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The Iran Nuclear Deal After One Year: Assessment and Options for the Next President

A year after the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on Iran’s nuclear program was announced, Iran unquestionably has gotten the better of the deal. The agreement made public last July in Vienna, and the policy decisions attending its implementation, show a clear pattern of unilateral Iranian demands being met by unforced U.S. concessions. In consequence, Iran’s nuclear weapons program and sway in the Middle East will continue to grow, while U.S. deterrence and influence will diminish and the risks of conflict will mount.

To reverse these negative trends, the United States urgently needs a new approach to restore its credibility, bolster regional stability and ensure Iran cannot advance its nuclear program:

  • Taking serious steps to block further advances in Iran’s increasingly dangerous ballistic missile program;

  • Abandoning the chimera of a Saudi-Iranian regional equilibrium, and instead strengthening the region’s new partnerships against Iran with advanced missile defense systems, among other means;

  • Halting any new concessions to Iran, and reversing any previous concessions not included in the JCPOA;

  • Leveraging the authorities granted by the U.N. Security Council, including use of force, to prevent Iran accessing materials to advance its nuclear program;

  • Getting Iran to remove the JCPOA’s sunset clauses and make all restrictions on its enrichment capability permanent.

The JCPOA’s sunsets may seem far off, but to be effective each mutually-reinforcing element of this strategy must be implemented immediately. Absent prompt and forceful restoration of U.S. credibility, much stronger public statements and a significant change of direction that imposes real penalties on Iranian aggression, the prospects for successfully contesting Iran’s regional ascendance will diminish and the costs will rise, long before the JCPOA expires.

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