress the task of agreeing on a new set of “trigger points,” which if breached could lead to the re-imposition of sanctions on Iran, and threatened to make good on his election promise to walk away completely if improvements are not made.
During his presidential campaign, Trump was scathingly critical of the JCPOA - signed by the US, Iran, Germany, the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, and the European Union. He called it the “stupidest deal of all time,” and predicted that it could “lead to a nuclear holocaust.”
According to the former Secretary-General of NATO, Javier Solange, writing for Project Syndicate, Trump has given the decision of “whether to re-impose nuclear-related sanctions on Iran over to the US Congress. This not only “amount(s) to a violation of the agreement,” says Solange, it adds “to a long list of perverse incentives in the area of nuclear proliferation.” In the same way that Trump’s threats have led North Korean leader Kim Jong-un to believe that “his survival and that of the Kim dynasty depend on nuclear weapons,” says Solange, “South Korea and Japan [could] make the regrettable choice of joining the nuclear club.” That is, unless diplomacy is proven to be the credible foundation of a strategy capable of containing North Korea.
Trump would be required, however, “to abandon his incendiary rhetoric and maximalist positions, and work constructively with Chinese President Xi Jinping,” says Solange. “International security depends on preserving diplomatic success stories such as the JCPOA,” he writes, which are crucial in preventing the spread of nuclear arms and “dangerous spirals of antagonism and polarization.”