trump and emmanuel macron
Credit: The White House/flickr

Donald Trump isn’t scheduled to make his announcement on the Iran nuclear deal until 2 p.m., but all the suspense is gone now that the New York Times is reporting that French President Emmanuel Macron has been informed of the decision.

President Trump told President Emmanuel Macron of France on Tuesday morning that he plans to announce the withdrawal of the United States from the Iran nuclear deal, according to a person briefed on the conversation.

Mr. Trump’s decision unravels the signature foreign policy achievement of his predecessor, Barack Obama, isolating the United States among its allies and leaving it at even greater odds with its adversaries in dealing with the Iranians.

The United States is preparing to reinstate all sanctions it had waived as part of the nuclear accord — and impose additional economic penalties as well, the person said.

A second person familiar with negotiations to keep the 2015 accord in place said the talks collapsed over Mr. Trump’s insistence that sharp limits be kept on Iran’s nuclear fuel production after 2030. The deal currently lifts those limits.

If this reporting is correct, it means that President Trump has finally broken something of major consequence. Most of the things he’s done so far are either reversible or no different from what any Republican president would do. Blowing up the Iran deal is in a completely different category of malevolence.

Mr. Trump’s decision, while long anticipated and widely telegraphed, plunges America’s relations with European allies into deep uncertainty. They have committed to staying in the deal, raising the prospect of a diplomatic and economic clash as the United States reimposes stringent sanctions on Iran.

It also raises the prospect of increased tensions with Russia and China, which also are parties to the agreement

The decision fulfills one of Mr. Trump’s oft-repeated campaign promises, and came despite intense personal lobbying by European leaders and frantic attempts to craft fixes to the deal that would satisfy him.

The president’s own aides had persuaded him twice last year not to take this step.

The split in the Western alliance will be immediate:

Germany and France on Monday vowed to stand by the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and world powers even if the United States pulls out, with the German Foreign Minister saying the world would be less safe without it….

…German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said it was clear that the agreement made the world securer and there was a risk of escalation were it to be cancelled.

“We don’t think there is any justifiable reason to pull out of this agreement and we continue to make the case for it to our American friends,” Maas said during a joint news conference with visiting French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian.

“We’ll deal with the (U.S.) decision but like Jean-Yves said, we want to adhere to this agreement,” Mr. Maas added.

Mr. Le Drian said France, Britain and Germany would keep to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran irrespective of the United States’ decision later this week because it is the best way to avoid nuclear proliferation.

“We are determined to save this deal because this accord safeguards against nuclear proliferation and is the right way to stop Iran getting a nuclear weapon,” Mr. Le Drian said.

Needless to say, this kind of rift in the West is one of Vladimir Putin’s fondest goals and he must be positively beaming at the moment.

Beyond that, it represents the complete collapse of American leadership on the global stage. Based on nothing but fantasies and conspiracies, America has now blown up the the whole anti-proliferation mechanism of the international community. This is a mechanism we had the lead role in creating and maintaining, and also the most important role in enforcing.

Our Western partners will attempt to maintain what Trump has left in tatters, but this is more out of reflex than plausibility. Future deals will be impossible to construct without American participation, and our word is now mud.

It’s not possible to firmly define the scope of this catastrophe because we don’t know if it will lead to war, to nuclear war, to nuclear terrorism, or just to chaos and a new world with America sidelined as a pariah state in need of containment.

With luck, a new president can mitigate some of this damage but it looks like a classic case of Humpty Dumpty falling off the wall.

Martin Longman

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at