Will President Trump terminate the Iran nuclear deal? Many national-security experts are concerned he will, by refusing to waive sanctions that are up for renewal in mid-May. Some worry that unilaterally reimposing sanctions on Iran would isolate the U.S. internationally, as Europe’s leaders still broadly support the deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. Others argue that the JCPOA is working and Iran is largely abiding by its commitments. Still others urge the U.S. to continue waiving sanctions if the Europeans are willing to consider potential changes to the deal.
Each of these camps is deeply misguided. Should Mr. Trump refuse to continue the Obama -era policy of waiving Iran sanctions and opt to reimpose them unilaterally, Europe will have no choice but to go along. The key sanctions imposed by Congress in 2011-12—in the face of staunch opposition from the Obama White House—are “secondary” sanctions, meaning they operate by imposing costs on countries that continue to do business with Iran. Under this regime, every nation must choose between doing business with Iran and maintaining access to the American banking system. This isn’t a real choice, since no country can function economically by cutting itself off from the U.S.
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