July 14, 2020 – Five years ago, the Obama-Biden administration — in lockstep with allies and partners — negotiated an historic deal to verifiably prevent Iran from ever obtaining a nuclear weapon. From his first day in office, Trump has centered his entire Middle East policy on dismantling Obama’s legacy and tearing up the deal. In doing so, he has made Americans — and our partners around the world — less safe in service of little more than his own ego and vindictiveness. 

Since withdrawing from the Iran deal in 2018, the Trump administration has touted its so-called “maximum pressure” strategy, boldly promising it would cow Tehran and its proxies into submission and set us on a path to securing a “better deal.” The strategy has been an abject failure. Far from being subdued, Iran and its proxies have been emboldened, Americans in the region have paid the ultimate price, and a “better deal” has proven to be a ruse.

It did not have to be this way. While the Iran deal was in effect, U.S. personnel and assets were not being targeted by Iran-backed militias, regional oil facilities and Gulf tankers were not being attacked by Iran or its proxies, diplomacy towards follow-on deals was on the table, and Iran’s nuclear program was verifiably halted, according to our own State DepartmentIntelligence Community, and international weapons inspectors.

But “maximum pressure” has put an end to all of that.

We have since been to the brink of war with Iran on several occasions — and more could be in store. 

  • Beyond jeopardizing our counter-ISIS campaign and our relationship with Baghdad, the strike against Qassem Soleimani triggered a cycle of retaliation and brinksmanship, which careened us towards conflict with Iran and left more than 100 U.S. service members with traumatic brain injuries.
  • We are stuck in a cycle of escalation after Iran-backed proxies have increased the tempo of rocket attacks against Iraqi facilities hosting U.S. service members. Late last year, such an attack took the life of an American contractor, and three Coalition members, including two Americans, were killed by mortar fire earlier this year; both attacks were followed by retaliatory American strikes. 
  • After Iran downed an unmanned U.S. drone, Trump claimed we were 10 minutes away from an airstrike that would have killed 150 Iranians and potentially triggered a broader conflict. 

We are no closer to the elusive “better deal” that Trump has promised since his campaign. 

  • Iran’s top leaders continue to insist that they will not negotiate with the United States until sanctions are lifted.
  • Trump urged Iran to negotiate before the election so he can claim victory, but Iran soundly rejected the proposal.
  • Trump’s ostensible deal-making talents — which he has touted for years — have failed to yield any tangible results to halt North Korea’s nuclear program or to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. With Iran, we can only expect more of the same. 

Far from preventing Iran from building nuclear weapons, Tehran has predictably expanded its nuclear program.

  • President Hassan Rouhani announced that Iran began enriching uranium at levels higher than allowed by the JCPOA, following Trump’s lead by distancing Tehran from the deal’s strict limits. 
  • For the first time in eight years, Iran has obstructed international inspectors’ access to nuclear facilities, making it all the more difficult to monitor the nuclear program’s progress.

The Trump administration’s abandonment of our allies has damaged America’s credibility in the international community. 

  • Trump left our diplomatic partners high and dry when he unilaterally left the Iran nuclear deal, undermining trust that took years to build.
  • Germany, the UK, and France, all close U.S. allies, have vocally opposed Secretary Pompeo’s far-fetched attempt to trigger UN sanctions on Iran by arguing that the U.S. remained a party to the JCPOA.

It didn’t have to be this way, and it won’t if Joe Biden is elected President. 

  • Not only did Joe Biden help negotiate and implement the Iran deal, he continues to understand its indispensable role in preventing Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. 
  • That’s why he has pledged that, if Tehran returns to strict compliance with the deal, he would rejoin the agreement and use our renewed commitment to diplomacy to work with our allies to strengthen and extend it.
  • He is clear-eyed that the Iran deal isn’t a panacea — nor was it intended to be — but also understands that its ability to halt the most dangerous threat we could face from Iran, a nuclear weapon, opens the possibility to progress on other fronts.

We are Americans—former senior officials and policy experts, academics and civil society leaders—who have seen first-hand how the United States is stronger, safer and more respected in the world when we stand strong with our allies, pursue principled diplomacy, and stay true to the values that have long defined America at home and abroad. www.nationalsecurityaction.org