President Trump announced that the United States would withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), aka the Iran nuclear deal, on the afternoon of May 8. The deal, announced to such fanfare in July 2015, did not live to see its third birthday. And for that, I am grateful.
Why? Because the president said not only that America will be leaving the accord. He declared that the period of waxing Iranian influence in the Middle East is at an end. The deal financed several years of Iranian expansion through Shiite proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen. By reimposing sanctions, President Trump will weaken an already ailing Iranian economy. The Iranian currency, the rial, has plummeted in recent weeks. Inflation is rampant. The financial system is corrupted, dysfunctional. Strikes are proliferating, and often turn into displays against the government. This is a situation the United States should seek not to mitigate but to exacerbate.
Removing ourselves from the deal puts Iran on the defensive. Its people and government are divided and uncertain how to respond. Its leverage is minimal. Iranian citizens have seen their leaders use the money from the deal not to improve the economic lot of the average person but to fund the military, IRGC, and other instruments of foreign adventurism. Implicit in the deal was recognition of the Islamic regime as a legitimate member of the so-called "international community." President Trump has rescinded that recognition and the standing that came with it. The issue is no longer Iranian compliance with an agreement that contained loopholes through which you could launch a Fateh-110 heavy missile. The issue is whether Iran chooses to become a responsible player or not, whether it curbs its imperial designs, cuts off its militias, abandons terrorism, opens its public square, and ceases its threats to and harassment of the United States and her allies. That choice is not Donald Trump's to make. It is the Iranian regime's.