Decision day for Trump over Iran’s nuclear deal

Pressure: US national security adviser John Bolton has argued in favour of withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal.

Should Donald Trump abandon the Iran nuclear deal? Today, he will announce his decision on whether to scrap the controversial deal which is curbing Iran’s nuclear weapons programme.

There are nearly 15,000 nuclear warheads in the world today. The vast majority are held by Russia and the US. The rest are largely shared between the UK, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel. There are two states, however, with long-standing nuclear ambitions that have made the world tremble. One is North Korea. The other is Iran.

Iran’s nuclear programme first came to light in 2003. Just over a decade later, the country had enough enriched uranium for an arsenal of six to eight bombs. In response, the international community imposed sanctions that cost the country $5 billion every month.

In 2013, newly-elected Iranian president Hassan Rouhani restarted talks with the US. In 2015, a historic deal was signed with six key world powers. The agreement severely restricted Iran’s ability to enrich uranium. In return, sanctions were lifted. The US president at the time, Barack Obama, was hailed as a peacemaker.

Now, Donald Trump has called the deal “insane” and has planned to pull the US out. Although the deadline was May 12, he said he will announce his decision at the White House today.

Yesterday, British foreign secretary Boris Johnson travelled to Washington to urge Trump not to abandon the deal. “Of all the options we have for ensuring that Iran never gets a nuclear weapon, this pact offers the fewest disadvantages,” he wrote in The New York Times.

His advice mirrors warnings from Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron.

Yet Trump has said he believes the deal is too lenient; it only limits Iran’s nuclear activities for a fixed period. He also said the deal handed Iran a $100 billion windfall that it used “as a slush fund for weapons, terror and oppression”.

Trump is also under pressure from Israel, which recently revealed “secret nuclear files” accusing Iran of running a nuclear weapons programme that was reportedly closed down 15 years ago. Israeli president Benjamin Netanyahu backs Trump’s opposition because of fears it is funding build ups of Iranian troops on Syria’s border with Israel.

What should Trump do?

Nuclear options

He needs to change his mind, say some. Scrapping it would alienate key European allies, as well as increasing the risk of nuclear war. And why are we so afraid of Iran anyway? It is far less menacing than its great rival, Saudi Arabia, which the US has a very close relationship with. This move would make no sense.

We should trust Trump’s judgment, reply others. His success so far in negotiating peace on the Korean peninsula shows that playing hardball works. The US president is right to consider Iran an enemy. It is an inherently unstable theocracy where crowds chant “Death to America!” The US should not strike deals with such nations.

You Decide

  1. Should the US pull out of the Iran nuclear deal?
  2. Is it hypocritical for a nuclear power to demand that another country should not become a nuclear power?

Activities

  1. On a map of the Middle East, show which countries are allies with each other, and which countries are enemies.
  2. Research both the history and culture of Iran, and write 500 words on whether the West should consider it a “rogue state”.

Some People Say...

“No deal is better than a bad deal.”

Theresa May

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
The deadline for Trump to make his decision on the deal is this coming Saturday. However, he tweeted that he would be announcing his decision at 2pm today (East Coast time). The president has long criticised the deal. He views Iran as an enemy, whereas Obama viewed it is a potential ally. We know that John Bolton, the president’s new security advisor, is also deeply opposed to the deal.
What do we not know?
What Trump will do. The agreement benefits US companies, as it freed them up to sell goods to Iran. Boeing, for example, immediately made $20 billion modernising Iran’s fleet of commercial airplanes. But the very fact that it was Obama who sealed the agreement may ensure that Trump does not change his mind. The president is not a fan of broad international agreements.

Word Watch

Enriched uranium
In enriched uranium, crucial for nuclear power and nuclear weapons, the percent composition of uranium-235 has been increased through a process called isotope separation.
Sanctions
The country’s currency, the rial, lost around 60% of its value in a few days in 2012 immediately after sanctions first came into effect. In 2012 alone, the country’s economy shrunk by 5%.
Six key world powers
US, UK, France, China, Russia and Germany.
Severely restricted
It increased the time it would take Iran to acquire enough material to build a bomb from two to three months to at least a year, as well as cutting down its stockpiles of enriched uranium. The deal also prevented Iran from producing weapons-grade plutonium and allowed for the tracking of nuclear activities with regular inspections.
May 12
Every 90 days, Trump must confirm to Congress that Iran is complying with the deal.

Subjects