Monday, May 07, 2018

The Iran deal will probably survive even if the U.S. pulls out

I keep thinking about what will happen when (and I do think it is a "when" not an "if" at this point) Trump "rips up" the Iran nuclear deal. the bottom line is that the deal was between Iran and 6 countries, not just the U.S. Those 6 countries (the "P5+1") could each make a different decision with regards to the deal.

Because the other five, China, Russia, UK, France, and Germany, have all said the deal is working, I think it is likely they will keep abiding by it. They won't re-impose sanctions so long as Iran abides by the inspection regime and the inspectors do not discover any new secret nuclear program. If the U.S. drops out, it can re-impose sanctions against Iran based on its nuclear program, but that won't matter very much because the U.S. has had so little business in Iran. Iran's trade with China and the E.U. could continue, which is essentially what it was like before 2009 (when Obama got the other members of the P5+1 to impose harsh sanctions to bring Iran to the bargaining table)

The net result is that Iran won't suffer any real pain from Trump's move. The Obama nuclear deal can survive without the U.S. Iran can continue to abide by the restrictions on its ability to develop nuclear weapons (its incentive for following the deal is to prevent sanctions from Russia, China and the E.U., the economies that Iran has significant trade with). But the U.S. will lose its ability to influence Iranian behavior. And it will also suffer a blow to its credibility as a power that honors its own deals.